12 Holiday Email Marketing Tips To Boost Sales

Radhika Sivadi

6 min read ·


The holiday sales season is a big one for many small business owners. This year, Deloitte is predicting an increase in holiday retail sales. Forrester expects a slight decline. Yet, both agree that eCommerce is going to be big, which means your business needs to get its holiday email marketing ready to go.

Forrester sees online retail growing 18.5% this year to reach 20.2% overall penetration in North America. Meanwhile, Deloitte predicts growing eCommerce holiday retail business will generate $182 billion to $196 billion in total sales from November through January. 

According to the National Retail Federation, 60 percent of consumers planned to shop online this year. No wonder 96 percent of retailers expect their online sales to increase

Your small business can have more success with a great holiday email marketing campaign. Along the lines of the 12 Days of Christmas, we offer these 12 tips to drive your sales.


Holiday shopping

#1 Research Holidays and Start Planning

Holiday campaigns are a good way to pique customer interest. With content tied to a special day, you can get more attention and have a stronger emotional appeal. 

In the winter season, you might target the big holidays such as Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Hanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or Boxing Day. Local small businesses could also research events, festivals, and celebration days specific to your region.

Using Google Trends, you can identify when people historically start searching for content related to your specific holidays. Plan to send out holiday business emails at that time.


#2 Create Holiday-Themed Campaigns

Just name-dropping Santa or the Pilgrims into your holiday campaigns isn’t going to do the trick. Sure, it can make your business emails seasonal, but what you really want is to find the “content sweet spot” where a holiday topic and your brand meet. The Content Marketing Institute recommends researching core keywords and analyzing search context to identify the most relevant targets. 

Pursue the holiday marketing campaign ideas that suit your buyer personas. Otherwise, you’re wasting time, effort, and resources. Focusing only on the calendar could lead to you forgetting there are humans at the other end of that small business email. 

#3 Create a Holiday Gift Guide

A holiday gift guide lets you focus your customers’ attention on your featured products. At the same time, you’re doing them a favor. You’re making it easier for them to see how they can spread seasonal cheer by shopping at your business.

People often don’t know what to get their loved ones or that colleague they picked in the company’s White Elephant gift exchange. Your staff can have fun coming up with great ideas to share with customers. You might organize your guide by:

  • Price point
  • Audience (Guys? Moms? Kids?)
  • Color
  • Product types
  • Brand

The guide can help you build your brand. Plus, your holiday gift guide gives you concrete content to share with email subscribers.


Couple excited about their new purchase online

#4 Launch Holiday Sales Using Promo Codes

Who doesn’t like a bargain? Set your holiday marketing campaign in motion by sending out a subscriber-only promo code

Another thing everyone likes, along with sales? Feeling special. Sharing exclusive holiday offers with your mailing list via email can help them feel connected to your brand. According to Digital Doughnut, “emails with promo codes boast 14% higher open rates, 34% higher click rates, and 48% higher revenues than emails without them.”

When people are getting insider deals, they’re going to see the value of being on your mailing list. 

#5 Write Holiday-Themed Subject Lines

Some great examples include:

  • Dell: “It’s Cyber Monday All Week!”
  • Fortnum & Mason: “Making Christmas merrier since 1707”
  • Just Give: “Gifts that do good…and feel good”
  • Story Bistro: “Thanks, Giving, and a Little Bit of Getting”
  • theSkimm: “Winter is (officially) coming”

Adding a seasonal emoji can make a big difference too. According to Experian, “56 percent of brands using emoji in their email subject lines had a higher unique open rate.”

Or try other top subject line tactics: Use powerful words. Personalize. Ask questions (e.g., “What if Santa left this [gift emoji] under your tree?”).

#6 Make the Deal Easy To Spot

With so many business emails flooding their inboxes during holiday seasons, your customers’ short attention spans will be even shorter. Put your offer up top and make it easy for the customer to see and act on it. You might feature it in your subject line to encourage an email open

An offer personalized to your customer is more likely to resonate. But, no matter what, you want to make sure that the offer stands out. “The most important element is a clear path for people to follow in regards to what the offer is, how it will benefit them, and what YOU want them to do.”

#7 Add Social Proof To Your Emails

With all the money people spend during the holiday season, they don’t want to get a bogus product or a bad deal. So, what makes us believe we’re making a smart purchase? Hearing from someone else who has loved that product or service. 

Adding product reviews and customer testimonials to your emails can help drive sales. When an item sounds really great, you can tap into someone’s Fear of Missing Out (FOMO). 


Woman checking her phone

#8 Optimize Emails for Mobile 

Some 46 percent of emails are opened on mobile devices, according to Hubspot. “In fact, email generates $38 for every $1 spent, which is an astounding 3,800% ROI, making it one of the most effective options available.”

Don’t miss out on any opportunities. Make sure your email marketing is responsive and optimized for mobile viewing. This means:

  • Using a single column layout
  • Keeping design simple
  • Streamlining navigation
  • User-friendly call-to-action (CTA) buttons
  • Compact images that load smoothly


#9 Make Sure To Test

Sending emails without testing them out can lead to mistakes that make your business look unprofessional or tone-deaf. Your campaign could end up arriving in people’s spam boxes. Or they might not be able to read the text, understand the offer, or see the images on their phone.

There are many different elements of holiday email marketing you can test. Top contenders are:

  • Subject line
  • Offer
  • Message
  • CTA
  • Personalization 
  • Time of day sent
  • Target audience

Fortunately, there are also many testing tools out there to help make this easier for you. 


Woman doing her holiday shopping downtown

#10 Send Last-Minute Deals

As the saying goes, “It ain’t over ’til it’s over.” The same is true of holiday shopping. Millions of Americans wait until the last minute to shop. That means you can still make an impact on holiday sales with last-minute holiday campaigns.

When you’re coming down to the wire, you’ll want to emphasize the urgency. Knowing your customers are likely busy and stressed, keep the message simple and direct.  

One way to personalize your last-minute pitch is to follow up on the abandoned cart that the customer left behind. Offering free shipping can also give your digital shoppers peace of mind.

#11 Send Post-Holiday Emails

Your campaign doesn’t necessarily end when the calendar says that the holiday is over. You can continue the relationship building by reaching out to: 

  • Target those with a gift card to spend
  • Offer a round-up of your best-selling items from the holiday period
  • Advise your subscribers on how to return or exchange items
  • Simply build loyalty with a thank-you for their business


#12 Pay Attention To What Works, What Doesn’t

At the height of the holiday season, you’re going to be too busy making sales to keep up with all the analytics on your emails. But don’t overlook the importance of finding time to track your campaign success and failures after the fact. You know that another holiday is just around the corner. So, make an effort to review your email marketing strategy. 

Factors you could take a look at include:

  • What subject lines worked best
  • What CTAs led to conversions
  • What timing was too early or too late
  • Which business emails went unopened
  • What coupons or deals prompted sales


Plus, if you had run into any issues sending your campaign out, you might use the lull between retail peaks to consider your options for small business email hosting and get a business email migration underway.


Radhika Sivadi