‘Tis the season to be jolly… or want to crawl in a hole until Q4 is over. If the latter is you, all good, join the party.
In all seriousness, the e-commerce holiday season is a great problem to have ($$$)! Sure, it’s stressful and there’s a lot of prepwork to do, but with thorough planning and solid tips, you will absolutely crush it.
Hopefully, by the time you’re reading this, you at least have a loose plan of what your email content calendar looks like. And if you don’t, you’re sh*t out of luck… Just kidding! We will go through some do’s and don’ts to make sure you set your email campaigns up for success this Q4 holiday season.
We’ll be covering subject lines, creatives, and the buzzword “segmentation” with clear action items for you to take away and apply to your Q4 holiday emails. So, buckle up and take notes!
Keep your holiday emails short & sweet
First things first, whatever content you send to your customers during this season needs to be extremely clear and to-the-point. This is not the time to push fluff pieces with vague CTAs. Think about your own inbox during the holiday season —it’s probably cluttered more than usual with loud subject lines about sales and deals. Before the recipient even opens your email, you’re fighting for inbox real estate, so your subject line should be succinct and witty.
Subject line do’s and don’ts:
DO keep the subject line under 6 words (a good rule of thumb for emails, in general). Ideally, your subject line shouldn’t exceed what the user can see on their phones.
DON’T outright say what the sale is. You’d be surprised at this one, but Lunar Solar Group ran A/B tests across various DTC brands and the results were statistically significant in favor of vague subject lines aka the ones that didn’t state the exact discount. In other words, play a little hard to get. Be a tease.
DO add wit to your subject line that’s on-brand. If emojis are your thing, add them. If pop-culture references are your thing, work them in. Just don’t scream “SALE SALE SALE”—that’ll most likely get marked as spam (spam word + all-caps = bad). Then it really won’t get opened.
When it comes to holiday email marketing, what you see is what you get
Now, let’s talk about creative. I mentioned before that this is not the time to push fluff pieces with vague CTAs—and I stand by that. Allocate emails between three distinct categories—the sale offer, products, and urgency for the final days. It should be clear from the moment someone opens the email what the email is about.
Creative do’s and don’ts:
DO have a clear hero section with a crisp image (or GIF, if that’s your thing. Just make sure to compress it because there’s nothing worse than a slow-loading email). Put on your copywriting hat and write a direct headline and CTA. Remember, that “direct” doesn’t mean “SALE HAPPENING NOW”; it’s whatever doesn’t force your customer to guess, “what are they trying to tell/sell me?” Your hero should be above the fold on both desktop and mobile (especially mobile) so users can click the CTA without having to scroll or read more than what’s right in front of them.
DON’T make your email endlessly long. On any other day, you can make your email as long as you want (another learning from A/B tests run by Lunar Solar Group), but during a high-paced shopping season, you need to be quick and dirty with your email creatives. Quality > Quantity.
DO have clear images in your product-forward emails. Show the recipient what the physical product looks like (think product or studio image) as well as what the product looks like in use, in real life (think lifestyle image). A good mix of reality and ideality is the sweet spot.
Know who’s who in your holiday emails
Segmentation is that big buzz word that everyone in email marketing uses—”don’t forget to segment your email list!” But what kind of segments? And should every email be a segmented one? Or would you be missing out on potential opens, clicks, conversions, and revenue by not sending the email to your full list?
Segmentation do’s and don’ts:
First, DON’T segment every email because you don’t have to. If you’re sending a general “sale is here” email, usually one of the first emails you send in the season, you can send it to your full list (if your average open rate is strong enough) or send it to your clean, engaged segment (usually those who opened an email from you at least once in the last 60-90 days).
DO segment your email list by year-round shoppers vs the holiday shoppers. If you’re sending product highlights or pushing your loyalty/rewards program during this time to encourage higher spend, your long-term shoppers are the ones who are going to open and click those emails. Your holiday shoppers likely won’t care as much and will likely only look out for your deals and gift guides.
DO segment by AOV and LTV when sending gift guides or price-specific emails. You don’t want to frustrate a customer by sending them an email of a higher-priced product they’re just never going to buy because they’re a 2-year-old customer with an LTV of $100 and an AOV of maybe $20. But perhaps the bright and shiny impulse buyer with an LTV of at least $500 and an AOV of even $70 might entertain that $100 gift set.
DO segment by interest, if you’re sending product- or category-specific emails. This is a great time to hit past purchasers of that product or category, but more importantly, it’s the right time to convert those who viewed multiple times, added to cart, started checkout but never pulled the trigger. For some added segmentation fun, get complementary product purchases in the loop. Boom, there’s a cross-sell opportunity. Easy money.
DO segment by DNOs or those who “Did Not Open.” It’s a great way to squeeze a little more out of a killer email and perhaps regain an inactive subscriber and even convert them into a customer. Just remember to do this sparingly. Your open rates will be much lower than what you’re used to seeing, so you don’t want to do this so often that you lower your average open rate and risk ruining your email health.
Send more impactful emails this holiday season
If you’re done with reading words by now, let me wrap it up in a cute little bow for you! Ha, ha, holiday pun INTENDED. Sorry not sorry.
Be a tease. Try being vague with your subject lines by concealing the exact discount amount and making the user open the email to find out what the sale is.
Send straight-forward emails. Your hero really should say it all, so keep it clear, crisp, and concise. Think above-the-old, strong headline, and clear CTA.
If you have the bandwidth, send segmented emails around interests, type of shopper (discount, holiday, year-round), and LTV and AOV. Get specific where it counts, but don’t force it.
Send DNO (“Did Not Open”) emails sparingly, but don’t be afraid to try sending them as a second email in the day as you near the end of your sale or shipping cut-off, perhaps as a night send if you sent a different email out in the morning.
Don’t forget to shop for yourself and take a well-deserved R&R at the end of it all. There is light at the end of the tunnel. And it’s actually a pot of gold.