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March 5, 2015

Email Marketing Takeaways from the 2014 Holiday Season

Image courtesy of (Stuart Miles)/

2015 is well underway and the holiday season seems pretty far away. However, now’s a great time to look back on what worked during 2014 and to consider what you can start putting into place for this year. Before you know it, we’ll be back into the swing of the holiday season, so it doesn’t hurt to be prepared.

Why It Matters

With the massive growth of social media networks and new marketing forms, some brands fail to see the importance of email marketing. While it’s a traditional method, it’s just as important as ever. Email accounts are linked to smartphones and other devices; this means your customers are able to check out what you have to say via email at any place and any time.

This doesn’t mean that every email you sent will be well received. In fact according to a recent, large-scale study, on average, 122 billion emails are sent on a daily basis; 71% of those emails are considered spam.

Understanding that, what is a brand to do? How can one brand distinguish itself from the thousands of other emails being received every day? Look back at 2014’s holiday season for the answer.

Get Personal and Have Fun

There’s a reason greeting cards and holiday cards are so well received: they are personal reminders that someone out there is thinking about you, not about selling a product, not about what’s in it for them, just about you.

Brands who remembered this principal and sent out personalized “thank you” messages that demonstrated appreciation for customers made a splash. Showing a little gratitude can go a long way. Inject a little personality and humor like Hatched. London did with their email marketing image for an added touch.


Allow Recipients to Get in on the Fun

When an email marketing campaign is interactive, it allows the recipient to become a part of the message. Users who are able to take action as opposed to simply reading a text-based message are more likely to be interested. We all know that being able to participate can be fun.

Ways to bring this to life in your holiday – or any other email marketing – campaign, include:

  • Adding a survey or questionnaire to your messages.
  • Incorporating a game of some sort that gets readers in on the action.
  • Allowing social media sharing and commenting from inside the message itself.
  • Any other idea you think of that allows readers to participate.

One brand that has been making a splash with this concept for the last decade, 2014 included, is OfficeMax who recently merged with OfficeDepot. Their “Elf Yourself” email marketing campaign has become its own website, allowing readers to insert personal images of family and friends into hilarious elf dancing videos which can then be shared across social networks.


Share a New App

Have a great new tool or feature that you’ve been keeping under wraps or that’s still in the development phase? There’s no better time than the holiday season to use email marketing to share it with the world.

Customers on your email list are there because they believe in your brand and in what you’re doing. They want to be rewarded: why not give them the first look at what you’ve been working on? Consider it a Christmas gift that’s sent via email.

It’s no secret that 2014 was tough for mega-retailer Macy’s. To make an impact in the fourth quarter of 2014, they knew they had to do something different. To make it happen, they launched an app. The first U.S. retailer to use technology of this kind, the app allowed users to find new looks by taking photos of outfits and uploading them to the app. By marketing this via email during the holiday season, Macy’s gave shoppers a reason to come back.


Share Coupons and Promotions

Coupons can be shared anywhere – on websites, social networks and elsewhere – why rely on email marketing? The answer is easy: because it works.

As previously mentioned, customers want to feel like they’re rewarded for loyalty. When they feel it, they’ll return. During the holiday season, retailers and brands come out in full force. Email marketing rates increase. This means that your customers will be bombarded from all sides with sales announcements, reminders, thank you messages and anything else.

To stand out, why not offer a coupon or promotion? They’ve been proven effective. In fact, during the 2014 holiday season, 74% of shoppers claimed to have been influenced by coupons and online promotions.

Host a Contest or Sweepstakes

Why not garner a little attention while giving away something great in the meantime? Customers are likely to jump at the opportunity to win something – from giftcards to getaways. At the same time, putting a small part of your marketing budget aside for a prize – which can be marketed via email and social media for free – is likely to pay off in the long run.

Ideas for contests include:

  • Simple giveaways that are marketed and entered via email.
  • Social media contests with awareness raised through email marketing.
  • Giveaways based on online purchases.

Whichever route you choose, make sure your rules and regulations are clear and that all deadlines are set in advance. The less complicated the contest, the better the results will be.

Brands in all industries utilized this tactic, like’s thegoodstuff, which offered readers a chance at three $100 prizes and one $500 grand prize with simple rules for entry. By promoting contests through email marketing, you’re giving recipients a reason to open your message and getting some extra attention in the meantime.


2014’s holiday season delivered many successful branded email marketing campaigns. Pay attention to the takeaways listed above and start planning for 2015 today.


Adrienne Erin writes weekly for SiteProNews about online marketing strategies that help businesses succeed. Follow @adrienneerin on Twitter to get in touch, or visit Design Roast to see more of her work.