Holiday Email Marketing

The Holiday Email Marketing Balancing Act

The Holiday Email Marketing Balancing Act: Turning Email Volume Up and Down to Capitalize on the Giving Season

Turning Email Volume Up and Down to Capitalize on the Giving Season

Has your email inbox gotten more crowded since the holiday email marketing season has begun? Of course it has. Now email after email hits my inbox, most of them from brands I buy from, but definitely in a higher volume than usual.

That’s not unusual, as you know. Marketers send more email during the holidays. Last year, email volume increased 23% over the previous year. And it will likely do the same thing this year, because research shows and experience supports that sending more email equals more revenue.

But here’s the thing: Even if the increase in frequency you’re doing is optimized, your customers are also on the receiving end of everyone else’s increase in frequency too. So to maximize your revenue and good will consider these simple tactics this season.

Send more of the right kind of email
You’re not doing anything wrong by sending more email, but you do risk generating some ill will because you become part of that cumulative onslaught. With that in mind, here’s an idea: To make sure you’re maximizing your effect (and ROI) during the holiday email influx, maybe you should decrease the number of other emails you usually send.

Turn down the one…
“What?”,  you’re probably thinking. “Send less email??” Yes, less email, but I don’t mean your holiday campaigns. I mean your non-holiday drip campaigns, triggered emails that are unrelated to buying.

…and turn up the other
Then turn up the volume on your holiday email marketing. Send more one-off bespoke campaigns, or do something simple like resending campaigns to non-openers using different subjects lines. Also send more behavior-based or transaction-based triggers like cart abandonment and browse abandonment emails, as well as “you might also like” cross-selling and up-selling emails. Rather than send more of all kinds of email, focus on sending more of the emails that are appropriate to this busy buying time of year.

Taking this approach is also an opportunity to stand out: Given that email is so valuable this time of year, it might be a good time to take some of your programs off auto-pilot and opt for creative campaigns that stand out in the inbox instead.

The Holiday Email Marketing Life Cycle

Have you received any holiday emails this year? Yes, that’s meant to be a joke.

If you’re like anyone else with an email address you’ve probably seen hundreds of holiday emails already and some of those probably arrived well before Thanksgiving.

It’s a crazy time of year for the email inbox.

We’ve already talked about the psychology of holiday email purchasing. That was the first time we mentioned “The Holiday Creep”. That phenomenon is obvious this year because we’ve already been exposed to Christmas emails for a month.

Let’s dig further into the holiday email marketing life cycle. Hopefully we can gain a better understanding of how this time of year works for the consumer. There is still time to make adjustments to your email marketing strategy and now is a great time to start thinking about next year.

The Early Birds Get Shopping Out of the Way

The first cycle for the holiday season is the early bird shopping. We’ve been seeing this in our inboxes for the last few weeks.

Retailers are sending out emails that reach for the person that is ready to make their purchases now so they don’t have to worry about it later. These people are ahead of the game. They have their lists ready and they want to make sure they get everything before inventories get low.

holiday early bird email marketing example

Gander Mountain was after the early bird shoppers with this email.

The Gander Mountain email above is the perfect example of early bird shopping. Not only can people shop now and get their holiday shopping done, they can save too. It’s a great way to capture the early birds out there looking for early deals while inventory levels are still high.

The Deal Shoppers Wait for the Best Deals

Black Friday and Cyber Monday are the biggest days of the year for the deal shoppers. These consumers are the ones that are looking through every newspaper on Thanksgiving cataloging the items they need to get early in the morning on Friday.

It’s a competitive time of year for shoppers and for retailers. In order to stand out you need to be different.

This was a surprise email from JCP this year.

JCP did something completely different this year. They are no longer doing promotions or discounting. Instead, the company is simply focusing on the best pricing. The company also has a new focus on branded merchandise.

There is a good bet that people will still flock into JCP stores on Black Friday to check it out.

The percentage off might not be enough to stand out anymore from the competition. Focus on a merchandise item that is hot or find a way to stand out in the inbox like JCP did this year.

December Shoppers Need Help Making Decisions

December shoppers are an interesting bunch. They’re probably the minority of shoppers out there. They aren’t eager for the holidays. They kind of go about their business for November and once December hits they’re ready to start shopping for family and friends.

The December shopper is not a last minute shopper. They still have a few weeks to get all the things on their list. Perhaps the best way to describe them is to say they need a little help making gift decisions.

Under Armour knows what guys want, do you?

Under Armour knows they have things guys need. It might not be a glamorous gift, but every guy could use a new pair of boxers and socks for the New Year. It’s a great gift that every guy would like to have in his stocking for Christmas.

For the December shoppers out there that can figure out what they want it’s good to have a little help. Emails like this one from Under Armour solve that problem with a good tip for a gift.

The Last Minute Shoppers Have No Time for Choices

Then there are the last minute shoppers. These folks are the ones that procrastinate until the last second. In fact, they might need to purchase something on the way to the Christmas part on Christmas Eve.

Last Chance at Gap already? Merry Monday? That’s a new one. Get ready for the last chance emails.

This shopper might not even need a discount. They need to have a direction on what they should buy and they they’ll buy it.

In fact, what might be best for this consumer is a reminder that this is their last chance for free overnight shipping. That way they’ll still have their item to their home in time for a quick wrapping before putting it under the tree at Grandma’s house.

Actually, that’s a good point. This shopper probably needs wrapping done too. You can grab a few extra bucks from them if you offer a wrapping service.

Final Thoughts on the Life Cycle of Holiday Emails

We’re about halfway through the holiday email purchase life cycle. The more we understand about the shopper and what state of mind they’re in when we email the better chance we have to send them something that will get them to take action.

Hopefully these tips will give you some insight for the last few weeks of the holiday season. You can also get a head start on next year. Now that the holiday is fresh in your mind it’s never too early to get a head start.

Understanding the Psychology of Holiday Email Purchasing

“It’s Christmas Day!” said Scrooge to himself. “I haven’t missed it.” A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Christmas is two months away, but already we see signs of the holidays everywhere.

If you open your local newspaper there will be fliers and postcards that fall all over the floor. Turn on the TV and you’ll see commercials promoting new toys and holiday deals. If you go online you’ll already start to see ads and emails for holiday shopping.

Early Holiday Email

The holidays have arrived? I’m still trying to find a Halloween costume.

Man. We still have Halloween and Thanksgiving to get through.

It looks like the annual holiday creep is upon us. Every year the holidays start earlier and earlier and it can be frustrating as a business (and rewarding) because it’s a non-stop fight for attention in the inbox.

Let’s look at the history of holiday shopping. With understanding about why people shop so early for holiday gifts and how businesses react to those shopping habits we’ll be better prepared for holiday email marketing strategies.

The Psychology of Holiday Shopping

Shopping is an emotional experience.

People are emotional creatures. We live by our emotions for better or for worse. It is difficult to make every decision with a sound, reasonable mind. I’m sure some people can, but they probably don’t have any excitement in their lives.

We need emotions to make life interesting. This is why we love the holidays and why we love holiday shopping. It’s an emotional time and people feed off it.

People tend to spend their money more wisely when they are of sound mind. During the holidays, though, people are not of sound mind at least in some aspects.

For example, would you purchase red wagon for your child or grandchild on a random day in July? Most likely you would not. Your sound mind will think of reasons not to purchase the wagon.

The child already has enough toys.

The child will lose interest after a few minutes.

Wagons are expensive these days.

Now, change the setting of the wagon purchase decision to November from July. Now you have different feelings happening and your mind is distracted. You are seeing commercials on TV of parents and their kids playing in the yard. There are print images in store windows and TV shows are airing holiday specials.

Your brain focuses on good memories from your childhood like the time you received a red wagon for Christmas from Santa.

How can you put a price on that kind of memory?

“Here’s $100. I’ll take one red wagon please.”

For the last 100 years or so the business world has put the marketing machine into full force during the holiday season. Businesses realize that people are emotional and since the holidays are an emotional time it makes sense for businesses to bring out those emotions. It clouds our minds and makes us more apt to make purchases.

Business Reaction to Holiday Shopping

Every year businesses try to extend the holiday shopping season.

The Holiday Creep.

Why do businesses do this?

The longer The Holiday Creep lasts the better chance there is to close a sale. There is a balancing act going on with how much businesses can push the emotional state of the holidays onto people without the effect wearing out.

Businesses push the holiday season out earlier. This is the normal way to increase Holiday Creep. People get in the mood sooner for Christmas. They’ll put out decorations earlier and will start buying seasonal food earlier. It all adds up for businesses.

Urgency is another way businesses cash in every holiday.

We all think about the people that procrastinate every year. These people wait until the last minute to do their holiday shopping. Some businesses will take advantage of these folks toward the end of the season by putting a premium on last minute items and shipping charges.

There is also urgency in the other direction. Businesses are putting pressure on people to purchase items sooner rather than later. The idea is that the popular gifts might run out soon so it’s safer to make the purchase now.

pre-holiday email marketing

Stock up now, before the crowd hits!

With this going on it can be difficult to understand how your business can manage the entire holiday process. Here are three tips.

How to Create a Holiday Email Marketing Strategy

Tip #1: It’s okay to focus on the emotions of your customer. People are seemingly passionate about pricing. Lots of companies will focus on discounting and promotions for the next two months.

You don’t necessarily need to focus on price to win the inbox. There are other emotions to use to win the attention of your customers. Focus on nostalgia, family and other good feelings that people associate with the holidays. When people feel good they are likely to make a purchase.

Tip #2: Urgency is a powerful emotion. Use it early and use it throughout the holiday season. Schedules fill up during the holidays so there are lots of dates that people need to worry about and plan for. If you can get people ready before those dates they’ll not only buy from you they’ll appreciate the reminder.

Tip #3: Do the work for your customers. Everybody is busy during the holidays. People are busy at work. People are busy on the weekends doing all kinds of things. Then the holidays come along and things get even busier. People are planning and getting ready. Time is precious.

Do something for your customers. Make gift suggestions. Curate for your customers and they’ll be happy to spend money with you. They will realize that you’re helping them save time.

triggered Email from Amazon

Automate the suggestion process.


Things are about to get crazy in the email marketing world.

In order to win over some attention in the inbox you’re going to have to get creative. Follow the tips above and you should have a few good strategies heading into the holiday season.

It doesn’t matter if you’re a large retailer or a small business. There is something to gain from the holiday season because people are in the buying mood.

Happy Holidays!