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Planning Holiday Email Marketing

When Is the Right Time to Start Planning for Holiday Email Marketing?

The right time to start your holiday email marketing isn’t determined by the official calendar. It’s the target audience that determines it. ...

“It’s almost July! Is it too early to start planning?” 

“But how early is too early? Or early enough?” 

“Could starting in July be premature and lead to subscriber fatigue by November?” 

“Should the email cadence change closer to the holidays? What should the cadence look like now?”

“What’s the best time to send the first teaser?”

The months leading up to the holidays can, in a sense, be more challenging than the season itself. You may be asking the right questions, but you’re also procrastinating. 

And if you’re a brand whose existence depends on performance during peak seasons, the pressure is even greater. A significant portion of our clients come from the retail sector, and we have seen the anxiety on their faces at this time of year.

This blog post is here to help you with all your pre-holiday worries. We will discuss the timing of holiday email marketing from various perspectives and provide you with helpful tips to get started on time. Let’s do this! 

Understanding the Holiday Email Marketing Timeline

Officially, the holiday season spans from late October to early January. But people usually start shopping around early October. 

Last year, 40% of US consumers had started their holiday shopping in October. But more significantly, the average weekly search volume for deal-related keywords shot up by 50% in September last year compared to the search volume during the same month in 2022. 

Still more significantly, since June 2023, product review and comparison-related searches have “aligned with” deal-related searches. 

So from late November to June – the timeline has extended quite far back before our eyes. The takeaway? As far as marketing is concerned, it is always the consumers who determine the holiday timeline, not the official calendar.

In one of her older LinkedIn posts, brand builder Tracey Rossignol distills the point quite perfectly when she says, “Retailers seem so focused on getting a head start on promoting an upcoming seasonal event, they seem to be forgetting their customer. When does a customer actually want to shop for that type of item? It is the chicken or the egg debate. Does the customer shop for that item because you are promoting it or because it is a natural time for them to purchase it?”

But that’s generally speaking. The timeline will vary from industry to industry. 

Whereas the food and beverage industry can start their holiday campaigns around early August, the travel industry can’t wait till then. It’s one thing to book a table at a nearby restaurant and quite another to schedule a holiday trip. The latter requires weeks, if not months, of advance planning. 

Let’s unpack this in more detail. 

Read More: Email Design Trends To Make Your Holiday Emails More Impactful

Different Industries, Different Timelines

It’s critical to realize that the timeline for holiday email marketing varies considerably across industries. Realizing it: 

  • Leads to timely, targeted messaging
  • Maximizes sales opportunities
  • Cuts out the noise generated by generic holiday promotions, and
  • Improves customer engagement 

Take a look at the following holiday email marketing timeline by industry. 

 holiday email marketing timeline by industry.

But it’s equally important to realize that “industry type” is still a surface criterion, albeit a necessary starting point. There are other criteria as well. 

For instance, consider the fashion industry. Typically, early-to-mid August is a good time to start. As the holiday season spans from fall to winter, people look for clothing suitable for cooler weather, such as sweaters, jackets, cardigans, scarves, etc. 

However, the problem is that meteorological seasons and fashion seasons do not align. The fashion calendar operates ahead of the holiday calendar, so while brands have their stock ready months in advance, consumers are not likely to purchase winter clothing until temperatures start dipping. 

Consumer behavior is another important criterion, as we’ve already stated. Now, if you’re a seasonal business, cash flow is arguably your biggest challenge. 

“There is a considerable disconnect,” says Tim Andrews, president of the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum (TVRM), “on the revenue side between sales and when the revenue is earned. We sometimes sell tickets up to six months in advance but ‘earn’ the event revenue when it occurs.”

You can minimize the “disconnect” by establishing an email cadence that is aligned with consumer behavior. 

But again, the behavioral patterns vary from person to person. Next step? Segmenting subscribers by behavior. 

Learn more about how to segment for the holidays in our detailed infographic.

Different Consumers, Different Timelines

Richard Manso, Senior Director, Global Ads Marketing at Google, has identified four types of holiday shoppers:

  1. Deliberate shoppers
  2. Deal-seeking shoppers
  3. Determined shoppers
  4. Devoted shoppers

Let’s understand each of them in detail. 

1. Deliberate Shoppers

According to Manso, a deliberate shopper is someone who plans early, does a lot of pre-purchase research, and resists impulse-buying no matter what. 

The deliberate shopper is intentional. Consider warming up the “deliberate” segment from July. Share informational content such as comparison articles, product guides, and customer testimonials. Create trust, be super-clear in your pricing and shipping details, differentiate your brand. 

2. Deal-seeking Shoppers

Deal-seeking is no longer associated with the peak deal period from Black Friday to Cyber Monday. The deal-seeking shopper is usually active throughout October and November. These shoppers are showing a growing trend of purchasing earlier, buying additional items, and prolonging their shopping period beyond Cyber 5.

The deal-seeker is not necessarily impulsive. So avoid trying the “last-minute deals hack” on this segment. Instead, capitalize on gift-giving guides. 

“In our research,” Manso reveals, “we found that shoppers care more about finding a perfect or thoughtful gift for a family member or close friend than they do about finding the best deal.” Accordingly, avoid traditional discounts, and focus on helping your subscribers find the right gifts. 

3. Determined Shoppers

The determined shopper shows up in the first week of December. These shoppers want to get their shopping done ahead of the holidays. So they want to exhaust all their resources, both online and offline. 

This is the best time to use email to drive omnichannel performance. For instance, you can include QR codes in emails that unlock early sales opportunities in brick and mortar stores. You can also leverage last-minute deals and offer in-store pickup benefits such as gift wrapping and express checkout. 

The determined shopper still has most of their shopping to do. After Cyber 5, they are more open to different brands as they are now shopping for others, not themselves. Consequently, they are exploring a wider range of brands. Consider partnering with a brand in your niche in order to cross-promote your products.

4. Devoted Shoppers 

The devoted shopper emerges in January, scouting deals chiefly for self-gifting. As Manson notes, “Self-gifting accounted for 57% of holiday shopping occasions between December 26 and January 4 last year [2022].” 

Consider sending Thank You/appreciation emails to shoppers. Other options include post-holiday deals, product replenishment and refills, review and feedback requests, loyalty programs, reward updates, etc. Significantly, this is the perfect moment to enhance your brand value, especially considering that 47% of shoppers say that the post-holiday period provides them with an opportunity to make purchases from the brands they love. 

Take a look at the following holiday email marketing timeline by shopper type.

 holiday email marketing timeline by shopper type.

Tips to Choose the Right Time for Holiday Email Marketing

Here are five tips to help you choose the right time for planning holiday email marketing: 

  1. Analyze past performance: Review your email marketing data over the previous three years. Identify what worked well and when the first emails were sent
  2. Keep tabs on industry benchmarks: Identify the peak season of your industry, then start planning at least two months prior
  3. Determine product relevance: Have a good read on product seasonality. Find out which holidays align best with your products
  4. Segment your audience: Segment your subscribers demographically and psychographically. Pay special attention to new subscribers
  5. Set realistic goals: Determine your holiday campaign goals (“sales” is too vague), then work backward. 

Dive deeper into the nitty gritty of holiday email marketing

Get Ready for Holiday Email Marketing with Us! 

Looking for a reliable email marketing team to execute business-driving holiday email marketing? We can be your full-time campaign execution partner. Our team has 150+ email experts handling template production and email operations. Get in touch with our email marketing team and launch your holiday campaign on time.

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    A realist at heart and an idealist at head, Susmit is a content writer at Email Uplers. He has been in the digital marketing industry for half a decade. When not writing, he can be seen squinting at his Kindle, awestruck.

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