Email marketing is a cornerstone channel for ecommerce brands, especially during the holiday season. But even after designing emails for multiple devices, deciding which products and discounts to promote, and pouring over subject line subtleties, it leaves no guarantee the email will perform as expected. After all, there is no magic formula to crafting the perfect holiday marketing email.
Or is there?
Last year’s Black Friday/Cyber Monday period (BFCM) shed light on how consumers respond to different subject lines, calls-to-action, message content, and advertised discounts during the busiest time of the year. Brands can use this information to craft holiday emails that increase engagement and sales. Here’s how.
Crafting the Perfect Holiday Marketing Email
Write irresistible holiday subject lines: Open rates from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday averaged roughly 15% each day. Knowing what improves and hampers open rates can mean the difference between your holiday emails being seen or invisible.
Subject line length: Keep your subject lines on the shorter side. Subject lines of up to seven words have open rates at or above the five-day average. If you need to say more, use the space allotted in the preheader text. Keeping them short allows your message to be seen on both laptop and mobile devices.
Mentioning the actual day: “Thanksgiving” is a less popular word to use in subject lines but comes with the highest open rate (15.3%) compared to the other BFCM days. Mentions of Cyber Monday in the subject line drew the lowest open rate at 13.8%.
Seeing as subject line length is at a premium and mentioning the day does not drastically boost open rates, you’re better off focusing on what’s inside of the email versus mentioning the day it is sent on. After all, everyone already knows what day it is.
Create a sense of urgency: Of all urgency-related terms “sale starts” had the highest open rate compared to others, generating a 15.5% average open rate, indicating people were eagerly waiting for the sales to begin. The same can’t be said for when the sales are about to end.
Subject lines containing “last chance” and “hours left” saw noticeable declines, coming in at 14.2% and 12.2%, respectively. Knowing some people will have seen these emails after it was too late and therefore not opened them, the immediacy of SMS may be a wise complement to last-chance emails.
Understand which discounts get emails opened: Though people love free shipping, it’s not the go-to discount to promote in subject lines. The term “chance to save” performed the best at 17.2%. “Free shipping” generated a 14.3% open rate, and the ever-popular “% off” (regardless of the size of the discount) saw only a 13.3% open rate, a 13% drop from the average open rate during this time.
If you’re offering a BOGO, be advised that emails containing “BOGO” in the subject line were the low-performers, clocking in at a mere 12.9%. You may be better off sticking with a percentage off or putting a marketer’s spin on how you present the offer to subscribers.
Could “THE Sale Starts Now. Your Chance to Save!” be the perfect holiday subject line?
Add the right visual content
Creating an aesthetically pleasing yet easy-to-navigate email will increase click engagement. From main image content, calls-to-actions (CTAs), and the amount of text to include, here’s what you need to know to capture every last click.
Focus your CTAs: Emails with 2-3 main CTAs have consistent click rates of around 2.5%. This number declines the more CTAs that are added. Keep your primary CTAs focused and add individualized product content to increase engagement and clicks.
Recommend products: Unlike with CTAs, recommending more products, not fewer, can increase click rates. Having up to three products listed in newsletters shows click rates up to 1.94%, dropping slightly to 1.79% when featuring four or five products, and increasing to over 2% when showing off six or seven products.
Six suggested products in addition to your main CTAs may be the perfect number to give shoppers plenty of options without overwhelming them.
More images, less text: Ditching the text in favor of nice imagery makes sense. After all, people want to shop during the holidays, not read a story. Emails containing 80 words or less had the highest click rates at 2.44%. This number declines the more text that is added to an email.
Promote discounts that increase clicks: It seems obvious that a bigger discount would lead to more engagement, but it isn’t necessarily true—at least with email. While the most popular seasonal discounts in 2021 were between 50 and 55%, those between 10% and 25% showed better click rates, earning between 2.04% and 2.2% compared to a 1.86% click rate for 50% offers.
For companies that can’t offer discounts as large as 50%, it might not be a bad thing. For those that can, it may be worth testing a lower discount or finding ways to promote multiple discounts inside of the email to pique interest.
While there is no such thing as a perfect marketing email, knowing how consumers responded to past emails and offers can help ecommerce brands successfully combine data and aesthetics to design a branded, optimized email with the best chance to generate opens, clicks, and sales.
While not every email will be a winner, brands that will have the most success will be those who take all of the steps necessary to optimize every email sent.
Greg Zakowicz is a senior ecommerce expert for Omnisend