Effective Holiday Email Marketing in 2020: Examples, Tips, and Tools for Success


For more expert advice, download our 2020 Holiday Guide.


Cyber Week is a great opportunity to increase holiday sales and maximize revenue and it’s never too early or too late to get involved in the special time of year.

Holiday email marketing is the perfect way to start gathering interest and to help you capture a percentage of that revenue.

Via email, you are reaching out to your most engaged audience — customers and subscribers you already have — and you can also create campaigns to reach out to leads. Showing any of these audiences the value that your store offers, particularly within the holiday period, is the secret to conversions.

Let’s delve deeper and explore a few holiday email marketing tips, including:

  • Reviewing some real-world examples.
  • Analyzing some possible email optimizations.
  • Discussing holiday email marketing campaign tips.
  • Reviewing the tools you should be using to optimize your email marketing for the holiday season.

It’s time to drill down on your holiday email marketing strategy and make sure it’s running smoothly for the upcoming holiday season.

Email Can Help You Have Holiday Success

Email marketing can receive a bad reputation for being an oversaturated solution. However, the secret to email marketing success lies in your email content. Here’s an overview of how you can achieve holiday email success.

1. Point customers to buy now.

The holidays are a busy time for your customers, so do your best to add convenience wherever possible. Plus, a sense of urgency helps incentivize customers to purchase, so be sure to share your promotions in an exciting way. Consider adding ‘buy now’ buttons in emails that feature limited time deals, taking customers directly to the products. This streamlines the purchasing journey while delighting your customers.

2. Reach customers where they are very active.

Consumers have never been more distracted which is why it’s important to communicate with your customers when they are listening. Dive into your customer insights to learn when they are most active and what emails receive the highest open and click-through rates. What do they have in common? Ignite your conversations with customers by meeting them where they are with magical holiday messaging.

3. Support all holiday campaigns.

Emails must be part of your greater marketing plan. Alone, they don’t have the power to convert your customers overnight. Whether you want to promote sales, invite email subscribers to holiday events, showcase unique gift ideas or even gift guides—use your email newsletter to further engage your customers.

Types of Emails to Optimize During the Holidays

Gone are the days of looking at email marketing campaigns with a “set it and forget it” mentality.

To ensure your campaigns are effective, you need to consider your audiences, your goals, and your possible return on investment (ROI) — and you need to track these results to help you improve each and every campaign.

As you prepare for the holiday season, take the time to review and update these three key holiday emails:

  1. Welcome emails.
  2. Relevant promotional emails.
  3. Abandoned cart emails.

Let’s break each of these down.

1. Welcome emails.

With traditionally higher open rates, it’s clear that welcome emails are a vital marketing tool. For starters, they help you to kick-off the personal connection with your customer, which in turn will have an impact on their customer lifetime value (CLV). They’re also an opportunity for you to coax your customers back to your store through loyalty program reminders, product updates, special offers and recommendations.

And, when your customers’ open your emails, it’s a signal to their email service provider (ESP) that you are a welcomed sender — this way you don’t end up in the spam folder.

How do you craft a successful welcome email?

Here are a few quick tactics you can implement to optimize your welcome emails:

  • Send it immediately, usually from the moment they have made their first purchase with you.
  • Make sure it’s recognizable — a simple, high-resolution logo placed at the top reminds your customers of exactly who is contacting them.
  • Ask your customers to engage. Think small; for example, product recommendations with a ‘continue shopping’ at the bottom prompts them to redirect to your store.
  • Give the recipient an incentive to engage with your email. Coupon codes and exclusive offers are a great way to initiate this.
  • A bonus during the holiday season is to give estimated shipping times or, better yet, tracked shipping and real-time shipping updates.

Let’s look at how The Mountain crafts a welcome email.

The Mountain Example

The welcome email is instantly recognizable with The Mountain’s crisp logo, complemented by consistent brand colors throughout the email. Notice how the theme of a deep forest green complimented by orange accents throughout the entire email is reminiscent of the brand logo. The imagery throughout is also high-quality, clearly displaying their products while also supporting their company ethos of sustainability and green manufacturing.

Subject lines are important, and The Mountain makes sure they remain recognizable and that their reason for contact is clear. The email then goes on to link to sections that give further insight into The Mountain’s brand and ethos, including ‘Green Manufacturing’. With customer segments that will be influenced simply by the sustainable production aspect for The Mountain’s products, adding these details is a clever marketing tool to help engage a variety of their customer groups.

The bottom of the email features links to The Mountain’s social media channels and to their blog. Customers are far more likely to engage with these content sources if they’re easy to find and easy to navigate; by adding these links, The Mountain ensures this is the case.

Here is another example of how Skullcandy effectively uses a welcome email.

Skullcandy emails

Let’s break down what Skullcandy did well.

The colloquial street-style vibe is core to their branding and their welcome email subject line perfectly captures their brand. With a black background and white typeface, Skullcandy’s email stands out straight away. They’ve also made sure to keep their email concise by not including so much content that readers are inclined to just scroll past it.

The only image within the email is crisp, eye-catching and clearly shows off one of their top-selling products being used by the model – a pair of their wireless headphones.

One of the first pieces of content within the email is a small sentence which states that standard shipping is free for orders that amount to more than $100. This will inevitably help convince customers to consider making a purchase, and furthermore, to consider making a purchase over $100.

By offering a discount code (10%) and following that with a ‘SHOP NOW’ button, Skullcandy have created email content that actively engages their newsletter recipients and encourages them to complete the Call To Action (CTA) and follow the links to complete a purchase.

2. Relevant promotional emails.

Give your holiday shoppers insights and set expectations on what promotions you are running during the holiday season.

Here are a few things to include in your promotional emails to subscribers:

  • Shipping info (including final delivery dates)
  • Gift card services
  • Gift wrapping options
  • Customer service contact details

3. Abandoned cart emails.

An abandoned cart is the last thing you want.

Usually, it means that something was wrong with or missing from the customers’ shopping experience.

Imagine what proportion of these you could convert just by setting up a compelling and automated abandoned cart email flow.

During the holidays, here are three of the main reasons people abandon their carts (and what your email needs to answer to solve for them):

  • Shipping costs: Is it feasible for you to offer free shipping? Do you track parcels?
  • Better deal elsewhere: Tempt customers back with price, sales and emotional cues.
  • Out-of-stock: How can you capitalize once your products become available again?

For these people, it is crucial that you trigger automatic and instant abandoned cart emails that address their needs.

Let’s look at each, and what you can do to address them.

Reducing shipping costs.

Offering free shipping is one way to reduce cart abandonment. For many businesses, however, offering free shipping just isn’t an option, especially if you’re shipping items across the United States.

Large companies like Amazon can offer free shipping simply because of their size, but what about small-to-medium-sized businesses? When and how can they start to offer free shipping, or shipping at a rate that doesn’t put customers off?

  • If you’re a seller competing primarily on the uniqueness of your product, try increasing the average order value (AOV) by offering free shipping after certain conditions have been met. You’ll often see this as a floating banner on websites stating something like: “Free shipping on orders over $100.”
  • If you’re competing on price and are not willing to absorb the cost of shipping as a marketing expense, then you’ll need to raise the price of your products to cover shipping. Remember though, price rises can be a recipe for losing valuable loyal customers, so make sure you think carefully about how you’ll do this.
  • If you are willing to absorb the cost, then do so.
  • If you’re somewhere in the middle, and you’re based within the United States, try offering free shipping to certain locations only.
  • Do you offer expedited shipping? If so, including a surcharge for this service could help eat some of the deficit.

Better deal elsewhere.

If your customers are finding better deals somewhere else, all is not lost.

Sure, sometimes customers genuinely find a better deal; however, they could be playing hard to get. Some shoppers will abandon their carts on purpose, in order to trigger a discount or deal email. Before you start offering discounts in your abandoned cart email, there is little evidence to prove that offering a discount in abandoned cart emails works.

Figure out what your customers want from you. If your abandoned cart email conversion rates are too good to be true, perhaps consider readjusting your flow or adding certain conditions such as the discount only applying if the customer spends over a certain amount.

If you are losing a lot of customers to competitors with cheaper prices, then you might have a bigger problem than your price point.

What should you do instead?

  • Create scarcity and the fear of missing out. Remember the email above from Harry’s? Language is key: clear “Back-in-stock” language reminds your customers that this item often isn’t in stock. Buttons which allow customers to sign up for alerts for when items are back in stock give you even more opportunity to maximize on this.
  • Use influencers. Offer your product for review to a well-known person in your industry so they can put you ahead of your competitors, or you can also use micro-influencers to drive increased awareness of your product. With the changes to major influencer platforms like Instagram, you need to be increasingly careful who you approach with influencer offers and make sure that their audience is your audience, too — but get it right and you could see very fast results.
  • Bundle products together. By offering key products together you can sell more than what shoppers were originally looking for, and they usually save money either on shipping or on the products themselves.

Out of stock.

You should have ample inventory to make sure items don’t go out of stock. While BigCommerce has the functionality to ensure that out-of-stock items are removed immediately if something does become unavailable, then responding to customers in the right way can make or break a sale.

You can (and should) plan for people potentially abandoning their carts due to stock issues by keeping your inventory in check. If you have plans to move a particular product in its entirety and you’re prepared for BigCommerce to remove it once it goes out of stock, then prioritizing scarcity and urgency should be your focus.

Tips For Your 2020 Holiday Email Marketing Campaigns

We’ve optimized emails, now let’s look at some holiday campaign strategies and tactics you can implement this holiday season.

1. Check out last year’s trends.

Why reinvent the wheel?

In 2019, there were some noteworthy email marketing holiday trends:

  • Holiday gift guides. A roll-over from previous years, but the gift guide is a goodie bag in itself, and for good reason.
  • Winback emails. Been a while since you’ve seen a certain group of customers? Send that segment an email reminding them what you’ve got on offer this season.
  • Mobile-friendly content. We’ve already touched on this but can’t express the importance enough.
  • Holiday-centric themes and imagery. This is an easy one… remind your customers why you’re getting in contact and that there’s something in it for them with on-brand imagery that references the holiday season.

Holiday gift guides.

Holiday gift guides are the perfect opportunity to curate your best sellers, top-rated, and other top products in your inventory for your target audiences.

Using dynamic content, you can create digital gift guides that show relevant products to specific audiences that will help you cross-sell and upsell based on a user’s price sensitivity, demographic, and personal interest.

Winback emails.

Winback email campaigns target customers who previously showed an interest in purchasing from you, but some time has passed since they’ve engaged with you. These campaigns are the perfect way to re-engage. Remind these customers why they were interested in you in the first place and even introduce one of those countdown timers we mentioned earlier.

The email should focus on:

  • Reminding them about your brand.
  • Reminding them why they initially showed interest in purchasing from you.
  • Showing what product or related products they viewed.

Mobile-friendly content.

Focus on getting the basics right:

  • Clear, high quality images that have been compressed to allow for fast loading.
  • Concise content that grabs the customer’s attention and entices them to engage.
  • CTAs that invite customers to your store.
  • Website compatibility on mobile is core to the success of this. If completing an order on your store is a nightmare with a smartphone, don’t bank on any of the above.

Holiday-centric themes and imagery.

This is a simple one. Get your customer in the spirit with themed content, just as long as it’s on brand.

2. Start planning early.

You may have heard, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate an emergency on mine.”

For a holiday email marketing strategy, this saying could be, “Poor planning on your part does not necessitate a purchase from a customer.”

Planning your holiday email marketing strategy and teasing it out is important so your customers know what offers they might expect.

By planning out in advance you are able to:

  • Create the various pieces of content necessary to improve conversions.
  • Review content and strategies that led to high conversions previously and implement them.
  • Ensure you are tracking important micro- and macro-conversion points for future data analysis.

3. Segment your list.

Segmenting your email list is crucial.

Break out your email list into various segments that allows you to show relevant products to each segment. This can be a big job with a lot of factors to consider, but some email marketing apps like Marsello do this organization for you.

Customer segmentation creates an opportunity to cross-sell and upsell your customers, but it goes beyond that, you can use these groups to create lead campaigns and even use the same lists with your social media marketing.

Holiday email marketing segments to consider are:

  • VIP customers.
  • High average order value customers.
  • High total transaction customers.
  • Lapsed-purchase customers.
  • Subscribers who have not made a purchase.
  • Customers who haven’t bought recently: 30 days, 90 days, and 180 days ago.
  • Demographics: age, location, income.

Creating targeted messaging for each of these customer segments will improve your conversion rate compared to a generic, cookie-cutter, one-size-fits-all email.

Improve your customer targeting with BigCommerce customer groups. Offer your important customers discounts, access to special products, and more by creating Customer Groups within BigCommerce’s control panel. No apps are necessary. Learn how to set up customer groups and the effective ways you can use them.

Black Friday Email Examples

1. Murad’s on-brand excitement.

Murad example

It may be Black Friday, but Murad got into the spirit in a colorful way. This big, bright image puts a festive touch on Murad’s typically more neutral aesthetic, but does it in a way that still stays on brand — choosing colors that complement the products’ packaging.

The email subject line — “Ready. Set. Black Friday!” — capitalizes on the excitement of Black Friday as the starting line to the holiday shopping race.

The primary message inside, “All About the Present,” and accompanying CTA of “Shop Now,” connect back to that excitement and sense of urgency and provide a clear path to the product category featuring gift sets. And the bit of clever wordplay reinforces the email’s light, fun tone without going overboard.

2. Kelty’s Bright Idea.

Kelty Bright Ideas

Black Friday can have a negative connotation: mobs of shoppers looking to scrap and claw their way to a great deal.

Kelty does a great job of putting a fun spin on Black Friday by calling it Bright Friday Savings.

Beyond the wordplay, they also make their customers feel smarter by taking advantage of the various discounts and free shipping they are offering.

They show a selection of products and at the bottom of the email also offer a gift guide their customers can use to find the right products for their friends and family.

Cyber Monday Email Examples

1. Mario Badescu Skin Care brings clarity.

Mario Badescue

This Cyber Monday email from Mario Badescu Skin Care opted to forgo any unnecessary cleverness for a clean but festive holiday look and clear, direct messaging — packed with incentives.

The subject line gets straight to the point. “20% off + Free Gift | Today Only | Cyber Monday is Back.” This email works to cut through the noise and tell you exactly why it’s worth your time to shop today.

Discounts of 20%, 15%, or 10%, depending on how much you spend, are compounded by the promise of a free gift. In addition, free U.S. shipping eliminates the risk of cart abandonment due to high shipping costs.

2. Cutter & Buck cutting to the chase.

Cutter and Buck

Simplicity can be effective.

Cutter & Buck keeps their email simple:

  • They provide a discount code.
  • A large SHOP NOW call-to-action is front and center.
  • They include a soft call-to-action: Free ground shipping for $100 or more spent.

Cut to the heart of what your customers want to know: what discount do I get, and is there free shipping?

Christmas Email Examples

1. Precision Gift Giving.

Precision Camera

Precision Camera & Video focus on their major offerings: products, classes, and gift cards.

The core focus of the email is on their affordable and lower-priced last-minute gifts, but they do toss in one mid-range priced product.

They note upcoming classes they offer, allowing their customers to provide continuing education as a gift. This is perfect when you consider the amount of customers they’d capture who know someone that wants to learn more about photography.

Finally, for gift givers who are not sure what a photographer or videographer may want or need, they can simply get a gift card. Never underestimate the power of a gift card, particularly during the Christmas gift-giving season.

2. Kelty Gifts by Christmas.

Kelty Christmas Example

This is a great email for last-minute gift givers.

Kelty’s Christmas email starts off with a clear subject line,

Ends Soon: Free Next Day Shipping, Guaranteed by Xmas.

The sense of urgency and offer of a guaranteed solution would generate a high open rate.

Once open, Kelty sets the expectations of when customers should order by (date and time) to ensure their gifts are delivered by Christmas. Additionally, they clearly mark off what shipping options are no longer available if the customer wants the shipping guarantee.

Top Email Software For Holiday Campaigns

Finally, we’ve picked out some of the most useful third-party app and service integrations available with BigCommerce.

Use these to build better campaigns both on-site before visitors become subscribers, and when you’re sending those important holiday emails.

1. Marsello.

Marsello is a high-powered email marketing companion for ecommerce and POS retailers. With features such as customer segmentation, loyalty marketing, pre-designed automated email flows, customer feedback collection, and one-off email campaigns.

We’ve touched on it — customer segmentation is the secret to mastering email marketing, and by appealing to your customers with exactly what relates to them, you’ll see your conversion rates climb.

Marsello creates customer segments based on your customers’ shopping history and site interactions, grouping them into such segments as ‘Lost,’ ‘At Risk,’ ‘Best,’ ‘Loyal,’ ‘Promising,’ and ‘New,’ making it so much easier to target each group. And as we’ve mentioned, you can even export these segments into social media and carry your campaigns through to your social media plans.

Here’s everything you get with Marsello and BigCommerce:

  • Customer segmentation: RFM-based segmentation is almost an industry standard, and Marsello’s AI groups your customers into the segments above, making it easy to drill down and develop targeted marketing.
  • Automated email flows: With pre-designed, optimized email flows such as Welcome email and Win-back campaigns, Marsello makes it pain-free to start targeting customers with automated emails that trigger instantly. It’s as easy as adding your branding, enabling the emails, reviewing them and then saving. And should you wish to, these email flows are fully customizable.
  • Loyalty program: Promote customer loyalty and increase sales by prompting customers to join your branded loyalty program. With the ability to add tiers and customize the program to suit your branding, your loyalty program is quick and easy to set up.
  • One-off email campaigns: Want to let your customers or a specific customer segment know about product updates for a flash sale? It’s a lot easier when you can create one-off email campaigns. Marsello makes this easy with segments, drag-and-drop email builders and saved branding.
  • Customer feedback: Understand your customers, what they think of your store, and how they rate their experience by collecting feedback. Customer feedback is an important tool for business development, and Marsello’s feedback tool makes it easy to regularly gather feedback.

2. Springbot.

Springbot does some seriously cool data manipulation for BigCommerce store owners.

Using your out-of-the-box analytics or your Insights (or both), Springbot layers on additional user data and provides actionable steps you can take to segment your lists and make more money. Some customers are raving: “This is the best app ever!”

Here’s everything you get:

  • Marketing dashboard: Robust data and analytics based on your customer and product data.
  • Email marketing: Integration with your favorite email service provider so you can easily send personalized emails to customers as well as automated emails triggered by your customers’ actions.
  • Social media: Schedule, edit and review your social media posts across Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest. Also, make your Instagram shoppable.
  • Online ads: Re-engage visitors who view but don’t purchase your items by showing them a display ad on the web, mobile and social through our integration with AdRoll.
  • Marketplaces: With Amazon Marketplaces, expand your products’ reach by quickly migrating your listings to Amazon. Match your store’s products, set pricing and optimize listings to win the Buy Box, as well as manage product listings, inventory and shipping updates.
  • Onboarding and training: Once Springbot is installed on your site, you are assigned your very own Customer Onboarding Manager. They will help you get up and running to get the most out of Springbot.

3. dotmailer.

With dotmailer, you can:

  • Make contact, product and order data automatically flow into your account to supercharge your email marketing.
  • Use the data you hold in dotmailer to better target users and create powerful multi-channel automation without the need to code.
  • Send personalized campaigns powered by customers’ order history, web behavior and more.

4. Constant Contact.

With Constant Contact, you can:

  • Create mobile-responsive emails customized to your brand that look great on any device.
  • Set up an automated email series to send your customers personalized welcome, birthday and anniversary emails.
  • Track results in real time, and build your list with free list-growth.
  • Ensure your emails get delivered to inboxes, not spam folders.

5. MailChimp.

With MailChimp, you can:

  • Send personalized product recommendations to individual customers in just a few clicks.
  • Follow up with, delight and re-engage your customers using our preset customer lifecycle automation workflows.
  • Create targeted campaigns that get the right messages in front of the right customers at the right time.
  • Monitor our robust campaign reports to measure ROI, see what’s working, and learn how you can get better.

6. Privy.

With Privy, you can:

  • Rapidly grow your email list and store sales with high-converting pop-ups, spin to win, and offers with bulk and unique coupon codes.
  • Trigger popups using exit intent, time on site, scroll, cart size and more.
  • A/B test campaigns to continually optimize performance.
  • Sync new contacts to all email marketing platforms including MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Soundest, Constant Contact, SendGrid, Adroll, Zapier and more.

7. Happy Email.

With Happy Email, you can:

  • Automatically send a thank-you email from store founder/owner to new customers.
  • Connect, make your customers happy and build trust for your brand.
  • No need to worry what to write to your customers. We’ve done it all for you.

8. JustUno.

Hailed by many brands as the most powerful free app in the marketplace, JustUno helps you to collect more emails so you can better segment, grow sales and increase lifetime loyalty.

Here are just a few of the things they offer:

  • Email pop-ups: The simplest and most effective way to build your email list and generate sales opportunities.
  • Exit pop-ups: Add exit intent pop ups to your site to capture emails before your visitor leaves.
  • Mobile-optimized pop-ups (SEO-friendly): Engage and convert mobile traffic with mobile-specific pop-ups. In compliance with Google’s recent mobile SEO policies.
  • Cart and checkout abandonment offers: Prevent cart abandonment with targeted offers proven to convert shoppers into customers.
  • Banners, bars and slide-ins: Use for email capture, sale notifications and effective website messaging.
  • Form integrations: Add the emails you capture to any list from MailChimp, Bronto, Klaviyo, Hubspot, Constant Contact, Rejoiner and more. Plus, add any HTML form to your pop-ups, banners and slide-ins.

9. In Stock Reminder.

With In Stock Reminder for BigCommerce, you can add a customized subscriber box to any product page, which, when completed, will inform customers by email when that item is back in stock.


Email marketing is irrefutably important and can be a high-converting traffic channel for your business, especially during the holiday season.

Take the time to:

  • Optimize key emails to drive conversations, and ensure you account for mobile compatibility.
  • Plan and strategize for the holiday season far in advance.
  • Select the right email marketing tools for your business.

Now that you have the information, it’s time to start working on optimizing your holiday email marketing strategy and making sure it’s geared to get the results you want. Start by taking a look at the welcome emails from stores like yours and see how you can make the most out of your marketing.

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