This blog post comes from Alison Lyne, Sr. Marketing Manager at Persado. In case you're unfamilar with Persado, we are a strategic partner of Listrak, and a leading provider of AI-generated marketing language - which means, we’ll help you create subject lines with a disruptive edge necessary for holiday success.

We like to say – Persado is to Listrak and Email Marketers, what Elves are to Santa.

The holidays are coming and so are a lot of emails. To help your emails stand out in the crowded inbox, get more clicks, and ultimately earn more revenue for you, we’re sharing our do’s and don’ts of holiday email subject lines.

It may not be socially acceptable to play “All I Want for Christmas is You” before Thanksgiving (or ever), but a Marketing Land survey found many online retailers are getting into the holiday spirit a bit earlier this year. 37% of those surveyed said they began planning one to four months earlier than they did last year.

And businesses are likely in for a happy holiday: Consumers believe they will spend an 3.4% more than last year, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics. The annual National Retail Federation holiday playbook found that 50% of customers preferred email notifications compared to 24% who liked direct mailers. This means there’s plenty of competition lurking in your consumers’ inboxes. ‘Tis the season to stand out and increase revenue, so follow our list of do’s and don'ts of holiday email subject lines for holiday success.

DO

Use the actual holiday name early in the subject line. Your audience is expecting holiday emails for discounts and special offers. It must be clear that this email is special.

DON’T 

Don’t use puns or holiday-specific language: “spook-tacular,” “yule love this,” or “gobble up the savings.” Cheesy, pun-filled subject lines can actually drive people away. 

DO

Use emotional language. We’ve found that Exclusivity, Anxiety, and Fascination work wonderfully. A few magic keywords have proven to work for holiday events, including: You’re invited, It’s official, Our event is on, Announcement, and It’s happening.  

DON’T

Don’t highlight that the event will only last for a limited time. Or if you do, use Urgency language sparingly as it is the most frequently used emotion in Retail & eCommerce emails. Based on more than 3,000 email experiments in the United States, it’s also one of the five least effective emotions.

DO

Use personal, direct language. Even if people are shopping for loved ones, it’s still about the email recipient.
Nay = They’ll love this – Yay = You’ll love this  

DON’T

Don’t use imperative verbs like Hurry, Come See and Don’t Miss Out. Based on our data, this consistently drives people away. The same goes for questions, like Are You Ready? Like This? Or Seen This?

DO

Use symbols and emojis, which we’ve seen affect conversions by 37%. It’s all about driving the right kind of attention to your email in a time period when every retailer in the country is promoting a sales event.
Some consistent winners: ✂ (for discounts), ⌚️ (for time-sensitive offers), 😊  (any type).

DON’T

Don’t use holiday-themed symbols and emojis. It’s better to use them than nothing, but generic symbols are usually more effective. We’ve seen a few holiday emojis perform well, like 🎃, but it’s hit-or-miss.
 
*The list is based on a Persado study of more than 3,000 holiday email subject lines.
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