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3 Email Tips to Help Retailers Get Ahead of the Holiday Game

Posted on Sep 21, 2015

By: Christopher Lester - Multi-Channel Merchant

For retailers, the next three months have the power to make or break your entire year: 40% of annual retail sales are concentrated in the holiday season. And this year is poised to be more impactful than ever. Ecommerce sales during November and December are projected to hit a whopping $82 billion this year – that’s a 14% increase over 2014.

This is great news for retailers, but with all that opportunity comes a bunch challenges. As the season becomes a bigger and bigger piece of the revenue pie, consumers are hit with more and more holiday messaging. The risk is especially high when it comes to email communications. Inbox competition is heaviest during the holiday season, so you have to pull out all the stops – and start strategizing now – if you want to get noticed by your recipients.

This year, start your holiday planning before the first leaf fall. Here are three tips that will help you craft emails that sell more stuff as the warm-and-fuzzy holiday spirit begins to fill the air.

Grab attention with a great subject line.

There is no formula for the perfect subject line. (Trust me: We’ve checked.) But here are a few rules of thumb:

Make it short and sweet. Here are a few numbers to keep in mind. The first is 32 – the number of characters iPhones allow in subject lines before they get cut off. Another important number is 50: Exceeding 50 characters can sometimes lead to your email ending up in the dreaded spam folder. If you have more to say, plan to continue your thought in the pre-header text.


Be clear, but compelling. This time of year, busy subscribers are only scanning their inboxes, so don’t get too clever with your subject line. You run the risk of them missing the joke – and missing out on your message altogether. Provide a clear and specific preview of the content they can expect to see when they open. Use the subject line to tease the content so that your audience can’t resist clicking and opening.


Make it personal. Do everything you can to make your subject line feel personal and capture attention.The Frye Company, for example, often includes the recipient’s first name in its subject lines – a smart choice, since personalized subject lines are 22% more likely to be opened.

Get more engagement with mobile-optimized content.

For many of today’s consumers, smartphones are practically an appendage. Eighty percent of 18-24 year olds bring their phone to bed every night. Seventy-five percent of Americans fess up to using mobile phones while using the bathroom. And 12% even use their smartphones in the shower.

With those stats in mind, it’s not surprising that 53% of all email is opened on a mobile device. So it’s incredibly important – especially during the holidays, when more people are traveling and running around from store to store to complete their shopping – to make sure your emails are mobile-optimized and look just as good on a small screen as they do on a large one.

Start with a responsive template. It does a lot of the work for you to make sure you maintain a consistent (and great-looking) brand image while still catering to individuals on all devices.

Don’t be afraid to embrace the scroll. During the holidays, everybody’s time is at a premium. So, while you want to cut to the chase in your messaging, it’s ok to include more content so long as it’s easy to scroll through and scan. In general, people love to scroll on their phones and even expect that kind of interaction within their emails.

Attach value to your communications. Consider incorporating a mobile coupon in your emails that can be redeemed either in-store or online. It gives your customers options and makes redeeming the coupon easy – which is probably why mobile coupons are used 10 times as often as traditional ones.

Create emails that demand their attention – and their clicks.

Here’s a scary-but-true fact: 80 percent of your audience is only scanning your emails. So, don’t rely on old-school, text-heavy emails to tell your story. Instead, use visual tactics to grab recipients’ attention and get holiday sales.

Use eye-catching imagery. People love pictures of other people – especially pictures of human faces. And studies have shown that, subconsciously, we’ll follow the gaze of people that we see, so choose an image of someone looking directly at your CTA.

Use color to motivate action. Brain science has taught us that certain colors can actually create specific emotions in consumers. For example, both of the major “seasonal colors” can actually be leveraged to prime the sales pump, so to speak. Try using red or green for your email call-to-action button. Red increases energy and creates a sense of urgency. And the fact that our brains are hardwired to know that “green means go” can be helpful when it comes to getting clicks, too!

The big takeaway when it comes to holiday emails? Simple is better. People will be bombarded with communications from now until the first of the year, so making it easy on them will help you capture their attention over your competitors. Follow these tips (and check out our other Emma Resources for Retailers) to serve them the kind of content that will create more sales from now until well after the confetti has fallen in Times Square.

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