“On the 12th day of Christmas, my inbox gave to me…

Five thousand snow puns

A heap of corporate greetings

And an unrelated picture of a Christmas tree.”

Ah, holidays – everyone loves them. Most of all businesses. They are not only the busiest times of the year but also, the most profitable. Since more and more people are doing their holiday shopping online and doing it earlier and earlier year-to-year, the sooner marketers start planning their Christmas email marketing ideas the better.


“To stand out in the recipients’ inbox, your holiday email marketing campaign must be dynamic, relevant and personalised specifically for the user.” –
EmailOut 

In 2019, holiday sales in the retail sector soared by 4.1% compared to 2018 amounting to around £578 billion in sales. Impressive, isn’t it? But, are you making plans now to take advantage of this opportunity or choose to wait until the last minute? Nowadays, there are numerous ways to impress customers, however, nothing can beat an awesome, carefully targeted and highly personalised Christmas email marketing campaign.

In this article, we’ll cover the following topics:

  1. Do businesses need a holiday email marketing strategy?
  2. Holiday email marketing stats
  3. Christmas email marketing strategy checklist
  4. The three stages of a successful Christmas email marketing campaign
  5. Christmas email marketing campaign ideas
  6. The ultimate email campaign preflight checklist for every occasion

Let’s dive in.

The holiday season gives businesses the best opportunity to increase sales and maximise revenue. As such, marketers’ best course of action is to begin their holiday email marketing preparations as soon as possible. After all, with email marketing having an ROI of 42:1, reaching out to your targeted audience and potential leads through email is not only a profitable marketing strategy but also, it shows your recipients the value your business offers – especially during the holiday season.

The retail sector might be the one seeing the most sales during the holidays, however, don’t worry if you operate in a different industry. All businesses can benefit from the holiday increase in sales.

The Need For Holiday Email Marketing

The holiday season is known to be the ‘make it or break it’ point for businesses in different industries. Especially for those in the retail, consumer packaged goods (CPG) and eCommerce industries. For example, in retail, over 20% of annual spend is driven by the holidays. As such, we advise marketers not to miss the opportunity of further building their brand, developing better customer relationships and driving better revenue through holiday email marketing campaigns.

These stats prove why email marketing during the holidays is a ‘must’ – 

  • in 2019, online sales grew by 14.6% YoY;
  • nearly 190 million U.S. customers shopped from Thanksgiving through to Cyber Monday in 2019 with a spending increase of 16% compared to 2018;
  • 65% of purchases during the holidays are influenced by sales and promotions;
  • email is the third-highest 2018 Cyber Monday revenue driver contributing 24.2% of sales;
  • 40% of customers started their holiday shopping by 1 November in 2019 with 12% starting before September;
  • 75% of email revenue is generated by triggered campaigns with 21% of it accounting to automated email campaigns;
  • 59% of customers state that marketing emails influence their purchase decision-making;

Christmas Email Marketing Checklist

It’s the day after Thanksgiving and Christmas music is already blasting from every store, shopping mall and cafe. People have already started decorating their storefronts, offices, houses and some even their cars. But, as an email marketer, have you prepared your Christmas email marketing checklist? Have you brainstormed any Christmas email marketing ideas? No. Well, I’m here to help.

1)  Outline your Christmas email marketing strategy

You might have a general email strategy but does it apply to the holidays?

First and foremost, you need to set your Christmas email marketing goals – for example, increasing revenue by 30%. 

Second, you need to do your research. For example, what did your competitors do in their last Christmas email marketing campaign? What did YOU do? How did your last Christmas email campaign perform? 

Third, define your email frequency for the holidays. Will you be sending one email per week starting a day after Thanksgiving? Or, will you increase the frequency and do it twice a week? When is the best time to send your Christmas email campaign – morning, midday or evening?

Now, I know you are well aware that a Christmas email marketing campaign is not just one email you send on Christmas day. To reach the full potential of Christmas email marketing, you need to make sure you have a three-stage set of Christmas email campaigns ready – 

1) Pre-Christmas email campaign series – a 4-6 weeks before the Christmas period starts;
2) Christmas email campaign series – starting a couple of weeks days before Christmas;
3) Post-Christmas email campaign – 1-7 days after Christmas.

With a defined strategy, you can take the next step and focus on your Christmas email campaign template.

2) Prepare your Christmas email campaign template

With the basics out of the way, it’s time to craft the perfect Christmas email campaign template. 

If you are using professional email marketing software you will be presented with two options – 

1) design your Christmas email template from scratch, or
2) take advantage of the free template gallery and just tweak the design a little. 

If you are starting from scratch, make sure to follow email design best practice and don’t forget to sprinkle some Christmas cheer whilst doing it. ‘Tis the season after all. Consequently, you can utilise one of the amazing Christmas email campaign ideas from the template gallery. That way you’ll have more time to focus on the email copy.

Moreover, if you have segmented your email lists (which, for better results, you should), you should consider that when creating a Christmas email campaign template. One size does not fit all, thus one email campaign design will not either. So, it is better to be prepared and have a few templates – for general sending and another tailored for your segmented audience(s).

Furthermore, make sure your email will not only be mobile-responsive but also provide a smooth experience for your subscribers regardless of the device they are using to view your Christmas email campaign.

Whichever way you chose to create your Christmas email campaign, always ensure the template will match the content. Let Santa spread some Christmas magic on your template but not too much that people won’t recognise who the email campaign is coming from.

3) Brainstorm and define the perfect Christmas email subject line

According to research I did recently, 47% of recipients decide whether or not to open an email purely based on the subject line. Thus, to rock that Christmas email campaign, email marketers must focus on creating subject lines that are curious, a bit urgent, highly relevant and delivering a tempting offer – and all within the recommended length of no more than 50 characters. Sounds impossible, doesn’t it?

Don’t get your tinsels in a tangle though. Relax, have some eggnog and…

 …take a look at 7 methods you can utilise when crafting a Christmas subject line – 

1) The Fear Of Missing Out (FOMO). Do you like the feeling like you’re missing out on something? No? Well, neither do your subscribers. So, to trigger your subscribers’ innate fear of missing out, create a sense of urgency and inspire action by giving the impression of scarcity or an offer about to end.

2) The Self-Improvement. People always want to be better, do better. So much so that by promising them they can evolve to a better version of themselves (with your help, of course), you are betting on a winning subject line.

3) The If-Then. If you know your target audience well enough, then you’ll have a good idea of which characteristics they share. So, when you’re crafting a subject line think of something that feels specific but is applicable to the vast majority of your subscribers. Then, they’ll think ‘Oh wait, that applies to me!’

4) The Free Gift. If your recipients get the impression that what’s waiting for them when they open your Christmas email campaign is something real and tangible, they will certainly have their interest peaked and will open and interact with your email.

5) The Cliffhanger. Humans are curious by nature. If your subject line creates a little mystery or suspense, trust me they won’t be able to help themselves and will peek inside your Christmas email. You don’t believe me? Scroll to the bottom and you’ll find out why.

6) The Direct-Informal. The concept behind this increasingly popular method is to mimic the way real people write and interact with one another – be it friends, family, classmates, etc. 

7) The Controversial. Making a bizarre claim or disputing a popular belief is a great way to get clicks… just make sure you aren’t overdoing it or it’ll cost you the recipient’s trust.

4) Give subscribers the perfect email copy

  • Christmas email campaign goals – set. 
  • Christmas email template – ready. 
  • Christmas subject line – locked. 
  • Christmas email copy – pending…

Remember, people receive hundreds if not thousands of emails during the holiday season. Your usual email copy will not do well here. For your Christmas email copy, you need to do better – much better. Think of it as a Christmas tree, you want to decorate it perfectly but you don’t want to overdo it or it’ll tip over and fall. Same goes for your email copy.

The most important thing to consider is that no one likes to feel like they are just a name on your email list. They want to feel special, cherished, cared for. Thus, start with personalisation. You should always use the subscribers’ first name when crafting the copy. Make them feel like they are your friend, not just another potential buyer that will fill your pockets with money. If you don’t, you might end up on Santa’s naughty list.

Next step is to ditch the somewhat stiff, boring, general Christmas lines. Instead, be creative with your email copy. Demonstrate your good sense of humour and wit. From cheeky wordplay through referencing Christmas carols to a funny themed call-to-action (CTA) and entertaining holiday imagery, make sure your email will capture the holiday spirit and give recipients some much needed Christmas cheer in a new, untraditional, captivating and enticing way. But, remember, more isn’t always good so don’t overwhelm it.

5) Holy Night or Silent Night? Did you test your Christmas campaign?

Your Christmas email marketing campaign is ready to go BUT… are you sure that after hours upon hours of crafting it you haven’t made a mistake? Even a tiny one such as a typo? Or, the wrong CTA button colour? What about the links, do they go where they are supposed to?

The best way to ensure your campaign is on-point and well… perfect is to test, test, test. It will help you discover what best resonates with your subscribers, which of your Christmas email marketing ideas work and which don’t, what can be improved to deliver better results and which specific element (subject line, copy, etc.) are the cause of higher engagement rates. But remember, always test one variable at a time.

Now, when it comes to spelling mistakes, typos, links, etc., the best way to proofread and ensure everything is perfect is to send a test email to yourself and why not a small group of your colleagues. Both you and they can go through each element carefully testing each link and CTA, proofreading the copy and checking if the imagery has its alt text.

Christmas Email Campaign Ideas

1) Gift-giving: Give Recipients What They Want

We’ve all been there – the last-minute present-shopping panic. You know what I’m referring to, right? The moment where you realise you haven’t bought anything for your difficult sister-in-law or worse, your mother-in-law, you’ve run out of time and now you’ll have to buy something boring and a bit bland you don’t really want to pay for and the recipient of it doesn’t really want, just so you don’t show up empty-handed at Christmas.

Unfortunately, 90% of holiday marketing campaigns are just like that – uninspired, sent out of obligation and not really bringing benefit to anyone. Don’t let your Christmas email marketing campaign be the same. Focus on what the recipient actually wants and then just give it to them.

The minute the Christmas period begins peoples’ inbox overflows with incoming Christmas emails.  On the other hand, they also turn into stress-monkeys regarding things like travel logistics (if they are not on lockdown – thank you COVID-19), getting presents delivered on time, sorting out work tasks before they sign off for the holidays, etc. 

Your Christmas email marketing ideas should be focused on what you can do to solve your recipient’s specific problems and make their lives a little bit easier at this joyful but hectic time of year. For example, this email from American Eagle Outfitters provides email copy that makes readers shake their head and chuckle whilst being relevant and offering value – 

Christmas Email Marketing Ideas: Santa Claus Approved | EmailOut.com - free email marketing software

2) Make People Laugh But Keep In On-Point

Corporate Christmas email marketing’s biggest problem is that it so often sounds stiff and somewhat boring. If you lack the personal connection with the person you’re emailing, a bland “Merry Christmas” message can ring hollow. Especially if your goal is to convince them to purchase something.

The best way to avoid this is to use humour. Make the recipient laugh and they’ll have no other option but to interact with your Christmas email campaign.

Take a look at this fun and witty campaign from Parts Town for example – 

Christmas Email Marketing Ideas: Santa Claus Approved | EmailOut.com - free email marketing software
It gets the tone just right and makes a reference to Christmas without any cliches and trite puns. But, at the same time, it gets the message across that they’re open on Christmas Eve.

3) Your Recipients Are Relevant So Don’t Give Them Irrelevant Content

Think carefully. What’s the reason you’re sending this exact email right now? Is it relevant to Christmas? Or are you just putting some Christmas glitter and tinsel on an email campaign you were planning to send either way and simply calling it festive?

People have pretty sophisticated ‘nonsense’ detectors, so don’t try to trick or deceive them. Instead, carefully think about how to make your email campaign holiday-relevant and give them beneficial offers truly relevant to their needs/wants/interests. If you can come up with original, witty and relevant incentives showcasing that you really do know what they want, you’ll not only catch the recipients’ attention but win them over easily.

For example, take a look at this Christmas-themed email from Puma. It’s festive, covers all the stress-points people are concerned about during the holiday season (shipping, costs, gifts, etc.) and actually provides value for the recipient.

Christmas Email Marketing Ideas: Santa Claus Approved | EmailOut.com - free email marketing software

4) Come On Let Me Entertain You…

Yes, I did just quote a Robbie Williams song.

In the run-up to Christmas in a lot of offices (particularly in the UK and Europe), work slows down as people themselves slow down and slip into the joyful holiday mindset. Even your bosses seem to be a lot more easy-going about the good-humoured and festive slacking. (Did I just see my CEO munching on a gingerbread cookie with a smile?)

That’s the perfect time for you to send out some lighthearted games, quizzes, animations and other bits of fun to make people smile, entertain them and keep them in the Christmas spirit. The more interactive, the better… remember how ElfYourself went viral? That’s a perfect example.

This really cool, fun and entertaining example of an interactive Christmas email comes from UK-based digital agency 1973 (click here for the live version) –  

Christmas Email Marketing Ideas: Santa Claus Approved | EmailOut.com - free email marketing software 

They wanted to create a Christmas email with an engaging story to tell. So, they came up with the idea of an interactive present which when the recipient clicks on uncovers a snowglobe that features members of 1973’s team. They even took it a step further with the addition of an interactive element allowing the recipient to turn on Christmas lights and make it snow.

Final Thoughts

Christmas time can be exhausting not only for shoppers but for us, the email marketers, too. Nonetheless, we are experts and as such, we already know all the essentials of creating a successful email marketing campaign. The only difference here is that we need to implement all our knowledge into crafting the perfect Christmas email marketing campaign.

Don’t forget, brainstorming for Christmas email marketing ideas and designing Christmas emails can be fun just as much as visiting a Winter Wonderland. A little cheer in your subject line, a few witty Christmas puns and funny imagery and voila, you have an awesome email campaign. Armed with our Christmas email marketing checklist and a few Christmas email campaign ideas, you are ready; so get the gingerbread cookies, pour some eggnog, put a Christmas tune on and get your creative juices flowing.

Oh, deer, I almost forgot to tell you how you can prevent making mistakes with your email marketing campaigns be it Christmas, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, weekly newsletter or other. How rude-olf of me. All you need is an email campaign preflight checklist and you’re set.

Merry Email Marketing Season!

Highly recommended further reading – 

1) Email Segmentation Secrets
2) Responsive Email Design: The Skinny
3) Email CTA Examples
4) How To Avoid Messing Up Your Email A/B Testing

You scrolled to the bottom of the page, didn’t you? See, we can’t help ourselves! Our curiosity always gets the better of us. (The Cliffhanger.)

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