As heat rolls across the country in waves, there’s obviously one thing on every email marketer’s mind: the winter holidays! Grab your sunglasses and a glass of lemonade, sit back, and start thinking about bundling up and tossing some snowballs while jolly ol’ Saint Nick squeezes down your chimney.

There is a freedom to your email designs during the last few months of the year; you can easily use non-brand colors and imagery because it’s accepted as a norm by consumers. But be sure you don’t lose sight of your brand in the midst of all this festive cheer.

Your first instinct may be to take your regular marketing messages and just sprinkle some holly leaves on a bigger discount. Sure, you’ll get conversions, but could you get even more people clicking with a more brand-specific approach? 

If you stay loyal to your branding while adding a festive flair, your customers will respond to the consistent message of your brand throughout the holidays and into the new year. 

Cookie cutters may be great for Santa, but not for conversions!

Know What Your Customers Want this Year

Your customers are special, so a cookie-cutter design style or promotional concept may not be very effective on them. Make sure you’re creating a holiday campaign that speaks to your customers, not someone else’s.

Before planning your campaign, take some time to check out your analytics from the past year. While it’s important to look at the performance of your previous holiday campaigns, it’s even more important to see what kept your customers engaged throughout the whole year. 

The better you understand your customers and what they want from you, the more likely you can cater to them and improve sales. Personalization is a huge deal when it comes to email marketing, add a little extra holiday flair and you’re bound to land even more sales. 

Ask yourself: What makes my customers act? Do they respond to beautiful lifestyle imagery? Do they love your catchy subject lines? Maybe it’s the big discounts that really hit home. 

This is a great example of knowing what your customers want and turning your holiday marketing into a campaign. Zappos is trying to help their customers with one of the hardest things during the holiday season -- find the perfect gift for everyone. Image courtesy of Marketing Land

Whatever it is, make sure you incorporate those favorite elements into your holiday campaign. These needs combined with the holiday aesthetic will connect with your customers and help lift conversions.

Updating Automated Campaigns Takes Time and Valuable ResourcesThinking of adding snowflakes to all your transactional messages? While this is a sweet ode to the season, keep in mind that you are spending valuable resources on these campaigns that could otherwise be allocated to your holiday marketing messages.

If you’re wasting too much time adding holiday touches to just your transactional messages, you could be missing out on a huge opportunity. This graph gives you an idea of just how much is generated each year during the holiday season -- your email marketing campaigns could contribute to sales if done right. 

Every minute you spend adjusting the creative of your current automated messages is time you could be investing in your holiday marketing campaigns. It’s best to treat your automated campaigns as “set it and forget it” while you focus on revenue-driving holiday marketing messages.

Plan Ahead to Give Your Customers the Perfect Experience

As T. Boone Pickens said, “A fool with a plan can outsmart a genius with no plan.” You’re already a smart cookie, so why not take that masterful marketing mind and capitalize with a strategic holiday marketing plan? 

A handful of emails across November and December offering 50% off with a picture of Santa in the corner isn’t going to cut it. Begin your campaign with subtlety by featuring your top products and a gift guide to warm up your customers.

Slowly amp it up by giving small incentives here and there, and then release the big guns when your customers are most open to purchasing. Not only will this provide them with bigger sales in the end, but it will also let you score more non-discounted sales along the way. 

Again, be sure you’re checking your analytics and incorporating your customer’s favorite discounts, and sending at a time you know your customers are more apt to open. Your biggest asset is the data that lets you really know your customers. If you’re unsure where to start, check out our Holiday Survival Guide

Choose Festive Colors That Compliment Your Brand Palette 

While you may have the leeway to use non-brand colors at the holidays, don’t forget to coordinate that holiday color palette with your existing brand colors. Pure or saturated red and green are great for the holidays, but will they clash with your logo? Try to find colors that evoke that holiday spirit but also mix well with your colors. 

For example, here is a Christmas motif in the typical Christmas color scheme:

The vibrant red and green are quite festive! But your brand colors are less saturated. Let’s say you have four brand colors: orange-red, navy, black, and light grey. Christmas red and green just aren’t going to fit naturally.

By using the brand orange-red, you already have half the equation. If you use a bluer and more subdued green, you have the same festive message that’s perfectly on-brand.

Christmas doesn’t need to be your primary focus while Christmas is the big hitter in the holiday season, it doesn’t need to dominate every message you send. For some messages, why not keep it simple and focus on winter itself? Find a nice lifestyle image of a puppy playing in the snow, or a create a GIF of a cozy, crackling fireplace. You can also celebrate other winter holidays like Hanukkah or Kwanza. Heck, have some fun and celebrate Festivus

Mixing things up will help keep things fresh for your customers in the never-ending sea of red-and-green emails filling their screens. By playing to the beauty and coziness of winter and recognizing multiple holidays throughout the season, you’re standing out in the inbox while also creating an emotional bond with more of your customers.

Don’t Forget to Recommend Additional Products

As much as every designer and marketer would love all customers to be engaged with every single message, the reality is far more ominous: there will be people who do not engage with your main promo, or at any point in the message at all. 

There are a ton of reasons a customer may not connect with an offer or product, so be sure you give them something else to click. Whether they be dynamic or static, add three to four products at the bottom of the email. 

Even if they already scrolled past your lovely hero image, additional products give your customers another opportunity to get onsite and shopping for the perfect gift. In fact, 35% of Amazon’s sales come from product recommendations -- so why wouldn’t you want to put this practice into place? Especially around the holidays when people are more prone to buy.

Providing customers with additional product recommendations can pay off in the long run. You’ll be sure to see additional visits, orders, and revenue numbers. Emails without recommendations can be a missed opportunity -- especially if you can turn an abandoned cart into an even bigger sale. Image courtesy of Practical Ecommerce

Are you feeling the holiday spirit yet? Start planning your holiday campaign now, and don’t forget to check out our Holiday Survival Guide!

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