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Experts weigh in on holiday email marketing in 2020

As we all know, the holiday season of 2020 is going to be unlike any other because of our “new normal.” This is why you’ll need to consider learning, unlearning, and relearning new strategies for email marketing during this unprecedented time.

The Zoho Campaigns team recently conducted a Twitter chat and webinar with a couple of email marketing experts on this, and we’d love for you to take a glimpse at what we discussed. Some of these tips are applicable for any year, but many of them here are to help you adjust to the changing needs in 2020. Let’s get started!

Holiday email marketing
Experts weigh in on holiday email marketing in 2020

Excerpts from Twitter chat #ZCampaignsChat

We had tweeted out seven different questions related to holiday season email marketing, and here’s what our experts had to tell us.

Q1. Given our “new normal” related to COVID-19, what twists and turns do you expect to encounter during the upcoming holiday season?

Bottom Line: More than in any recent time, there will be a rise in online shopping. So be careful to send emails that are relevant to the right people. This can be achieved with the help of list segmentation. Hold off on typical marketing or promotional emails and instead focus on targeted offers and promotions.


Q2. What are some of the best practices/experiments email marketers can try in these uncertain times?

 Bottom Line: Build trust and relationships with your contacts and start sending personalized email campaigns. Make use of automation in order to have meaningful targeted conversations with your contacts. This helps make them realize that you value them.


Q3. When do you recommend sending the first holiday email and how often should emails be sent?

 Bottom Line: You will have to start warming up people by sending them email campaigns at least a week ahead and leaving sufficient time for them to prepare for the holidays. Strategic timing for your emails matter the most for engaging with them.


Q4.  What are some basic questions that need to be addressed before sending holiday emails?

 Bottom Line: Holidays differ based on regions, so you ought to know your contacts based on each region. Find particular holidays in each region and plan your email campaigns one step ahead by segmenting your lists based on demographics. Then make sure to personalize each email with offers and promotions that are region-specific and relevant.


Q5. How do you deal with inactive contacts during the holiday season?

Bottom Line: Start sending them reactivation campaigns like special offers, preference updating options, and more. This will help you find people who’re somewhat interested in your brand/services. Once you identify the opened contacts, you can continue to engage with them to bring them back on board.


Q6. Holiday emails are also about visual content. What are some trends and interesting usage of visuals you like?

Bottom Line: Apart from including photographs of your products, make sure to give importance to GIFs, illustrations, and more. Combining an attractive flow of content with a relevant message will increase the chances of engagement, thus improving customer relationships and sales. Try using pre-built email templates or get creative to ensure your content is a visual treat for your contacts.


Q7. What are some tried and tested abandoned cart recovery email strategies that will result in revenue?

Bottom Line: Always remember that most customers abandon their carts unknowingly. So, consider your abandoned cart email as a reminder to help pull your customers back. When would your contacts like to receive these emails? You’ll have to test this and find out. We suggest you send the email within 24 hours of the cart abandonment. Also, make sure to add some urgency to the emails to start recovering sales.

Those are some insights from our Twitter discussion, but that’s not all the tips and tricks we have for you today.

Excerpts from our webinar with Liz Willits

Let’s now look at what email marketing strategist Liz Willits had to say in our recent webinar, How to adjust your 2020 holiday email marketing game to changing needs.

Here are 12 tips Liz discussed:

Be sensitive

As marketers, being sensitive to your audience is always very important, but it’s especially important when your audience is going through a lot. There are a few ways to work this right: 

  • Choose your words carefully
    Keep an eye on current events so you don’t end up sending emails that arrive at an inappropriate time.

  • Don’t make light of serious situations
    It’s better not to make jokes about things like COVID-19—it’s really hard to strike the right note on a joke or while making light of something serious.

  • Consider giving an extra offer
    If your audiences are being affected economically by COVID-19 and you think your product would be helpful to them, go the extra mile and help them with what you can. These are the times you might want to send them love by giving extra sales or offers.

  • Be aware of the different holidays 
    Take into account all the holidays your audience celebrates to make sure you’re sending them relevant holiday campaigns. For example, don’t send a Thanksgiving promotion to the part of your audience that lives in India, where Thanksgiving isn’t celebrated.


Plan ahead

  • Many holidays like Black Friday, Hanukkah, and Christmas are going to come really soon, so have your content plan ready.

  • Start planning out your design elements now if you use heavily designed templates with different imagery. Start working with your design team well ahead since everyone will be busy with their personal lives on top of work. Get things ready by October or early November.

  • Don’t send your emails right on the holiday. For example, if it’s Black Friday, send your sale campaigns a week in advance. Do pre-holiday sale and post-holiday follow-up campaigns.

Don’t send too many emails

  • Avoid overwhelming your audience with too many emails—especially in 2020—because they have a lot going on in their lives already.

  • The best way you can do this is by providing an opt-out option for the sale campaign. This will let them opt out of that specific sale campaign and from your entire email list. Give them the right to choose what they want.

  • This is the time to be empathetic. Keep in mind the experience that they are having and try to show empathy in your tone rather than being salesy.

Use dynamic content to update your sales emails

Use dynamic content to update your holiday emails even after they’ve hit the inbox. For example, if you’ve sent a campaign on a flash sale and someone opens the campaign after the sale is over, they should read a banner that says, “Sorry, this sale is over, but you can still shop this week’s deals.” Dynamic content helps you stay relevant.


Write subject lines that stand out

Your audiences’ inboxes are flooded with emails during the holiday season, and your email will just remain unopened if you use ordinary subject lines. For example, do not just use “Merry Christmas” and talk about your newly launched product in your content. Use subject lines that are creative and that make you stand out, especially during the holiday season.


Make your copy easy to read

Don’t make your email content confusing, complicated, or heavy to read. Here are a couple of ways to create a readable and scannable copy:

  • Use short sentences and paragraphs, bullet points, and headlines to break up sections and paragraphs.

  • Use “you” instead of “we” or “I.” In other words, your angle should be about how your message benefits them. For example, don’t say “We just launched a new product.” Instead say, “You can get a 40% off on this new product.”


Keep your subscribers aware of important dates

It’s important to keep your subscribers informed of important dates like the last day of a sale or the last day to get a product shipped before Christmas. Highlight them in your subject lines with the time the sale ends.


Create gift guides

This is the best thing ecommerce businesses can do during the holiday season. Not just ecommerce—even B2Bs can do it. While ecommerce businesses can create gift guides for different gift categories such as Gifts for him, Gifts for her, and Gifts for friends, B2Bs can create gift guides like a guide for email marketers that includes their blog posts, tips, and tricks.


Clear is better than clever

Don’t try to be clever or cute in your content. People can’t waste their time on clever content. Rather, focus on what key idea needs to be delivered. This doesn’t mean your content needs to be to the point, but make sure you create curiosity in your audience’s mind to read your content.


Use alt text

Some people have turned off images in their inbox, or sometimes things can simply go wrong, so always place clear alternative text behind your image. That way recipients will still get your key messages and understand the context even if they can’t see the image.


Get festive

It’s fun season, so remember to excite your audience with your emails. Get festive! A great way to do this is through your email design. Go with a holiday game or holiday party theme, run giveaways, and find other ways to make your audience happy. Have fun with these little things in your emails during the holiday season.


Show off your product

This is very important for ecommerce businesses—it might seem straightforward, but it’s important to show your products to your audience. The best way to do this is by showing specific products that will excite your audience in the holiday email. This will get them to click the ones they’re interested in. This is a great way to take your recipients to your website and get them to purchase your products.

We hope these insights help you warm up your holiday email marketing strategy. Have fun creating content that resonates with your audience. Wishing you all a happy holiday season 🙂

– Team Zoho Campaigns

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