Holiday Email Marketing Dos and Don’ts: Tips for Effective Campaigns

Posted by Prospero Team | November 10, 2023 | All, email marketing

With the holidays just around the corner, many brands are gearing up for new and improved holiday email campaigns to attract new customers and increase sales.

This channel works so well for brands because it offers a personalized way to spread the festive spirit and entice customers to make a purchase.

But are they doing it right? Will they get a good ROI from their campaigns?

Let’s explore some of the dos and don’ts of holiday email marketing to help you create memorable experiences and build long-term relationships beyond the holiday season. 

Do: Set a Goal

Every email marketing campaign needs goals. Just because your holiday email campaign may be short-term doesn’t mean you can’t benefit from setting targets to meet.

This could be more clicks, downloads, or purchases. Or maybe you have a broader goal, which is to increase brand awareness or improve customer engagement.

Setting a goal will help shape your email marketing strategy by giving you insight on how to proceed, like with: 

  • What types of emails to send
  • What audience(s) to target
  • What tone and messaging to include in your emails

Don’t: Send Emails Last Minute

It’s best to send holiday emails ahead of time before the holiday season kicks off.

If not, you risk losing out on valuable opportunities. Potential customers may be on holiday vacation, so they might not check their emails. Another possibility is that customers have already done their holiday shopping, so your emails will no longer be relevant to them. 

Sure, many people prefer waiting until after Christmas to catch the post-holiday sales. You can target them, too.

But it’s best to do so early so that all of your subscribers have a chance to see your emails and have enough time to consider buying from your company. 

Do: Send Targeted Holiday Emails With Segmentation

Sending any holiday email to any old customer is not the ideal way to market your business.

In marketing, one size doesn’t fit all. More specifically, one email rarely fits all. One of the best methods for sending effective promotional emails is customer segmentation. 

This process involves breaking down your email list into groups based on certain factors.

For example, your target audience may have made a previous purchase with your business or interacted with your website. You can segment this audience into a list separate from subscribers who engage with your business less often.

Or, you can group subscribers based on how often they shop with your brand. In this case, you might put year-round customers and seasonal shoppers in separate groups.

Customers who purchase your products throughout the year might appreciate a holiday email about joining your loyalty program. On the other hand, holiday shoppers might enjoy discounts and promotions. 

Hims, a health and wellness company, has a segment of male customers struggling with DHT hair loss.

Sending targeted emails about this problem during the holidays not only appeals to their audience but also hits on the idea of self-care during the holidays and the act of gift-giving.

Screenshot of Hims email, offering holiday discounts on self care products

(Image source

Don’t: Forget to Follow-Up 

When it comes to sending emails, there are so many factors at play. Holiday emails can end up in spam folders. Your subscribers may also be distracted from juggling work and family responsibilities to getting ready for the busy holiday season. 

Sending thoughtful follow-ups can increase your chances of reaching disengaged subscribers and bring you one step closer to a sale. 

Try to send one to two follow-up emails to create a sense of urgency and remind subscribers that the holidays are near.

Do: Add a Personal Touch 

Your holiday email marketing campaign should focus on sending personalized emails, which subscribers open 82% more often than generic emails. 

Always include your subscribers’ first names at the beginning of each email. This can improve engagement by capturing the reader’s attention. As a result, they have a higher chance of reading the entire email and taking action. 

You can do the same for subject lines to entice subscribers to click, increasing open rates

Other ways to add a personal touch to engage your email subscribers are: 

  • Telling a story: Share personal or relatable stories that resonate with your subscribers’ experiences or interests, creating an emotional connection. Your stories might entail heartwarming holiday narratives, such as how your brand was founded or personal anecdotes related to the holiday season.
  • Encouraging feedback: Invite your subscribers to share their thoughts, feedback, and suggestions. This shows that you truly value their opinions and that they have the power to influence your brand’s decisions. You can get even more creative by creating a poll asking your subscribers about their favorite holiday traditions, memories, or gift ideas. 
  • Expressing gratitude: Show appreciation for your email list’s loyalty or engagement with your brand. A simple “thank you for being a valued customer” can go a long way. To show your gratitude, consider offering exclusive holiday discounts.
  • Use a conversational tone: The copy of your email should sound like you’re having a one-on-one conversation with the recipient. Avoid using overly formal or corporate language. Craft content that reflects the joy and warmth of the holiday season. 
  • Using a personal signature: Use a real person’s name in the email signature to signify that the email is written by a human and not a company. This can help make the email feel more personal and approachable. Include warm holiday wishes and a heartfelt message to add authenticity to the email.
Screenshot of email promoting Thanksgiving contest by mobile messaging app Line

Screenshot by Britney Steele

Line, a mobile messaging app, shares a Thanksgiving contest to foster a personal connection with customers.

Personalization takes time. An effective holiday email marketing campaign needs personalized content, strategic timing, and compelling call-to-actions (CTAs).

To streamline email campaigns, consider using AI tools for business. AI helps analyze valuable customer data to predict the best times to send emails, driving higher open rates.

It can also help in segmenting your email list, which ensures each recipient gets content that appeals specifically to their interests and needs.

For instance, during the holiday season, you might have customers who are last-minute shoppers and others who plan ahead. 

AI can help identify these distinct behaviours, allowing you to send targeted emails with content that appeals directly to their shopping habits. 

A personalized touch made simple and efficient with AI can be the difference between your email being opened or lost in the sea of holiday promotions.

Don’t: Send Emails to an Old and Inactive List

11.1% of all emails never reach the mailbox because of email deliverability issues. Sending emails to a list that you haven’t emailed in more than a year is one of those things that can affect your email deliverability.

That’s because email addresses can become inactive in a pretty short amount of time. People tend to forget how and where they signed up for your email list. And they may no longer have access to the email address they used.

So, sending emails to a list of subscribers with inactive emails can lower your open rate, raise your bounce rate, and increase your spam complaint rate. 

This can all damage your sender reputation and impact the success of your future holiday emails. 

So, maintain list hygiene by removing inactive subscribers. But before letting them go, consider sending one last email to re-engage them. Check out the email below from AliExpress. Its subject line reads: We miss you 😢.

Screenshot of "i miss you" email from AliExpress

Screenshot by Britney Steele

Do: Comply With Email Regulations

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) governs how businesses collect, process, store, and share their data. 

The best way to follow these rules is to ensure you have a clear opt-out option for your Christmas emails. Your subscribers should be able to easily find the unsubscribe button at the top or bottom of the email. 

Another thing to pay attention to is spam this holiday season. The CAN-SPAM Act addresses the problem of receiving unwanted commercial emails. So, to stay off the naughty list this year, avoid spamming your audience. 

Customers likely receive hundreds of emails in their inboxes during the holidays. While it’s good to follow up a few times, it’s important to maintain a balance and avoid crossing the line into spam territory. 

Don’t know how often to send holiday emails? Take a look at your deliverability metrics from last year if you have them available. Check your open rates.

If they’re pretty good, then there’s a chance your sending frequency was right on par. If the opposite, reevaluate how often you send emails and consider going with your normal email patterns. 

Don’t: Forget Mobile

Smartphones drove over 50% of online sales during the 2022 holiday season. So, if your holiday email campaign isn’t mobile-optimized, you could miss out on the opportunity to maximize sales.

It’s also possible that your emails could end up in the trash or, worse, the spam folder. To avoid this, ensure a responsive email design that renders well across all devices.

For instance, this Macy’s email promoting a holiday discount looks great on mobile devices.

Screenshot of Macy's holiday discount email displayed on mobile device

Screenshot by Britney Steele

Do: Respect Different Holiday Traditions

One of the worst things you can do is alienate your subscribers during a holiday email marketing campaign. 

If you have a diverse email list, then there’s a chance that they have different beliefs and celebrations, such as Kwanzaa and Hanukkah.

Consider using a CRM to segment your list to include beliefs, faith, and backgrounds. This will help you create more targeted holiday emails that resonate with your audience, and don’t assume everyone celebrates Christmas. 

Wrapping Up

The holiday season is filled with cheer and gift-giving. So, what better way to spread the holiday cheer than through warm, welcoming, festive emails?

The key to any successful holiday email marketing campaign is targeted, personalized, and highly relevant emails.

Providing value is another crucial component of resonating with your email subscribers. Offering gift cards, discount codes, and other special offers can give your email list something to look forward to using when it’s time to hit the shops. 

Remember that holiday email marketing is an ongoing process. You can learn from past mistakes and hone your campaign to continuously increase sales and optimize conversion rates.

Author Bio:

Ryan Robinson is a blogger, podcaster and (recovering) side project addict who teaches 500,000 monthly readers how to start a blog and grow a profitable side business at


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