The holidays are fast approaching, and if you’re like most marketers, you’ve already put a lot of thought into your holiday planning.

But what are you doing with your email program today to prepare for the holidays? 

The holiday season can represent as much as 30% of annual sales, which means it’s essential to gather insights backed by data from pre-holiday email testing that can maximize your performance.

Here are six holiday email testing recommendations to set your program up for a successful holiday season.

blenders email animation

Why Test Holiday Emails?


Testing is a simple and effective way to optimize your email marketing program.

With a couple of months left until the holidays are upon us, there’s plenty of time to execute some A/B tests that can make a significant impact to your KPIs.

Optimizing your program now will allow you to reap the benefits of increased site traffic and consumer spending in November and December.

Pro tip: Avoid multi-variant testing. Start with one A/B test at a time, and run the test over multiple campaigns to normalize against external noise and produce results with confident takeaways. Utilizing an A/B testing calculator will help you determine whether or not your results are statistically significant. 


1. Test Email Overlays


Take advantage of the increased holiday traffic and optimize your overlay to ensure you’re maximizing your acquisition efforts.


holiday email testing overlays

Source: Get It Right


Make sure you’re offering the right incentive, with the right messaging, at the right time. To gather insights into acquiring the most sign-ups, try testing the following:

  • Messaging – Test the copy you’re using to acquire sign-ups, such as the headline, the length of the copy, or the benefits of signing up. You could explore posing a question (Do you want 15% off?) versus a statement (Sign up to save 15% off), or refer to the sign up as “becoming an insider” versus joining a list. 


  • Incentive – Adding an incentive to sign up for an email program is highly effective, so make sure you test the type and depth of your discount to determine which incentive will maximize your sign-ups.


  • Timing Test triggering the overlay immediately versus waiting 10 or 20 seconds, or test waiting until visitors have browsed a certain number of pages.


  • Creative  Test different creative styles, like incorporating product or lifestyle images versus a more simple design. You could even take a completely different approach and test a standard lightbox against a spin-to-win creative.


If you want to learn more about overlays and popups, check out Onsite Pop-Ups for Email Capture and Beyond.


2. Test Email Send Time


A question that gets asked time and time again is, “When is the best time to send?”

In truth, there is no right answer here, as it depends on your: 

  • Company
  • Client base
  • The day of the week
  • …and so much more

“There’s no one-size-fits-all strategy for email timing, so you’ll need to test into the right approach for your audience and vertical.”

-Mandi Moshay, Associate Director, CRM & Email at Tinuiti

So how do you figure out the best time for your brand? You test!


email holiday send time testing

Source: Klaviyo


Start with a general time frame, like afternoon vs. morning.

Once you’ve figured out the general time of day, you can start narrowing down even further. 

Depending on your ESPs functionality, you may be able to utilize a send time optimizer. This would give you the ability to land subscribers at a set time locally, allowing you to test and optimize even further.

This is a very simple and highly effective way to ensure you’re landing in inboxes at the time your audience is most likely to convert.


3. Test Your Subject Lines


What good is an email if you can’t get subscribers to open it?

This is even truer during the holidays when subscribers are flooded with emails.

So make sure you have a solid understanding of what your customer base responds to, and what gets them to open. 

“Competition in the inbox is fierce, so if your subject lines lack excitement, urgency, or clear calls to action they’re likely to be ignored. A/B testing your subject lines is a quick and easy way to glean actionable insights.”

-Mandi Moshay, Associate Director, CRM & Email at Tinuiti


Revealing the content or mystery and intrigue?

Do you get more opens by being straightforward with your subscribers, always revealing email content? Do you give the offer upfront, or intice an open to reveal? Knowing the answer to this is key before Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

A subject line that asks a question or one that is phrased as a statement?

Questions make people think about an answer, and people want to know the answer. And alas, one must open the email to get the answer. Does this work for your subscriber base? 

Personalizing with the subscriber’s name, or not?

Adding the subscriber’s name in a subject line gives instant personalization and a seemingly 1 on 1 interaction. Does this increase your open rate? 

Using an emoji, or not?

Simple, easy to implement and potentially effective. Will using a clock emoji in the subject line spark a sense of urgency or muddle the message?

The bottom line is always conversions, so don’t make a conclusion off open rate alone.

A strong subject line has the power to increase purchase intent, so take a look at open rates alongside clicks, conversions, and revenue before making any strategy-altering decisions.


4. Test Product Content in Incentive Emails


With endless opportunities for content testing,  focus on something that will undoubtedly make an impact on your conversion rates: your holiday products and offers.

Nail down what product content increases your conversion now so that you can ensure the maximum return from your holiday emails.



Whether or not to include product, and what product to include is not something you want to guess on when it comes to your Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns.

Here are some product offerings to test:

  • Products versus No Products Sometimes in an email, less is more. But sometimes more IS better, as it increases CTR. But how much more? And when do you draw the line on the number of featured products? Test and find out!


  • Categories versus Products – Different emails will call for different product content, but you’ll want to know which product content increases your CTR and conversion rates the most, and then utilize those items in your holiday campaigns. Should you feature main categories to appease the masses or feature best-selling products to draw shoppers further along in the conversion funnel? 


  • Dynamic Recommendations – If you have the functionality, test featuring recommended products based on a customer’s past behavior. Test this functionality against no products, or hand-picked products. You can even take this a step further and test various display rules for the recommended products, such as recently browsed, frequently purchased together, cross-sell, etc.



5. Test Offer Types


One of the biggest determining factors in the success of your Cyber Week campaigns is the offer.

So make sure you’re putting your best foot forward come November, and test various offers beforehand, to determine what offer resonates best with your subscribers.

Although you’ll want to save your best offer for Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you can test the promo type at a lower discount to determine your strongest subscriber motivator. 


test holiday email promotions


Here are some holiday email offers you should test:

  • Dollar Off – Test various dollar off promos to determine maximum conversion without impacting margins. Test different minimum order amounts to determine the impact to AOV.


  • Percentage Off – Test percentage off promos in a similar manner to dollar off promos, and then test dollar off versus a percentage off.


  • Tiered Offers – Does a “buy more, save more” approach lead to larger order sizes? How does it stack up against your winning dollar or percentage off promo?


  • Shipping Offers – Try various shipping offers alone or in tandem with other discounts. Or maybe in the days of 2-day prime shipping, an expedited shipping offer will do the trick.


  • Gift With Purchase (GWP) – Test a free gift alone or alongside a discount. Test gifts with different value amounts.



6. Test Your Automated Campaigns


Last but not least, let’s not forget about automated holiday email campaigns.

Revenue from automated campaigns makes up a huge portion of total email revenue, in some cases upwards of 50%.

So take the time now to optimize your triggered campaigns and come holiday time you can sit back, relax, and watch the automated campaign revenue flow in. 

Here are some opportunities for automated campaign testing:


  • Creative – Just as you would test creative in your weekly calendar sends, ensure you’re optimizing the creative in your automated campaigns, as well. In a cart abandonment email, for instance, test using a hero image versus omitting it and bringing the dynamic content to the top.


  • Number of Touches – What is the right number of touches to maximize conversion without increasing opt-outs? Is there an opportunity to throw a third touch into a two-touch series? 


  • Timing – Test the timing of each touch, looking not only at the timing after a user’s action but also in between each additional touch.


  • Subject Lines – Small lifts in open rates across the lifespan of an automated campaign can lead to big impacts on overall conversion, so be sure to apply subject line testing to your automated campaigns, as well as your calendar sends.


Every email you send out gives you the opportunity to test and gain valuable insight into your customer base. And the results and insights are relatively instantaneous.

holiday email testing examples

Source: Get It Right

“With GIR, our team saw the greatest opportunity to impact revenue by building out their triggered email series. We focused on a robust automation plan, in addition to improved storytelling for both product launches and the holidays, leading to a huge boost in Q4.”

Lyndsey Adamo email strategist

-Lyndsey Adamo, Strategist, CRM and Email

That being said, the options for testing are virtually endless, so be sure to put an executable holiday email plan in place that not only looks at bandwidth and resources but also the biggest opportunity for increased KPIs. 

Pro tip: Although it’s easy to set it and forget it, keep a close eye on your automated campaigns; the last thing you want is to have a technical issue over the holidays that affect these crucial behavioral triggers.


Want to learn more?

[Case Study] GIR Increases Email Channel Revenue by 1118%, New Product Launch Revenue by 639%

How to Scale Personalization in Your Holiday Email Campaigns

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