2021 Holiday Email Marketing Tips

Is your business ready for what could be the busiest online shopping season ever? The 2020 holiday season saw online spending in the U.S. grow 32.2% from 2019 to a record $188.2 billion as consumers shopped from their homes and phones during the pandemic.1 During Cyber Week alone – the five-day period between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday – consumers spent $34.4 billion.2 This trend is expected to continue this year with experts forecasting an 11% to 15% increase in 2021 holiday e-commerce sales compared with the same period in 2020.3

Email is responsible for 20% of website visits during the holidays, and consumers who purchase products through email are likely to spend 138% more than those who don’t receive email offers.4 Now more than ever, effective email marketing is essential for businesses looking to connect with customers and increase sales.

Our team has put together our top tips to help your business create a successful email marketing campaign that will maximize customer engagement, click-throughs, and sales during the upcoming holiday season.

2021 holiday email marketing tips

Start Early

The first step in any email campaign is ensuring your email lists are clean and up to date and all frequent bounces and unsubscribes have been removed. Since the holiday season moves fast, your email marketing assets need to be designed and ready in advance. Test the emails you will be deploying on a variety of platforms and devices, check all links, and proofread all text.

Before the season kicks off, lay the groundwork for your campaign by deploying promotional emails that give shoppers insight into what to expect, including promotions, shipping/returns information, gift wrapping options, and gift card services. Remember to promote Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales early. On average consumers begin visiting websites 41 days before these sales take place to research their purchases.5

Finish Strong

While 60% of holiday shoppers start buying Christmas gifts before December 1,6 they still have 53% of their shopping left to do in December,7 meaning emails should be scheduled to go out throughout the entire season. Segmenting your email lists into different groups based on interests, buying patterns, and other criteria will allow you to send relevant discounts and offers at the right time to each subscriber. Save your biggest discounts for last minute deals to entice the 33% of shoppers who hold off on buying holiday gifts until there is a sale8 and the 79% who haven’t finished buying gifts within two weeks of Christmas.9

Share Gift Guides

Nearly 66% of holiday shoppers would like a curated list to help with their gift purchases, and emails featuring gift guides generate a 48% higher transaction rate than other promotional emails.10 That’s why we recommend publishing online holiday gift guides that you can link to in your emails. Sharing a gift guide with email subscribers allows you to showcase your products while helping customers find the perfect gift. Guides can offer product suggestions based on the recipient (mom, friend, child, co-worker), price range, hobbies and interests, age and product type. Sending out multiple emails with links to different types of gift guides will increase engagement.

Simplify Purchases

When featuring products in your email, always include a “Buy Now” or “Order Here” CTA button that allows shoppers to instantly buy what interests them. By creating a dedicated landing page, you can avoid the inconvenience of customers having to navigate your homepage to find the product highlighted in the email. Make sure the landing page follows the same design and language as the email to reassure customers that they clicked the right button.

Create A Sense of Urgency

Feature limited time offers with the timeframe clearly communicated in your email so customers know that if they don’t buy now or soon, they might miss out on the discount. Letting customers know the last date they can purchase an item for it to arrive in time for the holidays is another way to motivate potential buyers to make purchases right away.

Focus on Subject Lines

Use your subject lines to reinforce the sense of urgency with power words like limited-time, discount, free shipping, etc. When possible, include the recipient’s name in the subject line since it can increase open rates by up to 50%.11 Emojis have been shown to increase open rates by a remarkable 45%,12 so don’t hesitate to use holiday-related icons like stars and snowmen. In addition, words associated with the holiday season can help optimize open rates.

Be Mobile-Friendly

Did you know that at least 50% of emails are now opened on mobile devices, and 42.3% of people will delete an email if it is not optimized for mobile?13 If you’re not optimizing for mobile, you’re missing out on potential customers. In 2020, for example, 37% of online purchases on Cyber Monday were made on smartphones.14 To optimize your emails for mobile use consistent fonts and formats, include ALT text in case the images do not show, and choose single column width designs to ensure a user-friendly experience. Remember to test your email across multiple platforms before launching your campaign so you know they will render correctly on mobile devices.

Respond to Abandoned Carts

The digital shopping cart abandonment rate is 74.3%,15 meaning that only around one in four carts actually get checked out. And it’s likely even higher during the busy holiday season when consumers are preoccupied. That’s why your business should keep track of abandoned carts and immediately send personalized emails reminding customers they have items in their cart. You might even consider offering free shipping or a discount since these offers appeal strongly to holiday shoppers. Keep in mind that 60% of shoppers return to complete their purchase after receiving a personalized abandoned cart email16 and sending three abandoned cart emails results in 69% more orders than a single email.17

Send Follow-Up Emails

Send a holiday themed welcome email whenever a customer makes a first purchase. Since the average open rate for a welcome email is 82%,18 you know whatever offer or information you wish to share will likely be read. Throughout the holiday season, track customers’ browsing histories on your website or e-commerce site in order to send them product information and offers that will interest them. 91% of consumers are more likely to shop with brands that provide offers and recommendations that are relevant to them.19 Anytime a repeat customer makes a gift purchase, an email should automatically be sent to them as well. This is known as a transactional email and the open rate is four to eight times higher than for traditional emails.20 It’s the perfect opportunity to show your appreciation and recommend other gift ideas.

When the season comes to an end, send post-holiday emails to build long-term relationships with your customers. Boosting holiday sales is your short-term goal, but it’s the repeat customers who will help keep your business strong throughout the year. In fact, repeat customers are 9x more likely to convert than first-time visitors.21

Measure Your Success

Track the effectiveness of your holiday campaign by including tracking links that provide valuable insights into customer behavior, including click rates and top links clicked. Due to the release of iOS 15 this year, you should try to avoid tracking just opens. A/B testing is another method of tracking results. By sending variations of your holiday emails with different subject lines, CTAs, graphics, etc., you’ll be able to see which ones garner the best results and incorporate them into next year’s holiday campaign.

By employing the above tips, your business can take full advantage of email marketing to connect with customers, exceed your sales goals for the holidays, and finish 2021 on a high note. At Connext Digital, we offer full-service email marketing services with integrated marketing technologies to help our clients through every step of their campaigns. Contact us today to learn how we can help you run successful email marketing campaigns to optimize your profits during the holiday season and throughout the new year.

Jessica Rodriguez