Designing Your Christmas Emails

Yes, it’s that time of year again – time to start planning your email marketing campaigns for Christmas.

But how to go about it? Here I’ve listed the few things that will help you structure a winning Christmas campaign.

When Is The Best Time To Send Christmas Emails?

You may have already seen the odd Christmas email many months before the actual season arrives; maybe as early as July! However, it depends on your industry as to when it’s the best time for you to send out your first Christmas email campaign.

Retail – You tend to see Christmas emails appear around the second week in November, with particular emphasis around the Black Friday and Cyber Monday events later in the month.

Travel and Leisure – Really early, as in just after the last Christmas break. People tend to make plans early on to grab a deal, and if you are going to go away for Christmas you would have made that decision by September.

Charities and Not for Profit – Christmas is the time for giving and the spirit of good will. You’ll receive a surge of donations around the Christmas period, so September is the ideal time to begin your campaign.

Make sure you plan ahead for Christmas and use a promotional calendar to highlight key dates for your business and industry.

Don’t Forget The Last Minute Shoppers

Some people out there like to hang around and wait for a good deal, or they have just been so busy they have left it to the last minute. Shopping for the perfect gift can even be left to as late as December 21st.

To catch these last minute shoppers, you need to make your email as simple and as easy to read as possible. Avoid over the top fancy graphics or gifs in your emails and make sure it’s mobile responsive for these people on the go.

Engage Your Target Audience

Don’t use the same subject lines that everyone else is using

Common culprits are the usual ‘Best Christmas Deals’ or ‘Free Shipping on your Christmas Presents’.

Try playing with words to make your reader actually read your email, rather than skipping it. Personalise it, use your company theme to make it about you!

Have some fun with the call to actions

Rather than just a ‘Buy Now’ or ‘Click Here’ button, how about ‘Put It On The List’ or ‘Add to Santa’s’ Sleigh’?

Don’t forget to fluff up the benefit to the product. You aren’t just selling a product, you’re giving your customer the perfect gift for their loved ones.

Split Test to Measure Performance

Do you actually know what your customers are responding to? Split testing is the best way to figure out what is engaging your customers to optimise your content.

Connect Your Social Media Profiles

Publish a link to your mail-outs on your Social channels. Linking to channels can boost your online presence and promote yourselves more when users are particularly more active over the holiday season.

The Overall Design Of The Email

Branding is always important, but the email needs to be recognisable as a Christmas one. The usual colour palette for the season is warm reds and greens (holly and Christmas trees), but whites and soft blues (snow) are also common.

Use plenty of white space and don’t go too over the top with your graphical elements. Using imagery and animated gifs associated with the holiday season can be a nice distinguishable touch. These include, Santa and his sleigh, Christmas trees, baubles, holly wreaths and such like.

Don’t let changing the design frighten you. It needn’t be a massive overhaul of your current templates.

Remember, you shouldn’t stray too far from your current design, otherwise your customers may not know it’s you.

Don’t Kill The Atmosphere

It’s tempting to just blast your customers with many Christmas deals, but this could become annoying for your subscribers and result in your emails being marked as junk. Read our previous blog for tips on how to avoid the spam folder at one of the most important times of the year.


Inactive Subscribers… What to do about them?

Recently I was approached by a client with a couple of questions… 

‘What percentage of our email database are inactive?’ and ‘How can we re-engage our inactive subscribers?’

You might be surprised to know that on average nearly 70% of a subscriber database is usually classed as ‘inactive’, we can define ‘inactive’ as a subscriber that hasn’t opened or clicked on your email for an extended period of time.

It’s a classic debate within our industry, and from my experience between us ‘the experts’ and the board level. Is it better having higher volumes to send to so we can say how large and glorious ones database is, or can we convince that a small, engaged and reactive subscriber database will perform better. My suggestion to aid in this debate would be, let’s keep the high numbers but let’s find out which subscribers are inactive, and look at how to re-engage this proportion of your database.

In your email marketing platform perform a quick insight report on engagement. You can define and find who your inactive subscribers are very easily (hopefully, otherwise change platform)!

A re-engagement campaign is a good way to try and rekindle that flame with your subscribers and, dare I say it, delete and cull some of the bad subscriber data if need be. Here are some easy steps to follow when considering a reengagement campaign:


Firstly identify who they are and define what inactive means to you.  Whether it is, when a subscriber hasn’t opened an email in the last 10 emails sent or hasn’t opened an email in the last 3 months.  I’d recommend hasn’t opened in the last 90 days as a benchmark.


Next consider how you want to reengage your subscribers. If subscribers haven’t been opening emails then this isn’t going to be easy. You need to give a compelling reason to re-engage with your brand.


There are a many options on how you go about re-engaging these subscribers, a personalised subject line that prompts a reaction is best. Once you gain the open the next mission is to gain a click, ask if they want to be on the list still, let the subscriber know what they are missing, or most commonly give them an incentive.

Say goodbye:

After your re-engagement campaign, you will still see some subscribers are still inactive. At this stage it is time to say goodbye.

Keeping your lists active and engaged, by getting rid of the dead wood you’ll increase results, decrease costs and see improvements in testing.

This process can be timely and for some emotional… to save on performing such campaigns regularly, make sure your welcome program is as robust as possible. Gather as much information as you can when a subscriber is most responsive to you. This will lead to more targeted communication and in turn less inactive subscribers in the long run.


Personalise your email marketing with dynamic content

Most eCommerce operations have dynamic content systems in place, does anyone actually know what to do with them?

Dynamic content is an intelligent way to automate email content and add value to your messages. It’s also a route to drive increases in customer satisfaction and engagement.

Imagine you are a partly engaged customer of an online clothing retailer. Not very difficult to imagine, as most of us already are. You make purchases from this clothing retailer; tops, or trousers, or shorts, or jeggings or flip-flops. For some reason, week on week, without fail, they send you their latest offers on hats. Why? Because they want to sell more hats and you’re on their mailing list.

Imagine if this same online retailer set up a template email which included dynamic content targeted specifically to you. The greeting is universal, the seasonal offer banner in the middle is unchanged but the top right corner shows an image and link to the last product you viewed. How much more valued would you feel when you opened that email?

“I was just looking at that!”
“It’s like they know me…”
“I’d forgotten about that. I really wanted one of those.”

Chances are you would be more likely to look at the email for longer, possibly click on the link to the product you were interested in and look more favourably on future emails.

Even in its simplest form dynamic content can be a great engagement booster.

So, how much are you actually doing with your dynamic content?

Talk with us if you want to do more, drop us a note and we’ll help you out.


Dynamic content: a 10 step plan

It can be a daunting experience when marketers move away from ‘spray and pray’ email marketing, towards a targeted and tailored approach using dynamic content.

However in reality if you come up with a sensible plan it is relatively pain free and easy to deploy. Here are our 10 recommended steps to get you on your way:


Decide what you want to tailor in your emails. At this point don’t concern yourself with what technology limitations you think you might have, really think about what the most relevant content for your customers would be. By thinking about technology you will always limit yourself to what is currently achievable.


Based upon what content you will be tailoring you need to think about what data you require for this. Do you need to request extra data feeds? Is the data in a usable form? How much data do you have and do you need to pursue a data capture exercise?


How many variations of content will there be – a handful or all the way up to several thousand? How often will these different content variations need to get updated? Daily, weekly, monthly or other? This influences whether you can manually build the content each time or if automating the production of this content is the only feasible option.


Where does this variable content come from? Will you need to request this gets produced by your content team? Does it exist already and if so where and in what format?


Once you have worked out where your content is going to come from is it going to need to be automatically turned into ready HTML and text content? If so what rules do you need to ensure that automated process selects the right content so it is as good as a human would select. For example for a client we select the best holidays for each person our tool will only select one holiday offer per country.


What are the rules that need creating to decide who gets what content? Will these stay the same each time? If they stay the same then it is just going to be a case of refreshing content but otherwise you will need an efficient (or automated) means of creating them.


What will the emails look like? You need to have the HTML for each of the variable sections designed and also create the email template with gaps for the variable content. To aid the control of layout it is best to use tables.


Once everything is built the next stage is to test it. GraphicMail provides a preview tool that allows you to scroll through different records to see the different versions.


In order to justify your additional efforts in using dynamic content it is always advisable to use a control group to measure the difference between an old style generic email and a tailored email.


You are never finished with dynamic content as there are always tweaks and tests you can run to move towards an even more tailored version. You may find the first email you send may look completely different to one 3 months later.

This should prompt you to think about all of your considerations of setting up dynamic content.


Are images a bad thing in marketing emails?

There are different schools of thought when it comes to using images in email.

There are many people that think you should minimise the usage.

However these are normally given from a functional and technical point of view. From a marketers point of view we know that images say a thousand words and are aspirational.

So what are the reasons given by people for minimising the use of images? Lets go through them one by one and analyse if they are an issue.

Images give you a spam score

Yes they do but not much of one. As long as your entire email is not image based and you have a reasonable amount of text this should not be an issue. Indeed as deliverability is moving away from content towards reputation filtering this will become less important anyway.

Images get blocked

While images get blocked consumers are savvy enough to display them. Just because images do not get displayed immediately does not advocate not using them as when they are displayed they are more effective than just text.

Images can take a long time to download

We are not living in 1999 anymore, most consumers have broadband connections. It’s true that more people are using mobile but even these connections are reasonable and mobile email clients are generally optimised to make the experience with HTML email smooth. And let’s face it mobile email clients are a tiny fraction of who will read your email anyway.

So we have dampened these negative claims about images but is there anything we should be aware of when using images?

You should still make sure your email is not over-reliant on the images being rendered. There needs to be sufficient text in the email to grab the attention of the recipient and explain what the email contains. Our rule of thumb is text is fine up until you feel you are making compromises by not using images.

If you are still not sure which route to go down, why not send a split test!