Holiday email marketing - 8 tactics for retailers

1. Gift-a-Day 

If the past 2 years are anything to go by, retailer Bluefly will run a contest, and a Gift-a-Day email series mid December.

{ 12/13/06 - Gift-A-Day: Extra 20% off Coats & Jackets}

Click here to view full-sized HTML email

Bluefly holiday email 2006

{ 12/11/07 - It’s Gift-A-Day Time: EXTRA 20% OFF CASHMERE  }

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Holiday email marketing 2007

This must be a winning combination, Bluefly ran an identical campaign two years in a row. 

T.J. Maxx just sent me this email, asking me to sign up for their, “12 Days of Christmas” 2008 email campaign. I like how they invite me to opt in, instead of just increasing their frequency. They are also running a contest this year to win a $1,000 shopping spree.

{ 11/19/08 - Chance to win $1000 | Plus, great holiday gift ideas }

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T.J. Maxx 12 days of Christmas campaign

2. Click-through Contest 

If you want to add a simple contest to your holiday emails, check out Neiman Marcus. The email below is one of a series they ran last December.

{ 11/14/07 -Win Burberry: FREE GIFT WRAP ON THE BIG 100 }

Click here to view full-sized HTML email

Email contest

To win the featured gift, all you do is click the link. I’m sure click-through rates increased; the landing page was their gift guide. Managing this contest could not be easier, just pick a name from your email click-through report.

Neiman Marcus announced the winner the following day, in an email.

3. Holiday headers 

This year have made three adjustments to their email header.

 Click here to view full-sized HTML email featuring new 2008 holiday header.

Holiday 2008 email header    

Click here to view old holiday header.

 Old holiday email header

3a. Mobile Link

Bluefly have added the Pre-header link, “Viewing from a PDA? Click Here”. Other retailers such as Barrie Pace, Crate & Barrel and Net-a-Porter have also added a mobile link.

Keep your line width narrow, add a telephone number at the top, use tinyurl and keep it short with one call to action.

3b. Gift guide navigation bar

The second change have made this year, is the gift tab menu. “Gifts for her, for him and for home.” Highlight your holiday link using color or graphics.

Cute graphic draws the eye to Barnes and Noble’s gift guide

Barnes and Noble holiday header

Christmas is no time for subtlety, Pier 1 paints it red.

pier1 holiday email header

The bold neon font stands out in the Barney’s navi bar.

Barney's holiday email header

Piperlime adds a red bow over the new Gifts link.

Holiday email header

3c. Holiday Graphics

Holiday 2008 email header

The final change is the holiday snowflake graphics around the bluefly  logo.  It reminds me of how Google dresses up their logo. Add holiday graphics to your emails. Its the equivalent of a brick and mortar store putting up decorations, and playing holiday music.

4. Holiday Music

In fact add some holiday music! REI just added the REIGoPlaylist to its newsletter. The landing page shows a snowscape were you play and download 10 songs. has just introduced, “Mixtape Friday’s…As we head into the madness of the Holidays just take a minute for yourself and Rock out!” to their newsletter. The landing page uses a widget from MyFlashFetish.

Click here to view full-sized REI email

Rei holiday playlist

Click here to view full-sized email add music to their newsletter

5. Social media links

You may have noticed added a Facebook and Twitter link to their newsletter. Marshalls also just added a Facebook link. Most retailers tentatively place their social links at the bottom. Marshalls places theirs at the top to promote “The Cube”. A new weekly email and Facebook club. 

Click here to view full-sized Marshalls email

Social media links inemail

Click here to view full-sized email 

Social media links

6. Animation

This year Neiman Marcus, used animation to launch their Christmas Book email.

{ 10/07/08-The 2008 Christmas Book is now online + Free online shipping }

Click here to view full-sized animated email

2008 Neiman Marcus Christmas book email

From Nov. 1 until Christmas Day, 19% of major online retailers used animated gifs in at least one email last year - Retail email guide to the holiday season. Competition being so fierce this year, I expect to see more retailers using animated gifs. 

Animation can bring a sense of occasion to the inbox, draw the eye to overlooked content and allow you to pack more images into limited space.

Animated emails work in every email client except Outlook 2007, which only displays the first frame. Make sure you don’t use a fade in, your first frame needs to stand alone.

Animation = 12% more sales

This email from Bluefly containing an animated GIF generated 12% more sales than the non-animated version in A/B tests. 

{03/01/08 - Exclusive Private Sale: EXTRA 20% OFF }

Click here to view the animated email

Animated GIF's in email

“Bluefly used web analytics to parse the data from the test and found a 5% increase in the click-through rate for recipients of the animated version of “Shhhhh” over recipients of the non-animated version. But more important: Animated shoppers who clicked through generated a 12% increase in dollars spent compared with non-animated shoppers who clicked through.” - Joellen Nicholson, director of marketing at Bluefly  Read the full article here.

Bluefly felt taking a “light-hearted” approach was the key to higher sales. 

7. Soft sell e-card

This was one of many non-promotional e-cards I received in 2007.  10% of the largest retailers sent out soft sell messages last year.  Animation is great for injecting some fun into your email creative.

{12/24/07 /- Happy Holidays from all of us at Norm Thompson!}

Click to view animated email

Holiday email marketing - Animated gif

You can purchase holiday artwork for as little as $1.40 on iStockphoto. The Santa image above used by Norm Thompson costs $14.

8. Add a holiday countdown just started their 2008 holiday countdown, “4 weeks left to order for December 24th”. This is the third year they have prominently featured a countdown to Christmas delivery.

Forzieri also feature a 60 day return policy, for those people who want to buy early and return in January.

{12/24/08 /- Voted TOP 7 Holiday Gifts: Discover our Editor’s Picks}

Click to view holiday countdown email

Holiday email countdown

What makes Forzieri stand out is their, “Blame it on us’ email campaign they’ve run for the last two years. It runs for three days, starting Dec 21st.

{12/21/07 /It’s Not Too Late: BLAME IT ON US + 10% OFF 3-Days Only Special}

Click to view “Blame it on us” email

Blame it on us, late delivery email campaign

If you missed the deadline for Christmas ordering, they will include an apology card with your late gift. It states, “We deeply apologize for delivering your Christmas gift late. Due to high volume orders above our expectations we experienced some difficulty.”

Forzieri have used this tactic to extend sales for the past two years.


1. Consider sending a Gift-a-day, or series of emails.

2. Run a contest based on your click-through reports.

3. Redesign your header: Add a mobile version, highlight your gift guide and add some graphics.

4.  Add holiday music, I’m stealing this idea for my newsletter!

5. Add social media links for Facebook, RSS, Twitter and YouTube.

6. Have fun with animated gifs.

7. Send one soft sell e-card.

8. Include a countdown to Christmas delivery, followed by a, ”Blame it on us” campaign.


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