Want to stand out this holiday season? As you start planning out your holiday email campaigns, you need to find creative ways to increase sales and brand awareness through your communication strategy.
But what if you’re not a “creative type”? What if writing an email almost always leads to hitting a creative wall?
Not to worry. Today, you’ll learn some of the best techniques for writing great holiday email campaigns. By the end of this article, you’ll have a stockpile of creative ideas to help shape your next campaign. Best of all, you’ll learn how to write amazing emails even if you don’t have the budget to offer crazy discounts or reduced prices.
Let’s get started!
Why You Need Holiday-Themed Email Campaigns
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday shopping accounts for around 20% of total retail industry sales.
But the holidays are starting earlier and earlier.
Some retailers choose to begin their holiday season in October and include Canadian Thanksgiving and Halloween in their definition. And today, 54% of consumers start holiday shopping in early November.
The best way to take advantage of the season? With some creativity.
This isn’t the time to send out boring emails. To stand out in the inbox, you’ll need to cut through the clutter with messages that are truly interesting and notable.
Where to start? Glad you asked.
Holiday Email Campaigns You Need to See (and Why They Work)
We’ve compiled some of the best holiday email campaigns from major brands right here.
We’ve also broken down why they work so you can adapt their best ideas for your projects. They range from creative twists on time-honored retail staples to stunningly original, out-of-the-box concepts.
1. Carvana: We’ll Haul Your Old Tree Away for Free
Let’s start with one of the most unique holiday campaigns in email history: Carvana’s offer to haul away an old Christmas tree with each order.
It opens up with a simple animated GIF showing a Carvana trailer dropping off a car and picking up a tree. (You can see the full email here.)
The email presents—in Carvana’s casual, humorous style—a multiple-choice question about the reader’s thoughts on car shopping and everyone’s frustrating post-holiday dilemma: removing the Christmas tree.
But then the email hits the reader with a surprise: Carvana will remove your Christmas tree for free with each car delivery.
What makes this email great?
First off, it’s a creative offer that provides value. No random discount or cheaper shipping here—someone put thought into creative ways Carvana could help around the holiday season.
But it’s also remarkable as far as holiday email campaigns go, following Seth Godin’s definition that someone would remark on it. It’s something you might mention to friends because it’s so unusual.
Because of this, the Carvana Christmas tree campaign has a special place in our hearts. A year later, and we’re still talking about it.
2. Elysium: Last-Minute Holiday Shopping
A standard type of campaign during the holidays is a shipping offer.
This type of campaign offers cheaper (or free) shipping which can often be a turning point for a lot of customers. No matter the price of shipping, the psychological add-on expense of transportation can kill sales.
That’s why 72% of customers selected “free shipping” as one of their primary offers they plan to take advantage of during the holiday season, according to Deloitte’s 2017 holiday retail survey.
When everyone is offering a shipping promotion, what can you do in your holiday email campaigns to stand apart with your e-commerce store? The answer is pretty simple: make an offer so good, the consumer can’t refuse. And the perfect example of this? Elysium.
To start, supplement e-commerce store Elysium doesn’t go after the masses in its holiday email campaigns. Instead, they focus on a single target demographic that is facing a serious problem: last-minute shoppers.
Of course, not all of their email list fits into this category. By prequalifying opens with their subject line “Free Expedited Shipping for the Holidays,” Elysium probably had a lower open rate on this email than a more generic promotion (such as a discount or new product), but those who did open were eager to buy.
Next up, the offer deeply understands the plight of last-minute shoppers and offers not only free shipping but free one-day shipping. That’s an incredible offer that seems too good to be true.
The rest of the email is simple.
It focuses on the great offer for their core product Basis and doesn’t distract the reader with other offers or calls-to-action. It’s all focused on the shipping promotion, and it works.
3. Adestra: Building a Brand with Interactivity
Sometimes, a holiday email campaign is the perfect time to have fun.
If you’ve focused all your holiday email campaigns on selling a product, it might be time to take a break and work towards another metric, especially around the holidays. This is especially true if you don’t sell products consumers usually buy around the holidays.
The perfect example of this is email marketing platform Adestra.
Unlike retail sites, Adestra likely doesn’t see a spike in sales around the holidays. (In fact, we don’t know of anyone who’s placed an email marketing platform on their wish list.)
But instead of giving up towards the end of the year, Adestra made a point to use the holiday spirit to drive not sales, but their brand.
Here’s how they did it.
Adestra used an interactive snow globe with festive animations to their subscribers. When you click the “shake it” button, you’re treated to one of a few different locations around the world.
(Here’s the live email you can interact with.)
After a few landmarks (Westminster Palace, the Statue of Liberty, and the Sydney Opera House), the final image is a welcome message from Adestra.
A few great things to love about this email.
First, it’s interactive which makes it interesting. It wouldn’t be surprising if a few subscribers forwarded this to friends. That’s especially true considering Adestra’s list is made up of people interested in email marketing in general.
It also provides a helpful message to subscribers. Nothing fancy or pushy, just a fun branded email that reminds subscribers about Adestra and what they do best—email marketing.
4. Uber and Lyft: Make the Holidays Better with Ridesharing
Uber and Lyft may be competitors, but when it comes to holiday email campaigns, they act similarly.
It makes sense. After all, they’re facing a similar problem: during the holidays, how do you promote a service that doesn’t change, without costing the company millions in discounts or promotions?
It’s a challenge lots of companies face—finding something new to say without changing the core offer. So it’s the perfect time to learn a solution from two of the world’s biggest startups.
In short, both Uber and Lyft tie in their service into the normal holiday festivities.
Let’s start with Uber. They created a six-part email series with holiday how-tos using Uber. Are there really that many ways to use Uber?
There sure are!
In this email—part 2 of the series—Uber shows how to make parties easier using their services: send friends a ride with Uber, and get food delivered with Uber Eats.
In their holiday email campaigns, Lyft doesn’t stray far from the same message: ride sharing can make the holidays easier.
They show the advantages of letting Lyft handle airport transportation. It’s easy to plan ahead, you can get a ride big enough for everyone (and their luggage), and there’s no guesswork with pricing.
Uber and Lyft provide great examples of how to promote a “boring” service without new products or expensive discounts. Just tie in what you offer to the festivities your customers are celebrating right now and you’ll be golden.
5. Detour: Free Digital Download Credit
Gifts play a key role in just about every holiday tradition. So if you’re looking for a creative way to get the attention of your subscribers, giving away something for free during this time could be the perfect strategy.
This can be prohibitively expensive if you’re selling a physical product or service. But if you’re in the world of information products and digital downloads, this might be your ticket to an amazing campaign.
Detour offers premium guided tours of the world’s greatest cities. Their holiday email promotion is as simple as it is effective: they give each subscriber a credit for a free Detour.
It has a no-frills subject line, too (with a few relevant emojis):
“🎄 Happy holidays! Here’s a free Detour credit 🎄”
There are a few things to note about this email that make it effective.
First, the offer doesn’t last forever. It’s only active until January 3rd, just a few days after the holiday season. This means it’s a great way to spark urgency into customers to get started with the product again and use it quickly.
Second, they finish up the email listing some of the best guided city tours they have available.
It’s easy to get started with the product since the next step (i.e. choosing a tour to download) is made easier in the body of the email. This concept could be tied into your holiday email campaigns. Offer a special discount, then provide tips or use cases for your products once someone purchases them. Helpful, enticing, and informative wins every time.
6. tokyobike: Minimalist Gift Guide
I’ll finish off the examples today with one of the classic retail holiday email campaigns: the gift guide.
The premise behind the gift guide is simple. Show a curated collection of products that would work great for gifts during the holidays.
Some companies approach this with advanced algorithms to pick unique or global product recommendations based on customers’ interests. Others partner with a celebrity or brand to choose products fit for giving.
But Japanese bicycle company tokyobike uses the most straightforward method—they merely list interesting products. But to make this campaign stand out, they’ve taken it a step further.
It’s all in the presentation. Of course, they’ve compiled a list of some of their most stunning products, all designed around their minimalistic and sleek bicycle design. But the layout is what makes this campaign worth mentioning.
They’ve used gorgeous, minimalistic product photography and combined it with a no-frills email that shines the spotlight on the products and nothing else.
The email is long (below is a snippet), but you really must see the entire streamlined message to fully appreciate the effect.
Learn to create beautiful emails like this (and have one set up for you) by trying a 30-day free trial of ShippingEasy’s Customer Marketing tool.
The lack of descriptions or text uses a counter-intuitive approach to the email. By eliminating descriptions or explanations, they encourage clicks.
The biggest tool of this campaign is what goes unwritten—tokyobike leverages curiosity to powerful effect.
It’s a simple twist on a classic and one that furthers the brand image as much as increases sales.
As you get started with your company’s set of holiday email campaigns, take inspiration from the masters. These examples show that just a touch of uniqueness can push any email to the top of its game, boost brand awareness, and encourage more purchases.
You can spice up a campaign with some creative wording or style, an unusual offer, or even something truly off the wall (like hauling away a Christmas tree with each purchase).
Leverage ShippingEasy’s white-glove service by enlisting the help of in-house email marketing experts. A free consultation, a customized email template, and a 30-day free trial come standard with the Customer Marketing tool—part of ShippingEasy’s platform. Click below to learn more!
About the Author
Emil Kristensen is the CMO and co-founder of Sleeknote: a company that helps e-commerce brands engage their site visitors—without hurting the user experience.
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