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How much email is TOO much during the holidays?

We get it: The holidays are huge for everyone, from retailers consumed by holiday sales to nonprofits looking to hit their end-of-the-year fundraising goals.

Since you know inboxes will be crowded, your knee-jerk reaction might be to email your subscribers over and over and over with the blind hope that one of them might capture their attention in a sea of party invites, promotions, and festive e-cards from Grandma Betty...right?

It’s time to get real. If you inundate your subscribers with holiday emails, there’s a very good chance you’ll begin to irritate them, losing hard-earned customer loyalty and potentially causing them to unsubscribe from your list – two things no marketer wants.

Thankfully, there are a few simple ways to successfully do holiday email marketing without annoying your subscribers. These are some of my favorite solutions.


1. Watch your analytics

This method is the simplest, but it requires an element of intuition and some time investment on your part. Start with a modest holiday send frequency, then monitor your response results after each send. It might sound a little counterintuitive, but if you see your engagement rates begin to dip, reduce your frequency, and if they stay the same, you can increase your frequency.

The tricky thing about this is that due to the sheer volume of holiday emails your subscribers will receive these next few months, there’s a good chance that your open and click rates will naturally drop off at least a little bit. Be sure to take that seasonal factor into account when evaluating the effect of your send frequency on response rates.


2. Send more targeted messages

I advocate for this approach year-round, but it’s especially important to think about during the holidays. Instead of sending generic holiday promos to your entire audience, identify segments that will be more interested in specific products and offers and send them personalized, relevant messaging. Better yet, set up automated emails to fire off based on their behavior – product browsing history on your website, for instance, or engagement with certain elements of past mailings.

People respond much better to emails that are actually relevant to their needs and interests, so this is an easy way to prevent inbox fatigue and reduce unsubscribes. Plus, triggered emails drive 624 percent higher conversion responses for the same number of sends as compared to “batch and blast” emails (BlueShift).


3. Ask subscribers to opt into holiday emails

It isn’t something I’ve seen a lot of brands do, but I absolutely love this method: Instead of sending every holiday promotion to every person in your email audience, ask your subscribers to raise their hands and let you know if they’d like to receive special holiday deals and offers.

Starting November 1st, women’s retailer Lulus started adding these banners to their regular campaigns:

Not only do words like “exclusive” and “private” make the whole thing sound super valuable, it also allows the brand to easily identify their most engaged subscribers and only send holiday promos to the folks they know want to hear about them. Meanwhile, the rest of their audience can still hear about holiday offers – but only within their normal cadence of mailings.


4. Allow subscribers to opt out of ONLY holiday emails

Last year, Emma customer Canyon Ranch wanted to go big on Cyber Monday, but they also wanted to ensure they didn’t alienate subscribers who weren’t interested in the promos. Their team had a brilliant idea: a mute button that would allow individuals to opt out from just the Cyber Monday emails.

They reached out to Emma’s Services Team to help make the idea a reality, and it was a huge success.

"We wanted to be very transparent that, look, if you don’t want to be bothered by these emails, we don’t want to risk losing you from our entire email ecosystem. So that’s where we came up with the mute button, and it ended up saving us hundreds of subscribers,” said Canyon Ranch’s Josh Surridge.

Plus, the campaign absolutely killed it: Canyon Ranch pulled in a record number (think multimillion-dollar) of sales on Cyber Monday.


The moral of the story? There are ways to run a successful holiday email campaign without being THAT brand that blasts subscribers with overly frequent, irrelevant messaging. Rise above it, guys, and we guarantee you (and your audience) will be happy with the results.