Holiday Ideas & Strategies

Effective Holiday Email Marketing in 2019: Examples, Tips, and Tools for Successful Campaigns

/ 12 min read
Holiday Email Marketing 2

CyberWeek and the holidays are a great opportunity to increase sales.

Cyber Monday alone drove $2 billion dollars in one day through mobile.

A great place to capture a percentage of that revenue is through your holiday email marketing.

Via email, you are reaching out to your highest engaged audience – customers and subscribers you already have.

To get a piece of that holiday pie, let’s:

It’s time to get to the nitty-gritty of your holiday email marketing strategy. 

Types of Emails to Optimize During the Holidays

Email marketing campaigns can suffer from a “set it and forget it” mentality.

As you prepare for the holiday season (more on this discussed below), take the time to review and update these three key holiday emails:

  1. Welcome emails.
  2. Relevant promotional emails.
  3. Abandoned cart emails.

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Welcome emails.

Welcome and receipt emails are the most opened of any type of email.

According to Experian:

They also help you kick-off of the personal connection with your customer which will have an impact on their lifetime customer value (LCV).

And, when a customer opens your email, it’s a signal to your customer’s email service provider (ESP) that you are a welcomed sender – this way you don’t end up in the spam folder.

How do you craft a successful welcome email?

Here are a few quick tactics you can implement to optimize your welcome emails:

  • Send it immediately.
  • Ask the recipient to do something.
  • Deliver opt-in incentives and rewards in the welcome email.

Let’s Look at how SkullCandy crafts a welcome email.


What SkullCandy did well

  • In a gesture of reciprocity, SkullCandy gives it’s subscribers a discount code for a future purchase.
  • The email is sent out immediately after a visitor submits their email address.
  • It makes use of great photography that aligns with the SkullCandy brand.

Here is another example of how Bliss effectively uses a welcome email.


What Bliss did well

  • The welcome email is sent with a subject line that reads: An exclusive offer for new subscribers. This is a great start toward building a customer’s loyalty.
  • Bliss, also, is offering a gift in return for the visitor subscribing.
  • It also provides a great reminder (soft call-to-action) that they get free shipping and free samples on orders over $50 – a good reason to make use of the $20 credit they just received.

2. Relevant promotional emails.

Give your holiday shoppers insights and set expectations on what promotions you are running during the holiday season.

Here are a few things to include in your promotional emails to subscribers:

  • Shipping info (including final delivery dates).
  • Gift card services.
  • Gift wrapping options.
  • Customer service contact details.

Let’s take a look at how Jeni’s Ice Creams did this last year.

holiday email marketing jenis ice cream

Let’s break these down (left to right):

  • Email 1:
    • Clear campaign launch and CTA to shop a holiday gift guide.
    • Fun graphics appealing to the indulger in us all.
    • Clear CTA at the bottom.
    • Additional CTA for a Thanksgiving deliver.
  • Email 2:
    • The Thanksgiving dinner CTA as moved to the top of the email – clear CTA.
    • Holiday-themed graphics and visuals.
    • Gift guide call out at the bottom.
  • Email 3:
    • More visible ORDER NOW CTA as the deadline to order approaches.
    • The approaching holiday is called out even more visually with graphics.
    • Shipping costs clearly advertised to alleviate any cost concerns.
  • Email 4:
    • Post- Thanksgiving, emails change to Holiday dinner push, with clear CTA at the top of the email.
    • Visuals switch to gift-like themes to match the upcoming holidays.
    • Images show holiday-specific ice cream flavors.
  • Email 5:
    • Even larger CTA announcing order date deadline.
    • Personalization options advertised.
    • Last-minute gift guide offered.

Just one more example here to really drive this home – include a countdown on your emails for the purchasing deadline so products get where they need to go in time for the holidays!

Here is how Bliss did this.

holiday email marketing bliss

3. Abandoned cart emails.

An abandoned cart is a sad thing.

It means that something was wrong with or missing from the shopping experience.

We know that 70% of customers will abandon their shopping carts.

During the holidays, 3 of the main reasons people abandon their carts are:

  • Shipping costs: determine whether it’s feasible for you to offer free shipping.
  • Better deal elsewhere: tempt them back with price and emotional cues.
  • Out-of-stock: how to capitalize once products become available again.

For these people, it is crucial that you triggered abandoned cart emails addressing their specific problems.

Let’s look at each, and what you can do address them so you can start seeing abandoned cart numbers like these:

holiday-email marketing abandoned cart

Reducing Shipping Costs.

In a survey conducted by BigCommerce, 80% of Americans cited shipping costs and speed of shipping as a major factor in determining where they shop, with 66% deciding not to buy entirely because of shipping costs.

Sure, offering free shipping is one way to reduce cart abandonment, but for many businesses, offering free shipping just isn’t an option, especially if you’re shipping items across the United States.

Companies such as Amazon can offer free shipping because they have such a massive financial reserve.

But what about other small-to-medium-sized businesses? When and how can they start to offer free shipping?

  • If you’re a seller competing primarily on the uniqueness of your product, try increasing the average order value (AOV) by offering free shipping after certain conditions have been met.
  • If you’re competing on price and are not willing to absorb the cost of shipping as a marketing expense, then you’ll need to raise the price of your products to cover shipping.
  • If you are willing to absorb the cost, then do so.
  • If you’re somewhere in the middle, and you’re based within the United States, try offering free shipping to certain locations only.
  • Do you offer expedited shipping? If so, including a surcharge for this service could help eat some of the deficit.

Better Deal Elsewhere.

Finding a better deal somewhere else doesn’t mean all is lost.

Sometimes customers genuinely find a better deal; however, they could be playing hard to get.

Some shoppers will abandon their carts on purpose, in order to trigger a discount or deal email.

Before you start offering discounts in your abandoned cart email, there is little evidence to support offering a discount in abandoned cart emails works.

Doing this eats into your profit margin. You shouldn’t be in a pricing race to the bottom scenario.

If you are losing a lot of customers to competitors with cheaper prices, then you might have a bigger problem than your price point.

What should you do instead?

  • Create scarcity and the fear of missing out. Clear “Back-in-stock” language reminds you that this item often isn’t in stock.
  • Use influencers. Offer your product for review to a well-known person in your industry to so they can put you ahead of your competitors, or you can also use micro-influencers to drive increased awareness of your product.
  • Bundle products together. By offering key products together you can sell more than what shoppers were originally looking for, and they usually save money either on shipping or on the products themselves.


You should have ample inventory to make sure items don’t go out of stock, and while BigCommerce has the functionality to ensure that out-of-stock items are removed immediately if something does become unavailable, then responding to customers in the right way can make or break a sale.

Take Suzanne Moore, founder of So Suzy Stamps, who uses InStockAlerts to send a personalized message to shoppers when their items are back in stock.

“With InStockAlerts, I was able to send a customized email to people who wanted alerts when a product was back in stock. I’d say:

‘Hey, hurry up, it’s back in stock! You need to order it before the other lady does.’

I was able to add my personality into those automated messages and it’s that personality that really attracts and retains my customers.”

— Suzanne Moore, Founder of So Suzy Stamps

Those InStockAlert emails, by the way, enjoy an 80% conversion rate.

A message as simple as the one Suzy uses – “Hey, hurry up, it’s back in stock! You need to order it before the other lady does” – can make all the difference.

You can plan for people potentially abandoning their carts due to stock issues by keeping your inventory in check.

If you have plans to move a particular product in its entirety and you’re prepared for BigCommerce to remove it once it does go out of stock, then prioritizing scarcity and urgency should be your focus.

Want more insights like this?

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Tips For Your 2019 Holiday Email Marketing Campaign

We’ve optimized emails, now let’s look at some holiday campaign strategies and tactics you can implement this holiday season.

1. Check out last year’s trends.

Why reinvent the wheel?

In 2017, there were some noteworthy email marketing holiday trends:

  • Holiday Gift Guides.
  • Lapsed-Purchase Email.
  • Using Holiday Centric Pop-ups.

Holiday Gift Guides.

Holiday gift guides are the perfect opportunity to curate your best sellers, top rated, and other top products in your inventory for your target audiences.

Using dynamic content, you can create digital gift guides that show relevant products to specific audiences that will help you cross-sell and upsell based on a user’s price sensitivity, demographic, and personal interest.

Lapsed-Purchase Emails.

Sending a lapsed-purchase email is a great strategy to win back customers who previously showed an interest in purchasing from you.

The email should focus on:

  • Reminding them about your brand.
  • Reminding them why they initially showed interest in purchasing from you.
  • Show what product or related products they viewed.

Including an offer like free-shipping, free gift wrapping, or BOGO (buy one, get one) can be a great added incentive to help them over the finish line.


Finally, strategically placed and timed pop-ups on your site can help you grow your customer base.

A 2017 Listrak study found pop-ups can improve an email list growth by about 20%, and welcome email series saw a revenue increase of 23% for new subscribers who submitted their email through a pop-up.

2. Start planning early.

You may have heard,

“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

For a holiday email marketing strategy, this saying could be,

“Poor planning on your part does not necessitate a purchase from a customer.”

Planning your holiday email marketing strategy and teasing it out is important so your customers know what offers they might expect.

Just over 20% of marketing professionals plan more than 3 months in advance of the peak email season.

By planning out in advance you are able to:

  • Create the various pieces of content necessary to improve conversions.
  • Review content and strategies that led to high conversions previously and implement them.
  • Ensure you are tracking important micro- and macro-conversion points for future data analysis.

3. Segment your list.

Segmenting your email list is crucial.

When 27% of email subscribers over 55 years old believe their emails are meant to appeal to millennials, then they have a high chance of not converting.

Break out your email list into various segments that allows you to show relevant products to each segment.

This creates an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell your customers.

Holiday email marketing segments to consider are:

  • VIP customers.
  • High average order value customers.
  • High total transaction customers.
  • Lapsed-purchase customers.
  • Subscribers who have not made a purchase.
  • Customers who haven’t bought recently: 30 days, 90 days, and 180 days ago.
  • Demographics: age, location, income.

Creating targeted messaging for each of these customer segments will improve your conversion rate compared to a generic, cookie-cutter, one-size fits all email.

Improve Your Customer Targeting with BigCommerce Customer Groups

Offer your important customers discounts, access to special products, and more by creating Customer Groups within BigCommerce’s control panel.

No apps necessary.

Learn how-to set up customer groups and the effective ways you can use them.

Black Friday Email Examples

1. Skullcandy’s Product Focus.

Holiday Email Marketing Skullcandy Black Friday

SkullCandy does a great job of focusing on a specific category, in this case, wireless headphones.

They make this clear and create a sense of urgency in their email preview text,

“Skullcandy Black Friday ends soon | View in Browser Skullcandy SHOP WIRELESS”

Within the email, they do a lot of great things:

  • Provide the amount shoppers can save.
  • Show only a few products to reduce decision paralysis.
  • Show savings price next to each product.

Create focused emails, do the math for your customers, and show relevant products to help point your customers in the right direction.

2. Kelty’s Bright Idea.

Holiday Email Marketing Kelty Black Friday

Black Friday can have a negative connotation: mobs of shoppers looking to scrap and claw their way to a great deal.

Kelty does a great job of putting a fun spin on Black Friday by calling it Bright Friday Savings.

Beyond the wordplay, they also make their customers feel smarter by taking advantage of the various discounts and free shipping they are offering.

They, like the example above, show select products, and at the bottom of the email also offer a gift guide their customers can use to find the right products for their friends and family.

Cyber Monday Email Examples

1. Holiday Bliss.

Holiday Email Marketing Bliss Cyber Monday

Bliss also used wordplay in their email by re-naming Cyber Monday in the subject line,

Cyber Funday! Less Working, more shopping.

This helps their email standout among the other Cyber Monday emails and potentially drive up email open rates.

The email itself clearly states the discount available across their entire site, and they highlight the free gift ($40+ value) you can get when you buy $100 or more of their product.

This is a great strategy because most gifts are bought for others and it’s nice to reward the gift giver with a gift of their own.

2. Cutter & Buck Cutting to the Chase.

Holiday Email Marketing Cutter Buck Cyber Monday

Simplicity can be effective.

Cutter & Buck keeps their email simple:

  • They provide a discount code.
  • A large SHOP NOW call-to-action is front and center.
  • They include a soft call-to-action: Free ground shipping for $100 or more spent.

Cut to the heart of what your customers want to know: what discount do I get and is there free shipping?

Christmas Email Examples

1. Precision Gift Giving.

Holiday Email Marekting Precision Camera Christmas

Precision Camera & Video focus on their major offerings: products, classes, and gift cards.

They focus on affordable and lower priced last minute gifts but do toss in one mid-range priced product.

They note upcoming classes they offer, allowing their customer to provide continuing education as a gift.

Finally, for gift givers who are not sure what a photographer or videographer may want or need, they can simply get a gift card.

2. Kelty Gifts by Christmas.

Holiday Email Marekting Kelty Christmas

This a great email for last minute gift givers.

Kelty’s Christmas email starts off with a clear subject line,

Ends Soon: Free Next Day Shipping, Guaranteed by Xmas.

The sense of urgency and offer of a guaranteed solution would generate a high open rate.

Once open, Kelty sets the expectations of when customers should order by (date and time) to ensure their gifts are delivered by Christmas.

Additionally, they clearly mark off what shipping options are no longer available if the customer wants the shipping guarantee.

Top Email Software For Holiday Campaigns

Finally, we’ve picked out some of the most useful third-party app and service integrations available with BigCommerce.

Use these to build better campaigns both on-site before visitors become subscribers, and when you’re sending those important holiday emails.

1. Klaviyo.

Klaviyo is the email marketing software secret behind multi-million dollar successes.

Why? How? Great questions!

The answer is simple: segmentation.

Brands should not talk to cohorts of customers in the same way.

Instead, they segment their email marketing efforts based on how a customer acts on their site.

Here’s everything you get with Klaviyo and BigCommerce:

  • Products, Collections & Categories Viewed: When customers return to your website, you’ll be able to see what products they’re looking at and use the information to create super-targeted email flows.
  • Checkout Started: Get all the information on products in your shopping cart –– including pictures and full item details –– so you can trigger smart abandoned-cart autoresponders.
  • Orders placed: You’ll be able to use the full order details to target and personalize, including pictures of items, price, discounts applied, coupon codes and more.
  • Fulfilled orders: Use information on whether or not an order has been fulfilled to control which emails a customer gets, trigger requests for reviews and personalize content.
  • Cancelled orders: If a customer creates an order but then cancels before fulfillment, you can automatically get in touch to ask why and incentivize them to reconsider.
  • Refunded orders: Filter and target based on refund events and specific details associated with the refund, like value, items, discount codes and more.

2. Springbot.

Springbot does some seriously cool data manipulation for BigCommerce store owners.

Using your out-of-the-box analytics or your Insights (or both), Springbot layers on additional user data and provides actionable steps you can take to segment your lists and make more money.

Some customers are raving: “This is the best app ever!”

Here’s everything you get:

  • Marketing Dashboard: Robust data and analytics based on your customer and product data.
  • Email Marketing: Integration with your favorite email service provider so you can easily send personalized emails to customers as well as automated emails triggered by your customers’ actions.
  • Social Media: Schedule, edit and review your social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Also, make your Instagram shoppable.
  • Online Ads: Re-engage visitors who view but don’t purchase your items by showing them a display ad on the web, mobile and social through our integration with AdRoll.
  • Marketplaces: With Amazon Marketplaces, expand your products’ reach by quickly migrating your listings to Amazon. Match your store’s products, set pricing and optimize listings to win the Buy Box, as well as manage product listings, inventory and shipping updates.
  • Onboarding and Training: Once Springbot’s installed on your site, you are assigned your very own Customer Onboarding Manager. They will help you get up and running to get the most out of Springbot.

3. dotmailer.

With dotmailer, you can:

  • Make contact, product and order data automatically flow into your account to supercharge your email marketing.
  • Use the data you hold in dotmailer to better target users and create powerful multi-channel automation without the need to code.
  • Send personalized campaigns powered by customers’ order history, web behavior and more.

4. Constant Contact.

With Constant Contact, you can:

  • Create mobile-responsive emails customized to your brand that look great on any device.
  • Set up an automated email series to send your customers personalized welcome, birthday and anniversary emails.
  • Track results in real time, and build your list with free list-growth.
  • Ensure your emails get delivered to inboxes, not spam folders.

5. MailChimp.

With MailChimp, you can:

  • Send personalized product recommendations to individual customers in just a few clicks.
  • Follow up with, delight and re-engage your customers using our preset customer lifecycle automation workflows.
  • Create targeted campaigns that get the right messages in front of the right customers at the right time.
  • Monitor our robust campaign reports to measure ROI, see what’s working and learn how you can get better.

6. Privy.

With Privy, you can:

  • Rapidly grow your email list and store sales with high-converting pop-ups, spin to win, and offers with bulk and unique coupon codes.
  • Trigger popups using exit intent, time on site, scroll, cart size and more.
  • A/B test campaigns to continually optimize performance.
  • Sync new contacts to all email marketing platforms including MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Soundest, Constant Contact, SendGrid, Adroll, Zapier and more.

7. Happy Email.

With Happy Email, you can:

  • Automatically send a thank-you email from store founder/owner to new customers.
  • Connect, make your customers happy and build trust on your brand.
  • No need to worry what to write to your customers. We’ve done it all for you.

8. JustUno.

Hailed by many brands as the most powerful free app in the marketplace, JustUno helps you to collect more emails so you can better segment, grow sales and increase lifetime loyalty.

Here are just a few of the things they offer:

  • Email Pop Ups: The simplest and most effective way to build your email list and generate sales opportunities.
  • Exit Pop Ups: Add exit intent pop ups to your site to capture emails before your visitor leaves.
  • Mobile Optimized Pop Ups (SEO Friendly): Engage and convert mobile traffic with mobile-specific pop ups. In compliance with Google’s recent mobile SEO policies.
  • Cart and Checkout Abandonment Offers: Prevent cart abandonment with targeted offers proven to convert shoppers into customers.
  • Banners, Bars and Slide-Ins: Use for email capture, sale notifications and effective website messaging.
  • Form Integrations: Add the emails you capture to any list from MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Hubspot, Constant Contact, Rejoiner and more. Plus, add any HTML form to your pop ups, banners and slide-ins.

9. In Stock Reminder.

With In Stock Reminder for BigCommerce, you can:

  • Add a customized subscriber box to any product page, which, when completed, will inform customers by email when that item is back in stock.

Executive Summary

Email is important and can be a high converting traffic channel for your business, especially during the holiday season.

Take the time to:

  • Optimize key emails to drive conversations.
  • Plan and strategize for the holiday season far in advance.
  • Select the right email marketing tools for your business.

Take these ideas and tactics and start working on your holiday email marketing.

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    Matt Pompa

    Matthew Pompa is the Small Business Campaign Manager at BigCommerce. A mechanical engineer, he uses both his analytical and creative talents to develop thorough and thoughtful marketing strategies. Pompa is also an experienced digital director producing videos for BigCommerce, his YouTube Channels, and previous clients. He trains the next generation of digital marketers as an instructor for the Digital Creative Institute. A student of growth, content, and campaign building, Pompa brings 9 years of experience to his role and his apprentices.

    View all posts by Matt Pompa
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