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Best Holiday Email Campaigns

What are the biggest email marketing campaigns each year? What companies have built their brands and also made money from email marketing? We’ve reviewed the holiday emails from several popular brands over the years. In this article we look at the best holiday marketing email campaigns for 2017.

How will your business stand out from the rest this holiday season? Recent statistics suggest that email marketing gives businesses a much higher return on investment than most other forms of marketing. So it stands to reason that combining some of the best holiday email campaigns together with email marketing can result in a lot of success.

Order before [DATE] and have it shipped on time for [holiday name]

Ideally, your promotional campaign should have been running for at least a week before the holiday festivity begins. Naturally, the closer to the big day, the more intensive your marketing efforts should be.

With the holiday just round the corner, some of your prospects might worry whether they’ll have their order shipped on time. That’s why you could make one last attempt to convert them. How? By offering free overnight shipping or running an “order before [DATE] and have it shipped on time” type of campaign.

Holiday email marketing example: PUMA

Subject line: ⌚ Order before 2pm EST for FREE overnight shipping.

Here’s an email I received from Puma, morning before Christmas Day.

It’s a simple message that includes all the usual elements – a couple of banners, a few links to different secondary offers, a navigational bar, and social media icons.

Puma free overnight shipping email offer for Christmas.
Puma free overnight shipping email offer for Christmas

So why it’s so good?

If you’re anything like me, you’re usually running a little behind the Christmas schedule and doing the gift shopping at the very last minute.

And it’s not because you’re hunting for special deals, but because you either haven’t found the perfect gift yet or you haven’t realized that December’s passed right in front of your eyes.

This email was designed with this kind of audience in mind. The late shoppers.

It’s not overly complicated and it doesn’t have to be. It quickly communicates the offer that’s going to get you saved if you still haven’t purchased Christmas presents for your loved ones – Free overnight shipping. 

The offer’s first mentioned in the subject line, then again in the preheader, and finally in the banner that’s centrally placed in the above-the-fold part of the email.

Besides the main offer, there are four other elements (secondary offers) that have been purposely emphasized. The sale event, gift cards, gift guide, and Holiday FAQ. All of these are crucial for anyone who’s running late with their holiday shopping, and needs to act quickly.

Although this isn’t the only email that I found in my inbox that revolves around the last-minute shipping theme, in my opinion it was the most effective one for the following three reasons:

  • It was quick to communicate the main offer, which is the free overnight shipping that’ll get you your order in time for Christmas.
  • All elements of the email were used in an effective way – subject line, preheader, and the above-the-fold section all reemphasized the offer.
  • It delivered value by pointing the recipient to the offers they’re most likely interested in, e.g. gift cards, gift guide, or the sale event.

To top it off, the use of the watch emoji in the subject line was a nice addition that made the email stand out even more in my inbox.

Another one that did catch my attention was this email from ASOS. However, their animated GIF and the *terrible* dad joke only managed to get them second place in this category.


Subject line: Welcome to the Holidays, People.

For this year’s Thanksgiving, I received a neat email from an online retail brand named Bonobos.

Unlike other messages I found in my inbox around this time, this one used hardly any visuals. All it contained was a white to-do list on a dark-gray background.

Bonobos Thanksgiving email to-do list
Bonobos Thanksgiving email to-do list

So why it’s so good?

First of all, this email clearly stands out. When scanning my inbox, I actually closed the message first and then had to re-open it, just to take a second look at what I just saw.

Upon a closer look, I’ve noticed that this isn’t just a simple to-do list. At least not one that I’d expect to receive from a brand. It’s more of a list I’d create for myself, with added humor – for example, Memorize cousins’ kids’ names – and hyperlinks that’ll help me complete some of the errands, like Get something nice to wear for dinner.

The humor’s spot on. The copy looks like it was written by someone who understands the target audience very well. The email itself is really easy to scan and fun to engage with. Rather unusual, but I actually enjoyed going through all the points up to the very end of the message.

Lesson for other ecommerce businesses:

Stand out, be creative, engage your audience, and show them that you understand them well. Consider using phrases, abbreviations, or hashtags they use in their communication to make your marketing messages more authentic.

 United By Blue

Subject line: Why We Picked Up Trash Today

Below is the email I got for Black Friday from a brand that I follow – United By Blue. As you’ll find on their website, they sell responsible durable goods. What does that mean? In a nutshell, they sell products for people who care for the outdoors. And for every product they sell, they pledge to remove 1 pound of trash from the Earth’s oceans and waterways.

United By Blue Black Friday Campaign.
United By Blue Black Friday Campaign

Now that you know their story, you’ll also understand where their email’s coming from.

So what’s the email about? It’s a message that explains why for this year’s Black Friday, they decided to do a proper cleanup. Oh, and they called it Blue Friday.

Unlike what you’d expect from a retailer during this time of year, the email doesn’t talk much about their products. Instead, it invites you to learn more about Blue Friday and how to host your own cleanup, and shows you the people who joined them for this wonderful project.

Not so surprisingly, they do also offer a special deal for their customers. But the information about their special sale is only available once you scroll down to the very bottom of the email.

United By Blue Black Friday Sale.
United By Blue Black Friday Sale

So why it’s so good?

This one, again, comes down to understanding your audience and answering the question – why did they choose your brand in the first place?

With United By Blue, the answer is pretty simple. It’s because they make products for people who, like them, care about nature. How can they prove that their mission statement isn’t just marketing fluff? With their actions.

Having organized the cleanup and shown pictures of those who participated in it – which include their CEO and Director of Operations – they said more than any regular marketing newsletter ever could.

What’s more, their message is mostly about getting people to participate or even host a cleanup in their own neighborhood. The information about the sale they’re holding for Black Friday comes much, much later.

To sum up, even though this email arrived quite late, i.e. on Black Friday afternoon, it’s very effective. It managed to capture my attention and got me to read it all to the very bottom, where the information about the sale was placed.

Even though it arrived later than any other message I expected to receive that day, it sure made an impact and made me reconsider what I wanted to order for Black Friday.

Why You Need Holiday Email Marketing

Holiday email marketing is a big driver of the seasonal sales boom. According to Shopify, email marketing was responsible for 24% of holiday sales during the 2018 holiday eCommerce season. In other words, email marketing alone brought in $169.8 billion dollars in revenue for businesses during just the last 2 months of 2018.

The Black Friday to Cyber Monday period is particularly lucrative but even outside the holiday period, email marketing plays a key role in lead generation and customer acquisition. It just makes sense to craft holiday email messages to capitalize on this peak sales period and boost your income.

In this guide, you’ll get holiday email marketing tips that’ll help you make the most of the most important buying season so you can set yourself up for a profitable year. We’ll also include holiday email marketing examples you can use to inspire your own campaigns.

1. Know Your Holidays

Every country’s got its major holidays, which often coincide with peak sales times.

If you’re in the United States, the most important holiday season runs from early November to early January, a two-month promotional window that fuels profits for the whole year.

Wherever you’re located, our first holiday email marketing tip is to integrate your list of key holidays into your email marketing calendar.

If you’ve been in business for a while, use analytics data to figure out which ones usually bring in the most revenue. Here’s a guide on how to track your eCommerce revenue in Google Analytics. Analytics data will be a good starting point for holiday email messages.

Almost any event is a good peg for a marketing campaign, so don’t be afraid to include unusual events, like:

  • The first day of fall
  • The winter solstice
  • An eclipse
  • National Dog Day

Here’s an example from Merrell:

national dog day email marketing from merrell

2. Start Early

If you celebrate winter holidays like Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Las Posadas, or others, GoDaddy recommends you start your holiday email marketing campaigns between November 1st and 15th. That’s when most people open your holiday marketing emails; after that, open rates drop.

If you have a long internal approval process, that means you need to create any holiday email marketing campaigns at least a couple of months before, so everything’s ready to go by the target date.

It’s not just your email campaigns you should plan in advance, either. If you want to have somebody to market to, you’ll need to grow your email list early, too.

We always recommend starting to build your email list when you start your business, even before you launch it formally. And if you have an established business, you should be building your list all through the year.

Top Tools Alert: Create a coming soon page to grow your email list before your business is even launched. Here are the best coming soon page plugins for WordPress. We recommend SeedProd!

3. Segment Your List

There’s no point in marketing to the wrong people. That’s why one of the best things you can do to improve your holiday email marketing is to segment your list.

Email list segmentation allows you to send more relevant and targeted emails to people who are truly interested in what you have to offer.

One way to achieve this is to segment subscribers as they subscribe. Let’s assume you already have email lists set up for people interested in different groups of holiday gifts so you can send them appropriate offers. You also know how to create an OptinMonster marketing campaign.

You can use OptinMonster’s Yes/No view to get people to opt in to the right list on their own.

After enabling the Yes/No view, you would edit the Yes button for one of your segments. In our example, we’re going to segment between cat people and dog people.

Change the Yes redirect URL to the landing page for cat-specific products.

Use the same method to edit the No button for your other segment and change the redirect URL to that landing page.

When visitors arrive at the appropriate landing page, you can then use OptinMonster to show a new offer, encouraging them to subscribe in exchange for a coupon. Here’s how you create a popup coupon in OptinMonster.

This method allows your visitors to segment themselves so you can send them more relevant promotions. OptinMonster customers have successfully used yes/no optins to:

4. Create Holiday-Themed Campaigns

Many websites change colors and themes to signal the holiday season. You can do the same with holiday email marketing campaigns. Let’s face it; if your emails always look the same, your subscribers will soon get bored.

Switch things up with some holiday email templates, and you’ll get much more attention for your marketing campaigns. One OptinMonster customer, Cloudways, used holiday marketing to get a 120% increase in free trial signups.

OptinMonster has 3 awesome Halloween themes to choose from:

5. Create a Holiday Gift Guide

One great holiday marketing idea is to create a holiday gift guide.

This is a resource for email subscribers and web visitors that showcases gifts that match their interests. Here’s an example from tokyobike:

You can create your own holiday gift guide right in your email or by creating a new page or blog post on your website that showcases relevant products.

Include different sections in your guide, so your subscribers can easily find the things that interest them most. For example, some guides divide their featured products by:

  • Age, such as gifts for kids
  • Price
  • Interests, such as gifts for gadget lovers or dog owners

If you know your buyer personas, it’ll be easy to decide on how to segment your products or services.

Shopify’s tips on creating a gift guide include:

  • Creating collages of your best products. You can do basic collages yourself with Canva or Pixlr, or hire a designer with Photoshop skills for more advanced requirements.
  • Curating products around a theme and using influencers as guest curators where appropriate.
  • Making it mobile-friendly, so subscribers can reach key products in a couple of clicks or taps.

For best results, link to your gift guide in every holiday email message, so it can keep promoting your products and services all through the holiday season.

6. Launch Exclusive Holiday Sales

If you’re looking to wow your subscribers with holiday email marketing, try offering exclusive offers for those who are already on your list.

Not only is it a great feeling to get something for nothing, but being an insider makes your subscribers feel great. In fact, offering discounts can help you make more sales.

Insider deals are also a great incentive for people to sign up for your email list, as in the campaign from EatTreat below:

Check out our guide to optimizing your site for the holiday eCommerce season to learn how to create your own!

One example of a Christmas-themed campaign is “naughty or nice” messaging, used by a number of companies. Here’s an example from Canon.

Have a little fun with this concept by finding out what could be naughty or nice in your own niche, and incorporating that into your holiday email messaging.

You can also build a relationship with subscribers throughout the holidays, by tempting them with more and more relevant offers each time they visit your site using OptinMonster follow-up campaigns.

7. Use Urgency

Using urgency is a great way to boost sales with your holiday email marketing campaign. A time-limited holiday offer encourages visitors to take action now because nobody likes to miss out.

Here’s an example of a non-retail business using holiday marketing from WPForms. This uses OptinMonster’s Countdown theme for an urgency-based campaign that encourages visitors to grab a huge discount before the sale ends. Those who do get emails from the company.

If you use this strategy for your own company, you can also segment your audience according to the package they buy so you can send appropriate offers their way.

You can also leverage urgency by:

  • Promoting early bird pricing for some of your products and services.
  • Including last order and last shipping dates in all your emails so subscribers know exactly to order so they get their stuff on time.
  • Displaying holiday discount codes with a countdown timer. That’s easy to do with OptinMonster’s Spooktacular theme:

8. Create an Online Advent Calendar

One innovative idea for holiday email marketing is to create an online advent calendar. This is a great way to maintain interest in your business and increase engagement throughout the holiday season.

Time-tracking software provider Freckle has done this couple of times, creating Freelancember, an online advent calendar for freelancers. They send daily emails reminding subscribers to click on today’s date and uncover what’s inside.

One of the most appealing things about this strategy is that most of the items are non-promotional, designed to raise awareness of their product by providing useful tips for their target audience.

Related Content: Looking for holiday marketing design ideas? Check out our list of 40 holiday marketing design examples sure to inspire you!

But you can also use an online advent calendar to highlight daily special offers or to showcase fun holiday-themed contests, quizzes, polls, videos, images, and articles.

Two tools to try to create your own calendar to promote in your holiday email marketing are Tuerchen and

9. Run an Online Contest

Online contests are a great way to increase website traffic, grow your email list, boost social media followers, and generate targeted leads. You can easily create, manage, and run an online contest with RafflePress.

rafflepress is the best wordpress giveaway plugin

RafflePress is a powerful and easy-to-use WordPress giveaway plugin with a drag and drop builder that makes it ridiculously easy to build a stunning contest landing page or giveaway widget in no time.

With RafflePress and its impressive list of features, you can easily increase social media follows, drive website traffic, and grow your email list. And, there’s even a FREE RafflePress Lite plugin available in the WordPress plugin repository!

Related Content: How to Create a Social Media Holiday Strategy in 5 Easy Steps

10. Theme Your Subject Lines

If you want subscribers to open your holiday marketing emails, your email subject line has to be right. That’s why one of our top tips for improving holiday email marketing is to tap into that holiday feeling with your subject lines.

Next time you send a holiday email, try including a seasonal emoji. The research shows that using emoji in subject lines gets attention, and results in 56% more opens.

emojis-campaign monitor

If you think about it, wouldn’t you pay more attention to an email subject line with a turkey, a Christmas tree, or a snowman? We sure would!

Emoji aside, you can get more attention by referring explicitly to the holidays or your holiday offers in your emails. Here are a few examples we liked:

  • Chronicle Books: “Put Some Boo in Your Next Book Order”
  • Dell: “It’s Cyber Monday All Week!”
  • Fortnum & Mason: “Making Christmas merrier since 1707”
  • Just Give: “Gifts that do good…and feel good”
  • Kathryn Aragon: “Christmas in July”
  • Monoprice: “Holiday Gift Guide – Headphones & Earphones Starting Under $10”
  • Nordstrom: “Black Friday Is Here Early”
  • Pottery Barn Kids: “[gift emoji] The BEST gift: 20% OFF anything (TODAY ONLY!)”
  • Shutterfly: “We’re feeling very merry. Get 50% off your order”
  • Sports Authority: “Hurry, Only Hours Left for Cyber Monday Savings!”
  • Story Bistro: “Thanks, Giving, and a Little Bit of Getting”
  • theSkimm: “Winter is (officially) coming”

Don’t forget to make the email preview text holiday-themed as well. Email preview text is like a second subject line that’ll pique your subscribers’ interest so they want to open your emails.

You can also carry the theme over to your campaigns, as in this example from Cloudways:


Holiday email campaigns can be tricky to design and execute. With both retail giants and SMBs ramping up their marketing efforts in holiday, it is a competitive list of companies you will want to stand out from. Fortunately, with carefully selected campaign goals and strategy, you can ensure your email marketing campaigns are successful during the holidays.

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