happy holidays hero

A Very Merry [something] to You!

We live in a politically correct world where people can be easily offended, so simply wishing subscribers a Happy Holiday can be a tricky thing. Because Christmas and Hanukkah are religious holidays, you don’t want to exclude anyone or step on any toes. Here are a few ways retailers messaged their subscribers this year, ranging from the daring to the all inclusive and a little vague.

1. Retailers That Went For It

I was surprised to see a few retailers going with the Merry Christmas message this year. I personally only recommend going this route if your company is clearly marketed toward a specific religious group (ie: The Christian Book Store). I wouldn’t want to offend and potentially lose a customer.

From: Michaels
Date: 12/24/16
Subject Line: We Wish You a Merry Christmas!
See it animated

Michaels

There’s no doubt which holiday Michaels was backing this year. Their headline spells out in all caps and dancing letters, “MERRY CHRISTMAS.” It is colorful, festive and attention grabbing. One nice thing about singling out a holiday is you don’t have to worry about choosing imagery that caters to everyone (for example snowflakes over Santa). They went a bit generic though with gold glitter stars throughout the email –glitter seems to be a common trend among holiday emails of all types this year.

From: Christopher & Banks | CJ Banks
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: Wishing You A Merry Christmas From All Of Us!

Christopher and Banks

Christopher & Banks also wishes a Merry Christmas in both the subject line and headline. They chose a nice photograph of a wreath hanging on a front door to fill the design. The copy is heart-felt and personal, coming from the President & CEO. I always enjoy receiving these types of communications (personal letters). It’s a nice reminder that there are real people behind the company that appreciate my business.

2. Did We Cover Everyone?

These emails did their best to incorporate multiple December religious holidays. This method can be fun and a little comical with original holiday phrases. It also shows your desire to bring everyone together.

From: Cupcake Polish
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: Merry Christmahanakwanzika! Celebrate with a FLASH SALE! ❤💚💙

Cupcake Polish

Cupcake Polish invented the word “Christmahanakwanzika” in their subject line. Their email went on to read: “Merry Christmas! Happy Hanukkah! Happy Kwanzaa! Happy New Year! We hope you are having a great day no matter what you celebrate!” I like how all encompasing it is with a bit of humor. The email design is a little lack-luster, but they did included a graphic “word cube” that includes all the holidays with some graphics.

From: Madam Glam
Date: 12/24/16
Subject Line: Merry Chrismukkah ! 🎉

Madam Glam

Madam Glam started with a similar approach, using the subject line and headline Merry Chrismukkah, but the copy leans a bit more Christmas (mentioning Santa). The graphic they chose could be viewed as generally winter themed — a tree made of glittery gold hearts, surrounded by falling snow. Overall, not a bad email, but make sure to stick with the plan from beginning to end.

From: Gap
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: May your day be merry and bright

Gap

Gap started out with a vague subject line (May your day be merry and bright), but got more specific within the email. They laid it out plain and simple: Merry Christmas and Happy Hanukkah from our family to yours. The imagery is winter-clad models sporting cozy hats, coats and scarves. Glittery titles and background add to the generic but wintery design.

3. Happy … December?

And finally these retailers took the safe approach by sending well-wishes in a general way. It’s honestly the safest approach. It’s a way to say, hey, we care about you and want you to be happy, whatever you’re celebrating. There were plenty that used the well-known “Happy Holidays,” so here are a few that used an alternative method.

From: Tiny Prints
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: ❄ A Special Season’s Greeting for You
See it animated

Tiny Prints

Tiny prints decided to go with the headline “Merry Everything.” Since this choice of words doesn’t call out any holidays specifically, I’m going to place this under the slightly vague category. It is all encompassing, but a little noncommittal. It’s not a bad option, but I did find it a little funny to read, thinking, “Wow, they really weren’t sure what to say here.” It is, however, one of my favorite designs with texture, depth, color and even a subtle animation.

From: Neiman Marcus
Date: 12/25/16
Subject Line: Merry Christmas + a treat for you!
See it animated

Neiman Marcus    Neiman Marcus wink gif

Although the subject line is clearly Christmas, the email itself is more general holiday. The headline reads “May Your Day Be Merry & Bright!” The design, while colorful and creative, got the creepiest award in my book. The good: a model with a winter hat surrounded by doodles of snowflakes, doves and swirly patterns. I could even be okay with the strange choice to doodle a mustache on her, but … The creepy: they add an animation of her winking in a really weird and unnatural way. The right eye doesn’t squint as it should in a normal situation. It’s just a little unsettling.

From: Serena & Lily
Date: 12/24/16
Subject Line: Brightest holiday wishes.
See it animated

Serena and Lily

Serena & Lily went with a broad headline, “Wishing you a bright holiday.” They created their own unique graphic of a snowflake containing drawings of home furnishings. They also animate a little sparkle. I have to say, it is quite unique, but the design lacks a bit of flow and color.

One Final Observation:

As far as these day-of holiday emails go, I prefer it when the message is solely focused on well-wishes. It shouldn’t look like a last-minute inclusion tacked onto the top of a product/sale message. It makes the message a little less personal, not to mention that not many people will be shopping on the day of the holiday they’re celebrating. However, I don’t mind the addition of a link to send a virtual gift card. That’s an easy last-minute gift that doesn’t involve shipping or leaving the home.

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UncommonGoods

Uncommonly Good

During the holiday season, one thing retailers can count on is customer unpredictability. Shoppers are no longer buying for themselves, but for everyone else. No amount of data collected over the year can anticipate what type of product your customer’s Aunt Margret will want. One strategy to overcoming this obstacle is sending a “shop by person” email. Rather than focusing on the product, these emails aid in narrowing the search by focusing on the TYPE of person you are shopping for. It’s easy for this genre of email to fall short on originality and interest. However, UncommonGoods delivered two outstanding examples this season. The designs are festive and fun. The categories are specific, cover a variety of personalities, and are (surprisingly) original/varied between the two emails.

From: UncommonGoods
Date: 12/19/15
Subject Line: But Actually, This is the Cutest

Uncommonly Good Hero

This email does such a great job of capturing the feeling of a classic claymation movie. The email scene is set with paper clouds dangling from strings, carefully chosen fonts and a little world of objects and characters made entirely of clay. Even the star atop the tree twinkles in an animated gif. The setting fills the email, tying everything together. The categories themselves are circles of varied size and placement, creating flow and interest. The addition of colored drop-shadows adds dimension. They even include a link to a video, bringing the characters to life with music. Just in case the previous category options didn’t cover everything, they finish the email with a few general gift ideas, an option to shop by price, and a link to sale items.

From: UncommonGoods
Date: 12/16/15
Subject Line: Your List Comes Alive!

UncommonGoods

The headline of this one grabbed my attention right away. The quickly recognizable lyrics instantly put the song in your head as you read them. I like that it’s a lyric not often seen used (like fa la la la la for example). The design is made up of hand-drawings of the “person of interest” in a holiday setting. Everything flows well, again breaking away from the grid. The placement of the text, how one image interacts with another, and the use of pointing cues all contribute to the movement. Again, they finish the email with additional options by including links to general products and new arrivals.

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J Crew Timer Hero

Real Time Countdown AWESOMENESS!

From: J. Crew
Date: 10/12/15
Subject Line: Get a piece of this sale event, now with free shipping (hurry, ends today)

J Crew Timer

J Crew

Wow, check this out. J. Crew had a one day sale. Instead of blasting reminders throughout the day, they included a timer that counted down to the end of the sale… in real time! It conveyed urgency and allowed people to check back throughout the day to see how much time remained in the sale. As you may be aware, this timer is not easy to pull off. Animated gifs can’t keep real time and complex code can’t be used in emails. So how did they do it? We speculate that this timer was made possible through a company called Moveable Ink. They use a server to generate an image on-the-fly based on the time and date the user loads the image. Genius. It’s not free, but the company provides some really awesome services that wouldn’t be possible otherwise.

Rather than counting down to the end of a sale, this technique would work great for counting down to the START of a Black Friday or Christmas sale (when discounts are large, sales end quickly and your email needs to stand out)! Last year I saw a few companies offering exclusive first dibs on sales for email subscribers, prime members, card holders or high status spenders. The timer could be used to count down the amount of time the sale remains exclusive to those members. And don’t forget countdowns to shipping cut offs as well!

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