When Should You Start Planning Your Holiday Email Strategy?

CM Commerce Team

Have you started planning your holiday email strategy yet?

Your holiday strategy plays a huge role in your ecommerce business success.

According to the National Retail Federation, an average store earns a whopping 20% of its revenue from the winter holiday season. 

Don’t worry. With the right email strategy and understanding of your audience, you can make sure you pull off a holiday season that exceeds your expectations (and those of your customers). 

Plus, email service providers like CM Commerce supply all the tools you need to automate and personalize most of your email marketing efforts.

In this post, we’ll help you nail down the ideal time to start planning your email strategy for the winter holidays. We’ll also go over some tips, best practices, and examples to make sure you pull off a winning campaign.

What’s the right time to start planning your holiday email strategy?

If you’re reading this, it’s time to start planning your holiday strategy. It’s never too early to start strategizing your holiday email marketing.

When do you think your customers start shopping? What about planning? Probably way earlier than you think.

When do customers start their holiday shopping?

The National Retail Federation has found that 40% of people start their holiday shopping before Halloween.

In 2019, American shoppers spent 1.007 trillion dollars—up 3.7% from 2018. It was the first year holiday shopping broke the trillion-dollar milestone. 

Start your holiday email strategy early.
Source: eMarketer

Despite the pandemic and economic downturn, consumers are still expected to spend a total of $1.042 trillion in 2020. 

The point is that people spend a lot of money during the holidays. With half the U.S. unemployed and millions of families surviving on a single income, you can be sure shoppers will spread out the costs as much as possible. 

Shopping early is the best way to spread out gift costs and avoid debt. The average American racks up over $1,000 in debt each year during the holidays, which takes several months to pay off.

You can be sure folks will want to avoid debt as much as possible this year.

When do shoppers start planning their holiday gifts?

We know they start shopping before Halloween, but what about planning?

Try June or July.

When consumers start planning, they turn to Pinterest for inspiration. Pinterest insights show that—whether it be Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Christmas, or even New Year—holiday planning picks up early steam at the start of June.

Start your holiday email strategy in June.
Source: Pinterest

This doesn’t mean you should be sending out obvious holiday-related emails in June, but you should, at least, start planning your holiday email strategy.

You could also send super early promotional emails highlighting your great gift ideas for different people without mentioning the word “holiday.” When someone buys something in late summer, consider attaching a coupon to their order valid during the holiday season to encourage them to come back.

Plus, campaigns with relevant blogs or products are great for brand awareness at any time of the year. 

Setting up your holiday email strategy timeline.

In an ideal world, here’s what your holiday email strategy timeline should look like if you want to stay ahead of the game:

1. January–March: Evaluate your revenue, analytics, and tactics from the previous holiday season. Figure out what worked and what didn’t. 

2. April–June: Look at market projections and estimates for the coming winter holiday season. Plan holiday product releases and promotions. Start segmenting your email list for the holidays.

3. July–September: Start designing your holiday email campaigns and set up drip campaigns. Send gift idea campaigns without holiday themes. 

4. October–December: Time your personalized emails to go out over these three months. Study your analytics as they come in and adapt your tactics accordingly. 

How to start planning your holiday email strategy

Email service providers like CM Commerce provide all the tools you need to segment your audience (with custom fields), personalize every campaign, and automate your emails. 

All you have to do is study your audience and develop super relevant content. Here are a few tips to make sure your holiday email strategy goes off without a hitch.

Write from the heart and remain mindful.

With nearly half the country unemployed, times will be tough for families this year. Be mindful of your customers’ personal situations. Keep your emails conversational, warm, and in line with the spirit of the season.

World Market gets in the holiday spirit here by promoting donations:

 Be heartwarming in your holiday email strategy.
Source: Milled

Personalize your holiday email strategy for every subscriber.

Email personalization is critical for designing relevant and valuable holiday emails. Use behavioral data from your website to send personalized campaigns with curated products and gift recommendations. 

This Joss & Main email is highly personalized based on holiday browsing behavior:

Personalize your holiday email strategy.
Source: Milled

Design your emails ahead of time and send them automatically.

CM Commerce makes it easy to design beautiful emails without any coding knowledge. This is huge when it comes to your holiday email strategy because you can start planning early and send them out automatically when the time is right.

Make sure everything is 100% optimized for mobile devices.

Over half of all emails sent end up opened on a mobile device. And, almost 54% of all ecommerce sales will happen on smartphones by 2021. 

Make sure to test and optimize your holiday campaigns for every device. If something doesn’t look right, customers won’t spend the time trying to figure things out; they’ll just hit delete, unsubscribe, or both.

Get your curated content ready for your holiday email strategy.

Promotions are great but don’t forget valuable content. Start creating your holiday content early, so it’s perfect when the time comes to hit send. Some ideas include:

  • Gift roundups
  • Ideas for staying healthy 
  • Recipes and DIY guides
  • Tutorials
  • Videos
  • Inspirational or touching content
  • Informative or useful infographics
Promote content in your holiday email strategy.
Source: Brooks Running

Write subject lines that stand out from the crowd.

Your subject lines entice subscribers to open your emails, so make sure they’re entirely on point during the holidays. 

Bear in mind that dozens—if not hundreds—of brands are vying for attention in the inbox. Standing out is key during the holiday season. Simple subject lines like “holiday sale” won’t be enough to boost curiosity and energy. 

Instead, go for something more personalized like “Check out the gift ideas we found for you.”

Promote your loyalty or referral programs in your holiday email strategy.

The only thing people love more than saving money is saving money during the holidays. Start promoting your loyalty and referral programs early—like June and July—so they come as second nature to customers by the time the holidays roll around.

Organize relevant reviews for your holiday email strategy.

Over 90% of people read reviews before buying something, and 84% trust them as much as a personal recommendation. 

In the business of the holidays, however, shoppers don’t have time to read 30 reviews for every single gift they plan to buy.

Make their life easier by promoting your reviews front and center in your holiday email strategy. 

CM Commerce has powerful tools to help you collect, organize, and manage your reviews and user-generated content like photos. Instead of hoping your customers go to your website and read reviews, you can embed relevant reviews directly into your email campaigns.

Include reviews in your holiday email strategy
Source: CM-Commerce

Design dedicated landing pages for email shoppers.

Even if your website loads in under three seconds, that might still be too slow for busy customers. You can slash speeds and boost conversion rates by setting up dedicated checkout pages for your email subscribers. 

Set up “gift lists,” so customers can plan their holiday strategy.

Wish lists are awesome tools that encourage shoppers to return to your website. During the holidays, swap them out for gift lists. Let customers organize and save different products on your site for everyone in their life. Plus, you can collect information on your customers like who they’re buying gifts for.

Optimize your abandoned cart emails.

If someone adds products to their cart or gift list but leaves your site, don’t write them off for good. Follow up with a series of abandoned cart emails to win them back and possibly make that sale.

Use abandoned cart emails in your holiday email strategy.
Source: Milled

Wrap up

Crafting an engaging holiday email strategy is the secret to winning seasonal revenue and building momentum for the following year. Fortunately, email service providers like CM Commerce give you all the tools you need to automate your campaigns with personalized content completely.

Just remember to:

  • Write with a human/conversational touch.
  • Optimize everything for mobile devices.
  • Write subject lines to grab attention and stand out from competitors. 
  • Promote your VIP and referral programs.
  • Showcase your relevant reviews.
  • Develop an abandoned cart strategy.
  • Stay focused on a single CTA in each campaign.
  • Create a seamless checkout process for shoppers on every device.

Don’t put off your holiday email marketing strategy. Jump into action now by checking out our full range of features and signing up for a free trial.