Simple Ways to Improve Your Holiday Email Marketing

This article was updated on 11/3/2022.

Email marketing is a critical component of your business’s holiday promotional strategy. That’s true especially when you consider that retailers can earn close to 20% of their annual revenue in November and December alone, according to a report from the New York Times

But there’s a lot of noise. In 2021, there was a 16% year-over-year increase in email volume as businesses looked to lock in holiday sales earlier, and that number is expected to grow as more consumers continue to start shopping before November

So as we head into the holidays, it’s important to examine your email marketing plans closely.

Here are a few tips to improve the performance of your campaigns:

For promotions, use percentages off.

Take a page from the big guys. MailCharts analyzed the email programs of the largest 1,000 U.S. web merchants and discovered that offering consumers a percentage discount is the most widely used holiday promotional strategy. But price point matters. When an item costs less than $100, campaigns tend to offer percentages off rather than absolute ones — seemingly tapping into consumer psychology around what sort of discount seems like the best deal. For products over $100, absolute discounts (like $20 off) are what companies lean toward.

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Put those promotions in the subject line.

Of the 1,000 businesses analyzed in the MailCharts report, 59 percent of their end-of-year email marketing promotions included the deal in the subject line. And they do it quick, mentioning the specific promotion in the first 14 characters.

Make it personal.

Making your promotion feel personal is as important as putting it in the subject line. According to Statista, 43% of marketers found personalization is the most important characteristic to optimize an email marketing campaign effectively. Use insight from past purchases to target customers appropriately. If you know candles are your biggest seller, personalize your campaign towards recent candle buyers with language that shows you remember what they bought and invite them to come back.

Cut down your subject line length.

Speaking of subject lines, keep them short. This is especially important because nowadays more people read their email on a smartphone instead of a desktop or laptop. Most email clients display around the first 45 characters of a subject line on mobile devices, so a good rule of thumb is to keep your subject line under that number.

Be strategic about your campaign send dates.

As you might expect, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the two days with the heaviest email marketing volume, which can make it difficult for your campaigns to get noticed. To stand out, send a sneak-peek email about your Black Friday and Cyber Monday promotions a week or so beforehand. That could pique your customers’ interest ahead of time, making them more likely to open your campaigns on those big shopping days.

You might also leverage underutilized holiday dates for email campaigns, such as Small-Business Saturday, Cyber Sunday, and Thanksgiving which follow Black Friday and Cyber Monday as the most popular days to send email campaigns. 

Be strategic about the time of day you send email.

The specific time of day you send your campaigns matters, too.

Hubspot found that 21% of email opens happen between 9 a.m. and noon. But each business’s peak open rates can be different. Look to the data in your email marketing software to analyze which times of day (and days of the week) your email has performed the best historically. Then time your holiday sends accordingly.

Promote gift cards.

Retail Brew reports that gift cards are more popular than ever. So if you’ve got them, promote them via email or SMS. It’s easy to order custom gift cards for your business through Square. Remember that last-minute shoppers are often on the hunt for something quick, so make sure to time your campaign to hit those shoppers when they need it.

Segment your lists.

If you’re not segmenting your lists, you’re missing out on a huge strategic opportunity to target your campaigns towards the people they’ll resonate with the most — like your repeat customers. According to Statista, 86% of consumers would like to receive promotional email from businesses they’ve previously shopped at. Square Marketing automatically segments your contact lists into loyal, casual, or lapsed customers, so you can easily send an email by grouping.

Whether your holiday email marketing is in great shape or you’re just starting out, there are always easy ways you can improve your holiday promotional strategy and make the most of the season.