The Ultimate Guide to Planning Your Holiday Emails

Ready to send merry and bright emails this season? Now’s the time to start planning your holiday email marketing campaigns before the hustle & bustle begins.

2019 marked the first-ever trillion-dollar holiday shopping season, but does that mean the 2020 holiday shopping season will be merry and bright, too?

Even amidst the pandemic, experts expect the majority of consumers to turn to online shopping this year. In fact, ecommerce sales are expected to grow by 25%-35% year-over-year

With shoppers hesitant to return to retail stores, 66% of shoppers plan to spend more of their holiday dollars online this year.

That means if you want to capitalize on the predicted growth of online shopping this holiday season, then a plan for your holiday emails is more important than ever. 

It’s never too early to start thinking about your holiday email marketing campaigns. Why not spend some time now, before the hustle and bustle starts, to get your holiday emails ready?

Here are some of our top tips to help you prepare and send holiday emails that drive sales.

1. Start your holiday email planning early

There’s a reason you see toy stores, supermarkets and other retailers start putting out holiday decorations and flyers between Halloween and Thanksgiving. People get to making wish lists and buying gifts as soon as the first cold snap hits.

It’s better for shoppers to pick up a gift from you early than for them to wait until the last minute, when they’ve already over-spent their budget and may be less likely to spend.

Plus, the holiday season is often one of the busiest times of the year. Set yourself up for success by starting to plan early.

2. Create a holiday email calendar

Keeping track of all the holidays (like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, Hanukkah, and the New Year) can quickly become overwhelming. Creating a holiday email editorial calendar can help organize the mayhem.

A calendar can also help you accommodate for the rest of your team’s time, which comes in handy if they’re helping with tasks like design, writing, or scheduling the message.

Make sure your email editorial calendar is up to date with your holiday campaigns. You’ll be sending a lot of emails this time of year, so planning everything out in advance will help you meet your deadlines and create content your subscribers will love.

At the same time, make sure you don’t overmail your audience. If you start to notice more unsubscribes than usual, consider the frequency of your emails. 

You may also want to consider adding a “mute” button or link in your emails. This will reduce your unsubscribes during periods of increased sending. Your audience might want to stay on your list and hear from you…just not right now, or not about this particular topic/promotion.

Give your audience the freedom to choose.

Plus, this allows you to send messages to a segment of subscribers that actually WANTS to receive them. You’ll likely see higher conversion rates, higher opens and clicks, and higher revenue generated from this targeted audience.

3. Offer exclusive holiday promotions

To keep up with the competition, you’ll want to make sure you’re sending holiday emails with content your subscribers want this time of year, like great deals on your products.

Don’t have a physical product to offer? This is the perfect time to provide discounts on digital gifts like online courses, ebooks, checklists, templates, and more.

4. Check your (email) list and check it twice

Now’s a great time to try to re-engage subscribers who have slowly stopped engaging with your email messages over time. If you can’t, then it may be time to clean your list. 

This is your chance to have your brand become top of mind before your holiday promotional emails are delivered. Inside AWeber, you can easily search for subscribers that have not engaged with your emails over a period of time.

Then, send a message to invite them to stay on the list. This might include an incentive to stick around, or some extra useful content. 

Here’s an example the AWeber team has sent before:

re-engagement email example

If they still don’t engage (open or click), it’s in your best interest to unsubscribe these subscribers. Unengaged subscribers can negatively impact your open rates and deliverability, or they may even hit the SPAM button when your content arrives in their inbox.

5. Write festive holiday email marketing subject lines

Your subject line is one of the most important parts of getting your holiday emails opened and read. Make sure you mention special offers and details about your holiday promotions in your subject line to catch your subscribers’ attention.

If you plan on featuring a 50% discount on an online course, make sure you mention the course and the discount in your subject line.

Check out these great subject lines that hint at what subscribers will find if they open a holiday email.

Holiday email subject line for retail
holiday email marketing subject line for ecommerce
holiday email subject line for promotion

6. Build a sense of urgency in your holiday emails

The more you can emphasize the urgency or importance of buying now, the more you can influence subscribers to take action.

So how can you get your audience to feel this way?

By referencing dates, times, seasons, or limited time offers.

Check out how Paper Source offered a limited time discount to customers who purchased during Cyber Monday Week.

Holiday email limited time discount

7. Get festive with your holiday email design

Consider using a holiday email template or including design elements that convey a festive vibe.

Bring in holiday or winter-themed colors to add a festive flair that accompanies the email content.

Check out how cleaning company, Handy, brought in festive images to their holiday emails.

holiday emails design

One of the best ways to spice up your holiday emails is with themed images. And you don’t need a graphic designer or a custom photo budget to do so. There are many free resources you can take advantage of, like stock photos.

Stock photos are images that anyone can use creatively. For free stock photos, search and

Once you find the perfect image, think about ways you can customize it to match your brand. If you need some tips, this post has easy ways to brand your images for free.

When looking for images or design inspiration, try brainstorming keywords that make you think of the holiday season, like winter, gift wrap, greenery, hot chocolate or cookies. This can help you stand out in a sea of red and green while also keep your holiday email “on brand” and recognizable.

Plus, you can create a free email template using your company’s branding with AWeber’s Smart Designer. Simply choose the template you like best, add it to your AWeber account, and customize the images, colors and more to give it the festive flair you love. 

You can also include GIFs in your emails to spice up the holiday feel. 

8. Remember your last-minute shoppers

There will always be consumers who wait until the last minute to get their holiday shopping done. Make sure you keep these shoppers in mind when planning your holiday emails.

Think about last minute deals, offering gift cards or certifications, or guaranteed shipping before the big day, to help make these customers’ lives easier. 

The holidays can be stressful enough, so if you can do something that helps ease the stress of last minute shopping, your customers will remember your brand favorably in the future. 

Here’s how craft store Michael’s communicates their last minute sales in this holiday email:

last minute holiday emails

9. Split test and measure your success

How do you know what product or service offer will yield the most sales during Black Friday or Cyber Monday? How do you know what subject line will stand out in an already crowded inbox?

The truth is…you don’t.

Split testing (or A/B testing) an email to a small percentage of your email list will give you an opportunity to discover what works.

Using AWeber’s split testing feature, you can test two offers: 20% off v. 30% off. Then, send two emails. Each one will go to a small, random segment of the list — say, 10%. Then track the success of the emails to see which offer was most popular and drove more sales.

split test email marketing offer 20% off
split test email marketing offer 30% off

Upgrade to AWeber Pro today to start split testing your emails. 

Spread some holiday email cheer

While you may already have a holiday email campaign in motion, it’s never too late to make tweaks along the way. The more you can make your emails stand out from the rest this time of year, the merrier the season will be for you and your business.

Ready to send your own holiday emails? Get started with AWeber Free today and spread some holiday email cheer.

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