This blog post comes from Alison Lyne, Sr. Marketing Manager at Persado. In case you're unfamiliar 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.

Email marketing should be a big part of your holiday marketing campaign. Many online retailers are getting in on the holiday email action, so your company’s emails need to stand. The time for mediocre holiday emails is over, you’ve got to put your best work out there now.  

We like to say – Persado is to Listrak and Email Marketers, what Elves are to Santa. So, let’s talk more about improving your holiday email marketing campaigns to land more sales.

The Arrival of Holiday Emails

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.

When surveying companies on when they start their holiday planning, September is the front runner. While October and June follow fairly close behind. Proving that holiday marketing is a big deal for eCommerce companies and that the stakes are high to take home a share of the seasonal sales. 

And businesses are likely in for a happy holiday: Consumers believe they will spend  nearly  4% more than last year, according to the annual survey conducted by Prosper Insights & Analytics.  When you look at that number over the last few years, it has only increased from year to year -- meaning holiday spending isn’t slowing down anytime soon. 


The projects on what consumers plan to spend during the holiday season have increased nearly every year since 2009. As this number continues to grow, it will be important for eCommerce businesses to become more competitive in promoting their holiday sales.

Consumers Prefer Email Marketing

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.

Holiday Email Do’s and Don’t

Do Use Holiday Names

Use the actual holiday name or another indication about the holiday 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.

Consider the fact that 85% of people signup for emails hoping to receive discounts and coupons, sharing that during the holiday season is a huge selling point. When you’re buying gifts for a long list of people an email that will help you save a few extra dollars will pique your interest. 

Letting people know early on in the email that it applies to the holiday season will help entice them. In this case, subscribers know it’s a holiday email due to the “merry” reference and the emoji usage -- but it also promotes a discount that will help entice them to click further. 

Don’t Use Holiday-Specific Puns 

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

Do Appeal to Emotion

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.  

How could someone pass up an email that invites them to the biggest part of the year? This subject line will at the least pique the subscriber’s interest and they may click through to see what party they are referring to. Playing off of the reader’s emotions, Topgolf will likely have positive results from this email.

Don’t Promote Time Limitations 

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 Make it Personal 

Use personal, direct language. Even if people are shopping for loved ones, it’s still about the email recipient. Marketers agree that personalization improves email metrics. In fact, 82% of marketers have reported that personalization has increased their email open rates

Nay = They’ll love this – Yay = You’ll love this  

Rather than promoting finding the perfect gift for someone else, Overstock presents a coupon as a gift to the reader. It makes it much more personal and lets them decide if that discount is going toward something for themselves, or for someone on their shopping list. Either way, it adds a personal touch to the holiday message.

Don’t Use Imperative Verbs 

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

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). Emojis are a great way to catch someone’s attention as they are scrolling through their inbox and explain the email contents with more than just words. 

This is a great example of how emojis and symbols can help express quickly communicate what the email is talking about. If you quickly scroll past this email, you clearly know it has something to do with winning something due to the trophy and star. When someone is scrolling through their inbox, an unexpected emoji or symbol is sure to catch their eye.

Don’t Go Overboard on Holiday Emojis 

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.

Nail Your Holiday Emails This Year

As holiday sales continue to grow and eCommerce takes a larger portion of those sales, email marketing will be a big topic of discussion. The competition among companies is getting tougher each year, meaning you need to find ways to stand out from the crowd and win over your subscribers.  

With the help from our do’s and don’ts of holiday email marketing, you can crush your goals this year. The better your email marketing, the more conversions you’ll expect to see. And with increased conversion rates, comes an increase in sales. 

The key to a successful holiday marketing campaign is starting early, getting creative, and making a splash by doing something new and exciting for your subscribers. Good luck to all of our digital marketers this holiday season!

This blog post comes from Alison Lyne, Sr. Marketing Manager at Persado. In case you're unfamiliar 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.This blog post comes from Alison Lyne, Sr. Marketing Manager at Persado. In case you're unfamiliar 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.

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