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How to plan holiday email marketing campaigns for Ecommerce

Thoughts by Nuno Sancha • Freelancer Freelancer

Holidays are the time when companies usually take up the opportunity to run a promotion through their email list. The problem is that many of those businesses have no clue why and how they will launch that marketing campaign which results in something that, for lack of a better name, I call: placeholder campaigns.

Those campaigns are there just to fill a void because of a fear of missing out on something since everybody else is doing them.

So instead of rushing and doing things just to do them, let's talk about a better way to plan a holiday email marketing campaign. It may not be perfect, but it won't look like you just decided 30 minutes earlier to put an email together, slap a promo code on, and hope to sell something with it.

When we talk about holiday email marketing campaigns, I bet that you automatically thought about emails offering discounts. You can certainly offer discounts to your email list, but that is just one trick you have at your disposal.

You can go one step further and create a whole experience for your customers if you start planning your holiday email marketing campaign earlier. And this is what we are going to discuss in this article.

Strategy for your holiday email marketing campaign

Let's use an example of a training app that I love; Freeletics. They are an app, but they sell training clothes, equipment, nutrition guides, and some exercise guides. Too bad they don't ship to my country.


Let's see how they can use Christmas and New Year to create a full experience for the customer and create a great holiday email marketing campaign.

Without ruling out a discount for the app, we will first use some content and "behavior design" to ease the adoption of a more healthy lifestyle. We all know someone – ourselves included – who has a new year's resolution to eat healthily and get in shape but never follows through.

The reason? We try to do it all at once, and when things get complicated, we quit without enough time to form a habit. And HIIT, as the name suggests, is High Intensity from the start.

To help people to follow through with their resolutions, we could start sending emails in November until the end of December, when we will send an email asking them to commit to a one-year subscription.

And what would be the content of those emails? Glad you asked.

Email Content Examples:

  • Before we ask people to start exercising hard, we will suggest that they start walking around the block for 15 min every day – it is not a big commitment – putting together content with the benefits of 15 min walking and how they can fit those walks into their busy daily calendar.

  • Since the exercise guides are inexpensive PDFs – $1 – we can offer them for free for the beginners and simple daily challenges (1 pull-up today, two pull-ups tomorrow etc).

Freeletics Essentials

  • Helpful content about comfortable exercising clothes and shoes, how to choose them, and introducing a few models from their online shop.

  • Videos with stories about regular people that took on the challenge to improve themselves and succeeded – are great for social proof.

  • Recipes of healthy food you can eat during that month, so you don't feel guilty about the inevitable Christmas and New Year's calorie over indulgence.

  • Use the advantages of having an app to make people subscribe to a free program, where they will receive a notification that will remind them to go for a walk and keep their achievements so you can show their progress by the end of the campaign.

  • For those that are already using the app and want a close friend or a family member to join them in their training, we could send them emails with a beginners bundle that includes some guides, a subscription, and some equipment in a bundle that they can offer as a Christmas gift.

Freeletics Essentials 2

When to start sending the emails?

As I said in the last section, we could start in November; it may seem too soon, but habits take time to form, and we need people to get comfortable with the new lifestyle they aspire to achieve.

Sooner than November, let's October or September, will seem too early because people are not that great at estimating time; they will think: oh, I have plenty of time for that, so no worries.

Later than that, we might have the same situation as last year – a resolution without action. People may purchase from you with a discount and then shovel your brand into oblivion.

How many emails should I send?

These emails aim to heat things up and let your subscribers know something special is coming. There is no point in sending only one or two emails and then hoping that they will remember that your brand might be doing a promotion on holidays.

Sending one email per week is a great starting point. After that, you can experiment with increasing the frequency, but don't overdo it. The last thing you want is to annoy people and lead them to unsubscribe from your list.

You can look for benchmarks online to see the frequency of emails from brands that operate in the same niche as yours. Tools like Mailcharts – no affiliation – help you do exactly that; take a peek at what other brands have been doing on the email field, holiday email marketing campaigns included.

Holiday Marketing Calender

Should you give a discount?

Why not? Don't make it a habit because people will start waiting for discounts to buy from you. But if you do it once in a while, there is no harm in offering a deal for first-timers, especially on holidays.

Using the Freeletics App as an example, when you show people how much they have accomplished – even without realizing it – we create a sense of commitment; this will be the perfect time to present them with a discount coupon for six months or a year subscription.

Those who did the challenge now know that they can keep exercising; at the least, they are more receptive to it compared to someone who only receives a discount coupon and is asked to take action.

Getting inspiration

Every time I ask marketers that are more experienced than me how they come up with content ideas for their emails, blog posts, and social media posts, the answer is always the same. So it must be the truth.

They tell me that you won't be able to have great ideas just sitting there and hoping that your brain will come up with them; you have to be exposed to a lot of ideas where you can draw some inspiration – mix them up, and let them spark something inside of your brain.

You can look at what competitors have done in the past, and what they are doing in the present, and take some inspiration there. You have the same audience, so you might pick up a few things that can work for you.

The problem with looking inside your industry is that you will always stay inside the box. So another way to get inspiration for your email campaigns is to look outside your niche, outside your industry – you are in ecommerce? Look for inspiration in sectors like: movies, music, and real estate – it may seem crazy, but you will find something that works for you, and even better, it will be original on ecommerce.

You can go to places like Really Good Emails:

Really Good Emails

And Mailcharts:


These websites will help you find the inspiration you need, and help you spark your originality when you need to create a holiday email marketing campaign.