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Essential Holiday Trends and Statistics Every Email Marketer Needs to Know

The holiday season is a critical make-or-break point for brands in a variety of industries; especially retail, CPG, ecommerce and similar verticals. In most retail sectors, the holiday season drives over 20% of annual spending. It’s a huge opportunity to build your brand, develop customer relationships, and drive revenue. 

Email’s role in holiday marketing and communications can not be overstated. That’s why we’re creating the ultimate resource for holiday retail email marketing: a guide and reference to inspire and craft your holiday email campaign from beginning to end.


Get it now: 9 Solutions (With Real-Life Examples!) to Retailers’ Biggest Holiday Email Headaches


One of the best ways to inform a strategy for the future is to take lessons from the recent past. Last year’s holiday season provides marketers a bounty of valuable results and lessons to bring your customers—and your brand—happy holidays this year.

The Big Picture

It’s no secret the holiday season is a huge opportunity to make an impact on your bottom line. But just how important is it really? 

Here’s some context from last year.

In 2018, holiday retail sales finally crossed the $1 trillion mark. Yes, trillion with a T: one million millions. That’s a mind-boggling amount of potential revenue, and competition has never been higher to get a slice of the pie.

To bring that figure down to scale, the average American shopper spent $846 on gifts in 2018a substantial 14% increase YoY,

There are several factors driving this growth. One of the largest (and perhaps most significant for email marketers) is ecommerce: US retail ecommerce spending hit $123.73 billion last holiday season (up 16.6% YoY).

In total, about 65% of holiday purchases are influenced by sales and promotions. As one of the most direct, personal, and flexible channels in the marketing toolkit, email a critical way to deliver the right sales and promotional content at just the right time before, during, and after the holidays.

Holiday Email Trends and Strategy

Unsurprisingly, email is consistently a top performer for holiday marketing.

Email was the third-highest 2018 Cyber Monday revenue driver, contributing 24.2% of sales. It was just behind direct website traffic (25.3%) and paid search (25.1%). Email led the pack in conversion rate by referral source in 2017 and 2018 for BFCM (over direct visits, organic search, and social).

Subject line optimization remains a key part of any email strategy. The top 5 subject line terms for holiday emails with the highest open and click rates are:

    • “Free”: 23.7% open rate and 4.7% click rate
    • “Holiday”: 23.6% open rate and 3.2% click rate
    • “Black Friday”: 22.1% open rate and 4.5% click rate
    • “Sale”: 21.3% open rate and 4.7% click rate
    • “Cyber Monday”: 20.7% open rate and 3.8% click rate

The window for holiday shopping is opening earlier and earlier in the year, presenting a unique opportunity to email marketers who are able to get their strategy in place on time.

40% of consumers started their holiday shopping by November 1 last year. 12% started before September. Compared to later in the season, competition to reach these audiences through the inbox is relatively low. It’s the perfect time to get a head start on your holiday numbers and to begin earning your subscribers’ attention and loyalty.

BFCM Email Statistics

The Black Friday/Cyber Monday period is a crucial point for most retailers, and email is capable of tipping the scales during the peak of holiday shopping. Retailers sent over 3.5 billion emails on Black Friday, and another 4.1 billion on Cyber Monday in 2018 

Over 50% of shoppers during the Thanksgiving period believe the best deals of the holiday season are on Black Friday, so make sure your email campaigns are ready to deliver your customers what they expect.

In 2018, Cyber Monday generated $7.9 billion in online sales—the biggest online sales day in US ecommerce history. 

54% of shoppers went both online and in-store over Thanksgiving weekend. These tend to be the most valuable customers of all; email programs that serve customers online and in-person work best.

On the Move: Holiday Mobile Marketing

It’s impossible to consider a strong email or ecommerce strategy without factoring in mobile behavior and experiences.

Mobile’s share of total digital commerce reached 40% on Thanksgiving 2018, which was the ‘most-mobile’ of the three big BFCM days. An impressive 28% of Cyber Monday sales were also via smartphones.

2 in 3 shoppers over Thanksgiving weekend turned to their mobile devices to research products and make purchases. When they open their phones this year to do the same, you would do well to have a helpful email awaiting them.

Last year mobile shopping also came with a huge missed opportunity. Studies show that shopping cart abandonment on smartphones is as high as 85%. Meanwhile, only 1 in 3 major US retailers sends emails to shopping cart abandoners. Consider setting up some special email workflows for your cart abandoners this holiday season.

Make Your 2019 Holiday Email Campaigns the Best Yet

Innovative brands have the potential to make 2019 a banner year for driving email ROI and connecting with holiday shoppers. Find out how top email marketers are already hacking the holidays in our exclusive lookbook complete with real examples that delivered impressive results. Download it now!