Holiday Email Marketing Unpacked: 15 Examples, 9 Tools and a Checklist to Make 2017 Your Biggest Success Yet
As an ecommerce business owner, you know that your holiday email marketing strategy is important.
But with so much going on, it can seem like the days are just dropping away — and taking your customers with them.
After all, it’s a competitive time of year, and you already have concerns about cutting through the noise and standing out from the competition.
And those concerns are valid. Most brands start planning their holiday email marketing campaigns in September, meaning you may already be behind.
Not to worry, though. You’ve landed in the right place.
In the follow guide, we’ll walk you through:
- Quick email marketing stats: The current state of email marketing and ecommerce
- The basics of a holiday email marketing campaign: Using welcome emails, catering to stressed holiday season shoppers and the cure for abandoned carts
- Best practices and next steps: Turn your new knowledge into sales
Let’s dive in.
Download Your Free Holiday Campaign Lookbook
Get a short and sweet visual roundup of everything you should be doing to make your campaigns stand out this year – courtesy of Springbot.
Quick Stats: Get Personal With Your Email
According to Statista, Gmail has over 1 billion active users. And that’s *not* accounting for the folks using Outlook, Yahoo or bespoke professional emails.
The ability to capture a slice of their email pie and send out specified messages to increase brand loyalty is what attracts so many to branded online stores to begin with.
- It isn’t something you can do on Amazon: Even if you can make millions there, you can’t market to previous customers through email. That’s a big Amazon no-no. They market to them instead.
- It isn’t something you can do if you only have a brick-and-mortar: Sure, you can send off emails, but you have no immediate call to action (other than come to store) and little opportunity to test the effectiveness of that CTA (did they come to the store? How do you know? Manual cross-checking?)
- It isn’t something you can do if you only have a website –– not a webstore (Looking at you B2B industry…): Again, yes, you can send out emails, but you don’t have a call to action that increases sales or revenue. You only have a link back to your site, a request to email or a phone number. And while you can measure the effectiveness of those campaigns, their conversion rate is going to be much lower than just sending your buyers to a personalized campaign on your site.
So, why is it that email marketing –– and the ability to build a highly engaged list and market to it –– is so popular and loved by the industry?
It’s the data.
- Average revenue per email marketing campaign broken down by country:
- US: $446
- UK: $380
- AU: $466
- CA: $273
- IN: $281
- A series of emails (versus a one-off email) will get you:
- 69% more orders on your cart recovery
- 90% more orders on your customer reactivation
- 93% more orders on your welcome campaigns
And these charts come from Klaviyo’s commerce email marketing benchmark report (2017). They are broken down by annual business revenue size so you can better gauge what you can expect:
What all of this data suggests is that your email campaigns are in fact revenue. For each email you send, you can track the added value to your business.
Now, that’s if the email works –– and to make it work, you need to be strategic, play upon psychological triggers and be relevant.
For instance, email subject lines containing ‘thank you’ have the highest above-average open rates. Good to know –– you should probably use that phrase more often (and also think through why this could be).
For instance, with BigCommerce’s Blog weekly email (which you should totally sign up to get!), they've begun using more personal language in the body as well as the subject line. Tracey will say:
- Thank you!
- I feel ya...
- Is something wrong?
Why? Because people like being spoken to by other people –– people that they identify with and feel as though could actually be their friends. Otherwise, why would they want to give *you* their money?
This also explains why personalized emails that use the customer’s name get opened 17.6% of the time, compared to 11.4% for non-personalized emails.
Again, here is how you win via email marketing campaigns:
- Know your customers
- Talk to them in your brand voice (which should resonate with them)
- Show them something (ideally a product) they actually want –– and at the time they want it.
OK –– that sounds like a lot of work. I get it. But here’s exactly how you do it –– specifically for the holidays.
What Sending 100 Million Emails Teaches You About Emails
For a really in-depth look at what works and what doesn’t, based on the experience of sending over 100 million emails, check out Noah Kagan’s post.
The Streams You Need in Place Now
With an ecommerce business, especially a B2C business, there are a lot a lot of customers and prospects in and out in the months between October and January.
Some of them will just be browsing, others will make purchases and around 70% will abandon their carts.
You can’t keep track of every single interaction with your site, and you can’t win ‘em all, either, but you can help temper the stress shoppers are feeling by having a thoughtful, relevant, trigger email in place.
For the holiday season — including Halloween, Cyber Monday, Black Friday and pre- and post-Christmas sales — your best friends are:
- Welcome emails
- Relevant promotional emails
- Abandoned cart emails
Let’s look at why.
According to an Experian report:
- Welcome emails experience 4X the open rates of bulk emails, and
- 5X the click-through rate (CTR) of bulk emails
Not sending a welcome email when a visitor or customer completes an action on your site is like not being offered a ‘thank you’ and/or a receipt on a purchase in a physical store.
It leaves people feeling disengaged right from the start.
At the very least, it creates doubt as to whether the action they took was successful.
If someone completes an action on your site, such as opting in to a newsletter or signing up for a coupon, they are ready to go.
Any delay you create by not sending your welcome email straight away only serves to decrease the likelihood of an engagement or a sale.
Welcome emails do not need to be holiday season specific. Instead, you just need welcome emails in place to make sure that you are nurturing those who sign up into becoming customers.
Over the holidays, many brands see an increase in email subscribers before they become purchasers. This is your chance to close that gap and more formally introduce your brand.
What Makes a Successful Welcome Email?
Welcome and receipt emails are the most opened of any type of email. Which means you should be making full use of them to start engaging with subscribers and customers.
As for what makes a great welcome email, there are lots of elements:
- A simple 'Thank you’
- Great photographs
- A clear call-to-action
- A personalized message from your company’s founder
Let’s look at how Tommy John is making this come to life:
Want to check out your competitor's email marketing strategy? Then you need MailCharts.
A few things to note:
- Email 1
- Welcomes you to the brand
- Gives you a discount.
- Explains “Why Us”
- Has clear CTA buttons and clean imagery throughout
- Email 2
- Clear 15% off reminder
- Offers up product options to browse
- Allows for category browsing as wanted (getting the newcomer used to the site and brand flow)
- Explains guarantee offer (i.e. – why wouldn’t you buy?)
- Email 3
- A departure from the discount email –– this email aims to educate the newcomer further on why to buy from this brand
- Clean imagery
- Call outs address pain points
- Clear CTAs to category pages
- Email 4
- They have upped the ante - 20% off now
- And they’ve added a countdown (HUGE psychological trigger)
- The rest of the format follows email 2 –– and that’s OK! Most customers won’t open ALL your emails. It’s OK to use the same format for various emails.
- Clear CTAs above the fold, and secondary ones below the fold.
Let’s look at one more, this time from Noah Kagan’s blog (Noah is the founder of SUMO).
Things we love about this welcome:
- The warm and friendly headline — Makes you feel right at home
- The ‘extra bonus’ — Something to chew on while you wait for the regular content
- A clear CTA — Noah advertises another piece of content here, and invites you to subscribe
- The personal recommendation — You trusted him enough to hand over your email.
Relevant, Promotional Emails
Shoppers are in a rush around the holiday season, so any additional, essential information you can give them works in your favor.
A few things you can include in your emails to make life easier for subscribers around the holidays include:
- Shipping info (including final delivery dates)
- Gift card services
- Gift wrapping options
- Customer service contact details
Let’s take a look at how Jeni’s Ice Creams did this last year.
Let’s break these down:
- Email 1:
- Clear campaign launch and CTA to shop a holiday gift guide
- Fun graphic appealing to the indulger in us all
- Clear CTA at the bottom
- Additional CTA for a Thanksgiving deliver
- Email 2:
- The Thanksgiving dinner CTA as moved to the top of the email –– clear CTA
- Holiday-themed graphics and visuals
- Gift guide call out at the bottom
- Email 3:
- More visible ORDER NOW CTA as the deadline to order approaches
- The approaching holiday is called out even more visually with graphics
- Shipping costs clearly advertised to alleviate any cost concerns
- Email 4:
- Post- Thanksgiving, emails change to Holiday dinner push, with clear CTA at the top of the email
- Visuals switch to gift-like themes to match the upcoming holidays
- Images show holiday-specific ice cream flavors
- Email 5:
- Even larger CTA announcing order date deadline
- Personalization options advertised
- Last-minute gift guide offered
Just one more example here to really drive this home –– include a countdown on your emails for the purchasing deadline so products get where they need to go in time for the holidays!
Here is how Bliss does it.
Just a Little Christmas Makeover
If you try nothing else mentioned here, then you can at least refresh your welcome email template during the holiday season.
You don’t get to meet and greet every person who interacts with your business the way you would in a physical store, so injecting some personality into your welcome email is the next best thing.
If your welcome email is usually branded and designed a certain way, something as simple as re-skinning it with a festive template can help grab the attention of a subscriber long enough to make them read something they might otherwise miss.
Download Your Free Holiday Campaign Lookbook
Get a short and sweet visual roundup of everything you should be doing to make your campaigns stand out this year – courtesy of Springbot.
The Under-Utilized Cure for Abandoned Carts
An abandoned cart is a sad thing. It means that something was wrong with or missing from the shopping experience.
We know that:
- 75% of people will bounce if a site isn’t optimized for mobile, and
- Over 70% of people abandon their cart for another reason
For these people, it is crucial that your triggered abandoned cart emails address their specific problems.
During the holidays, 3 of the main reasons people abandon their carts are:
- Shipping costs: Determine whether it’s feasible for you to offer free shipping
- Better deal elsewhere: Tempt them back with price and emotional cues
- Out-of-stock: How to capitalize once products become available again
Let’s look at each, and what you can do address them so you can start seeing abandoned cart numbers like these:
Are Your Shipping Costs Too High?
In a survey conducted by BigCommerce, 80% of Americans cited shipping costs and speed of shipping as a major factor in determining where they shop, with 66% deciding not to buy entirely because of shipping costs.
Sure, offering free shipping is one way to reduce cart abandonment, but for many businesses, offering free shipping just isn’t an option, especially if you’re shipping items across the United States.
Companies such as Amazon can offer free shipping because they have such a massive financial reserve.
But what about other small-to-medium-sized businesses? When and how can they start to offer free shipping?
ShipperHQ has designed a simple-to-use flowchart, to help you determine if and when you can offer free shipping.
So, with ShipperHQ’s flowchart in mind, what are some of the conditions which need to be met in order for you to be able to offer free shipping? And what are the solutions?
- 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
- 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
- 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
The #1 holiday season promotion offered by BigCommerce brands is free shipping after a price threshold is passed.
This increases average order value, helps to offset shipping costs and is incredibly easy (and free!) to set up on the backend.
What If There’s a Better Deal Elsewhere?
It happens. If your product isn’t a unique one, or if there’s some direct competitor product that costs less, sometimes people choose to go elsewhere.
But all is not lost. They could have found a genuinely better deal, or they could be playing hard to get.
Some shoppers will abandon their carts on purpose, in order to trigger a discount or deal email.
Now, before you just go on and offer a discount in an abandoned cart email, know this: there is little evidence to support the idea that offering a discount on abandoned cart emails works. Doing so simply eats into your profit margin.
What should you do instead?
Upsell different products or offer bundled products. After all, bundles sell way better than individual products. But we’ll get to that in a bit…
Either way –– you shouldn’t be in a pricing race to the bottom scenario.
If you are losing a lot of customers to competitors with cheaper prices, it likely isn’t just your prices that are the problem.
You aren’t telling your brand story effectively enough.
People buy based on price –– yes –– but they also buy based on emotion and something called a “gut feeling.”
This is where your abandoned cart email marketing strategy –– and psychological triggers –– can help out.
Scarcity and the fear of missing out
Anyone who’s ever built a landing page or run a sale knows that this is marketing psyche 101.
When the perceived value of something is raised — either because it’s genuinely rare, or it’s made to look rare — it becomes more desirable. It’s known as the ‘Fear of Missing Out’ or FOMO.
Take the iPhone X. With prices starting at $999, Apple is not concerned at all about pricing themselves out of the market.
They could create as many X’s as they want, but by limiting numbers, Apple has ensured that almost every single new iPhone X sells, and for full price.
You don’t need to reduce the price of an item to make it sell. You just have to make the item more desirable.
BombTech Golf does this so incredibly well in literally *every single email* they send. Here’s a recent one:
Clear “Back in stock” language reminds you that this item often isn’t in stock –– and a call out for a stick price below $100 to draw and earn instant conversion.
Another way to make your products more desirable without actually changing them is to make use of influencers.
If you sell GPS watches, then offering one for review by a well-known mountaineering expert could be what you need to place you ahead of your competitors.
You can also use micro-influencers to drive increased awareness of your product. This is what Spellbinders does –– using micro-influencers (people with small online followings) to share product images and hashtags of items created with their products. This spreads the brand name while still being authentic.
Then, you can use Customer Groups to segment out emails and personalized on-site experiences for your various cohorts of customers –– of which your social influencers will be one.
Check it out:
Bundle products together
Sometimes you don’t need to do anything so involved as roping in influencers or remarketing your products.
Sometimes all you need to do is bundle them together.
Amazon is a prime example of how bundling works. By offering products all together, Amazon manages to sell more products than the one(s) shoppers were originally looking for, and shoppers usually save money, either on shipping, or on the products themselves. Check out these brands bundling as well:
Are Your Items Out of Stock?
You should have ample inventory to make sure items don’t go out of stock, and 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.
With InStockAlerts, I was able to send a customized email to people who wanted alerts when a product was back in stock. It’d say:
"Hey, hurry up, it's back in stock! You need to order it before the other lady does."
I was able to add my personality into those automated message and it’s that personality that really attracts and retains my customers.
— Suzanne Moore, Founder of So Suzy Stamps
Those InStockAlert emails, by the way, enjoy an 80% conversion rate.
In Suzy’s case, that’s partly due to the fact that she’s put in so much hard work building a great relationship with her fanbase, and partly because of how smart she is about creating desire and scarcity.
A message as simple as the one Suzy uses –– "Hey, hurry up, it's back in stock! You need to order it before the other lady does" –– can make all the difference.
You can 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 does go out of stock, then prioritizing scarcity and urgency should be your focus.
The Best App Integrations For Your Holiday Campaigns
In this section, 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.
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.
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 multichannel automation without the need to code.
- Send personalized campaigns powered by customers' order history, web behavior and more.
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.
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.
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 on your brand.
- No need to worry what to write to your customers. We've done it all for you.
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's 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.
Klaviyo is the email marketing software secret behind multi-million dollar successes like BombTech Golf. Why? How? Great questions! The answer is simple: segmentation.
Brands like BombTech don’t talk to cohorts of customers in the same way. Instead, they segment their email marketing efforts based on how a customer acts on their site. Here’s everything you get with Klaviyo and BigCommerce:
- Products, Collections & Categories Viewed: When customers return to your website, you’ll be able to see what products they’re looking at and use the information to create super-targeted email flows.
- Checkout Started: Get all the information on products in your shopping cart –– including pictures and full item details –– so you can trigger smart abandoned-cart autoresponders.
- Orders placed: You’ll be able to use the full order details to target and personalize, including pictures of items, price, discounts applied, coupon codes and more.
- Fulfilled orders: Use information on whether or not an order has been fulfilled to control which emails a customer gets, trigger requests for reviews and personalize content.
- Cancelled orders: If a customer creates an order but then cancels before fulfillment, you can automatically get in touch to ask why and incentivize them to reconsider.
- Refunded orders: Filter and target based on refund events and specific details associated with the refund, like value, items, discount codes and more.
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.
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.
Best Practice Checklist For Awesome Holiday Emails
Here are the top tips and best practices for building a holiday email marketing campaign that converts.
- Use your brand to create loyal customers: Don’t buy a subscriber list
- Make your email subscription opt-in easy for site visitors: An exit intent pop-up or subtle sign-up box are 2 options
- Regularly monitoring your list for typos, invalid addresses and inactive members: The size of your email list ONLY matters if the people on it are ENGAGED with your brand. If they don’t pay attention to you, it does NOT matter. Those are just vanity metrics. Remove them.
- Segment your list based on recommended criteria for your business goals: Change offers/images according to gender, age, location, etc. You can use Springbot’s Analytics to do this easily.
- Leverage purchasing behavior trends to drive more conversions: If they’ve bought A, offer them B. BigCommerce Insights can show you this data easily –– allowing you to export and create segmented upsell campaigns quickly.
- Include trigger email campaigns into your email marketing plan: Remember, campaigns perform better than just one-off emails.
- Is your subject line short, sweet and to the point? It should be. Remember to use friendly words and terms as though you are speaking to a friend or family member. This increases open rates.
- Tell your customers what steps to take with a clear CTA: Make sure that button stands out and is relevant to your offering. You don’t have to use terms like “click here” –– the button makes that obvious. Get creative with your copywriting and use psychological triggers to convert more customers.
- Create a sense of urgency in your holiday emails: Black Friday and Cyber Monday happen fast! And the shipping deadline for Christmas does too! Keep everyone updated on the amount of time they have left.
- Add festive design elements to your Christmas emails: Use relevant images and words. Everyone knows it is the holidays. Don’t act like you don’t.
- Is your photography top-notch and tailored to your target audience? It should be.
- Test your email to ensure it is mobile friendly: Do this with your site, too!
- Think about any relevant videos to include for increased engagement: These take just a few minutes to create. Seriously, go stand against a wall in your office and say a video “Hello and Happy Holidays!” to your customers. It’s worth it!
- And after you send…. Don’t forget to measure your results!
Building your holiday email marketing campaign can be a lot of work, but it can also be a lot of fun. Like we said at the start, there is no more effective channel for converting customers (existing and potential) than email, so make the most of it.
Want more advice for crushing your holiday marketing campaigns? Check out these holiday ecommerce tips from 1,018 BigCommerce businesses.
Download Your Free Holiday Campaign Lookbook
Get a short and sweet visual roundup of everything you should be doing to make your campaigns stand out this year.
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