NEW: iContact Case Study

Holiday Email Marketing Success – A Retailer’s Guide

 In Email Marketing, Holidays

A Retailer Guide to Holiday Marketing Successemail marketing planner

As marketers know, the email marketing holiday season begins long before we see the first Christmas tree in the stores. In fact, the main holiday marketing season lasts from July through January. Did you know:

  • More than one-third of retailers earmarked between 31%–50% of their total 2015 online marketing budget specifically for holiday (
  • Gift cards and cash rank as the #1 and #2 items consumers most like to receive, while the top three gifts given are clothing, gift cards, and books (Deloitte).

Use this handy month-by-month guide to help you plan, stay on trend, and send the right holiday message at the right time.

Let’s get started with tips for the winter and spring holidays which are a good warm up to the heavy winter marketing season, which takes more planning.

February 14 – Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is about love and romance. People exchange greeting cards, flowers, chocolates, and jewelry with their special someone. Tie in your email creative with the warm and fuzzy feelings that Valentine’s Day brings. You could even show your customers some love by creating special, online-only promotions and rewards using a Valentine’s Day promo code (e.g. LOVE20 for a 20% off deal). Read “5 Valentine’s Day Email Strategies You’ll Lovefeb2

February 15 – President’s Day

What better way to honor past and present commanders in chief than with patriotic price cuts for President’s Day? Since it’s the third Monday in February, this holiday provides a good opportunity to kick off the beginning of the year with sales on holiday items and cold-weather gear.

March 17 – St. Patrick’s Day

From leprechauns to rainbows with a pot of gold, this Irish celebration is all about keeping your messaging light and fun! Add a little luck to your online shoppers’ day by discounting select items (e.g. all things green).

March 27 – Easter

Easter is a hopping holiday for celebrating winter’s wrap-up and the start of spring! Don’t make consumers have to hunt too hard for deals on your site. An egg-cellent way to celebrate Easter is to offer sweet savings — especially on items for kids and products that will help online shoppers prepare for warmer weather. In addition, consider updating your email creative with spring-like themes and pastel colors.

spring banner

April 1 – April Fools’ Day

April Fools’ can be a time to inject some humor into your messaging. Create fun, playful social posts that keep customers engaged and laughing! And if you offer special deals on this day, let shoppers know that you’re not foolin’!

May 8 – Mother’s Day

Help make moms happy by promoting products and services “just for her” and offering percentage-off discounts using a Mom’s Day promo code (e.g. MOM15). Next to Christmas, Mother’s Day provides one of the biggest holiday shopping opportunities. Read: “6 Email Marketing Tips To Make Mom Proud

May 30 – Memorial Dayjuly

Barbeques, warm weather, relaxation and … shopping! Memorial Day offers it all and brings friends and family together to celebrate the unofficial kick-off of summer. Heat up your summer marketing campaigns with seasonal promotions that will help drive your online sales halfway through the year.

June 19 – Father’s Day

Like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day has become a huge revenue generator for ecommerce companies. To find that perfect gift for Dad, customers often first look online for the perfect gift. This presents a great opportunity for online retailers to offer special promotions using dad-specific promo codes and get a revenue boost during this slower shopping season. See “Father’s Day Digital Marketing Tips

July 4 – Independence Day

In addition to thinking about BBQs, fireworks, and red, white, and blue, consumers have come to expect explosive sales during this patriotic holiday. Light-up your marketing by offering special promotions, putting red, white, and blue products on sale, and offering deals, such as “buy three, get the 4th item free.”

Once July 4th is out of the way, it’s time to work the fall and winter planning calendar with earnest.

July Holiday Planning: Getting Ready for the Months Ahead

  • Christmas in July campaigns, which increasingly promote seasonal products like holiday decor, will be common this month.
  • We’ll see a few Black Friday in July and Cyber Monday in July campaigns touting discounts on goods that are appealing year-round, like kitchen appliances and electronics.
  • Offers for super-early holiday shoppers to peek at the best holiday picks may surface in July.
  • Some companies send an email campaign offering Black Friday- or Cyber Monday-like deals at the end of July. You can even offer a variety of deals starting in the early morning in true Black Friday fashion.
  • You can also begin working with your design team on the look and feel of your holiday 2016 emails, even though we’re five months out from the big day.

August and September: Build Engagement Ahead of the Busy Season

Back-to-school messaging is a hot topic in August and September, while holiday messaging declines after Christmas in July and ramps up again in October and November. Focus on pre-holiday relationship building in August and September so that subscribers are primed to receive holiday messages.

  • Building engagement is common in August and September, as companies encourage subscribers to update email preferences so future holiday emails are received.
  • Back-to-school campaigns are hot in August and September.
  • Most holiday mentions in email marketing will be in banners and secondary content blocks. happy everything

Your email CTAs could include:

  • Sign up for our loyalty program
  • Update email preferences or opt up for more offers
  • Connect with us or enter a contest on social media

In October – Plan for November!

Use October to make final improvements to every aspect of your website and email strategy — and start building excitement for November.

October is the last month before the majority of your email messaging will become holiday-related. Complete any last-minute tweaks to your website (both desktop and mobile) and email lists.

The majority of retailers will mention the holiday season in at least one promotional email by the end of the month.

  • Many holiday-themed emails in October will focus on sneak previews of gift guides, new catalogs, and the year’s most popular gifts.
  • Although Halloween (October 31st) is a big focus, pre-holiday clearances will also headline many October emails.

Depending on your audience and products, your October emails may include some early holiday messaging like:

  • Shop holiday décor and entertaining goods
  • Shop our pre-holiday clearance sale
  • Pre-order these soon-to-be hot holiday products
  • Preview our holiday gift guide
  • Sign up for our Christmas catalog
  • Create a wish list
  • Learn about layaway and other financial services

Staying Sane through November and Beyond

November brings the busiest email marketing days of the year. Here’s how to stay sane, strategic, and on track.

Having stolen Black Friday’s thunder, Thanksgiving is turning into “Gray Thursdblack-friday-1173373_640ay” as consumers start their shopping from tablets or mobile devices while reclining after dinner. This year, we expect to see Thanksgiving Eve steal even more thunder from Thanksgiving. Our mobile devices make it simple to shop while traveling to Thanksgiving destinations, so Thanksgiving Eve may be the new de facto kickoff of the holiday season.

Cyber Monday (November 28th) is the most popular email marketing day of the year, and it has increasingly turned the surrounding days into Cyber Week. Many brands now offer different online deals every day of the week.

On Black Friday (November 25th), remind your customers that they don’t have to stand in line at a store to buy from you. Black Friday isn’t about those long lines anymore.

Today, ecommerce on Black Friday is just as important as in-store purchases, and the rise of mobile email has made it critical to engage subscribers when they’re out shopping or waiting in lines.

  • Between Thanksgiving Eve (November 24th), Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and even Cyber Week, you have a wealth of messaging options. Invite subscribers to shop pre-Black Friday deals, shop your most popular holiday items, and buy now for free gift wrapping and bonuses.

December – Crunch Time

In December, every email should drive swift action, contain shipping information, and offer help with orders.

Your December emails should include a steady stream of take-action messaging about final days for free shipping, last chances to get certain products, and countdowns to Christmas.

Green Monday (December 12th) a term coined by eBay to describe the day with its best sales, doesn’t have the name recognition of Cyber Monday, but it’s becdec stressome a big sales driver. You may wish to test a Green Monday message in 2016 if you haven’t in years past.

  • Free Shipping Day may be less important in 2016 than previous years, due to so many companies offering free shipping the whole season long. Still, free shipping is a perk that resonates strongly with customers.
  • Typical pre-Christmas messaging can include holiday outfits, holiday parties, hostess gifts, 12 Days of Christmas campaigns, and order-by deadlines for guaranteed Christmas delivery via standard, express, and overnight shipping.
  • On- and near-Christmas messaging usually features a season’s greetings message from brands, an offer to buy gift cards, and the option to send e-gift cards and e-gifts.
  • After-Christmas sales and gift card redemption reminders fill consumers’ inboxes after December 25th

Looking Back and Looking Ahead

Wish subscribers a happy new year, then find creative ways to retain your new subscribers from the holidays. That’s your priority for 2017.

Holiday email messaging quickly declines after the first week of January. Is January 8 truly Email Marketer’s Resting Day? No, but it should be. The holiday season demands a lot from email marketers, so take some time as soon as you can for yourself and your family.

Popular January email themes are New Year’s emails, reminders to redeem gift cards or buy accessories for gifts received, offers to trade in old electronics, and CTAs for holiday storage and organization products.


The 2016 holidays will be the most important email marketing opportunities for retailers. With these tips and strategies, you’ll be well prepared to maximize the results from every message sent. Even if you’re starting your planning later in the game, just remember that the ultimate goal is to surprise and delight customers with eye-catching deals and shareable emails. Above all, remember that every email subscriber’s experience should be fully functional on mobile, as 2016 will be our most mobile holiday ever.

Cheers from the OpenMoves team let us know if you need any help or have any questions!

And as a reward for reading this far, here’s your handy Email Marketing Holiday Calendar!

social calendar

Recent Posts