A Guide to Choosing the Best Template for Your Holiday Emails

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst

Author Bio

Greg Zakowicz is a senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle's Bronto Software. With more than 10 years of experience in email, mobile and social media marketing, Zakowicz knows the retail industry and its challenges, staying on top of the latest trends by leveraging deep insight into the marketing spectrum. His subject matter expertise stems from his experience in providing commerce marketers — including numerous Internet Retailer Top 1000 clients — with in-depth analysis of their marketing programs, recommendations for improvement, best practice support and implementation guidance and execution.

Zakowicz is a frequent webinar speaker and presenter at ecommerce events, such as Fashion Digital New York, SIA Snow Show and ROI Revolution Summit. He has been published by top retail and marketing publications, including Power Retail and Inside Retail, and is a regular contributor to Bronto’s Commerce Marketing blog. You can follow him on Twitter at @WhatsGregDoing.

How do you showcase your best offers?

More than any other time of the year, the holiday season involves lots of special offers, discounts, new products and even new categories. Combine this with increased sending cadence and reduced subscriber attention spans, and you’ve got a prescription for poor-performing emails.

But there is an answer. Spend time now thinking about how your messaging aligns with the layout of your email, and consider which type of layout works best with the message you want to convey.

Here are five email layouts and the types of messaging that tend to work best with them.

1. Single Hero Image

Probably the most common layout used today, this is a single-image email focusing on one clear call to action (CTA). This layout is designed to allow a subscriber to digest the message and decide on an action in 3 seconds or less. It may be most effective for:

  • Black Friday and Cyber Monday – generic email linking to deals on the homepage.
  • Flash sales – straightforward sale with a limited duration.
  • Sale expiration – last chance reminder.
  • Web-based gift guides – introducing gift guides that can be viewed online.

Single Hero examples2. Product Boxes as a Secondary CTA

This email, a popular style for Q4, commonly has a hero image followed by product (or category) boxes below the primary content. You can manually create these specific recommendations or generate them using a recommendation engine. The layout allows the reader to not only browse for those people on their gift list but also identify products of interest to themselves. This layout is most commonly used for:

  • Highlighting gifts under a certain dollar value.
  • Advertising a stocking stuffer section.
  • Offering subscriber recommendations.

Secondary CTA examples3. Extended Content Sections

Similar to using product boxes as secondary CTAs, this design allows you to feature image-based secondary and tertiary content in addition to your primary promotion. With these larger sections, you have more space to promote larger areas of themed content (e.g. gift guides, value props), and you can use more visual creativity to grab a subscriber’s attention. This layout is also more effective on mobile devices, as the sections remain a user-friendly size when scaling.

This layout could be used in any capacity where you have more generic secondary content to promote, such as:

  • Gift guides.
  • Gift cards.
  • Extended return policy notices.
  • Shipping deadline estimates.

Extended Content example4. Product Only

Commonly sent throughout the year as a recommendation or new item email, this style is slowly gaining traction as a go-to during the holiday season. This message is often very basic graphically, with the focus solely on promoting specific products or categories, sometimes even with personal recommendations in the recovery section of the email. While there may not be a lot of glitz and glamour around this style, it can be quite effective for driving sales, as it allows subscribers to find a specific product they’re looking for. It is used for:

  • Promoting top gifts for the season.
  • Offering gifts under a certain amount.
  • Personalized recommendations.
  • Top Black Friday/Cyber Monday deals.

Product only examples5. Extended Scroll

These messages are designed around engaging the subscriber in an extended scroll down the email. Emails like this work well on mobile phones because of a person’s natural tendency to thumb scroll. This layout can be most effective when walking people through something step by step, such as building the perfect holiday outfit, or by creating some sort of email game, such as a “See what’s under the Christmas tree” game.The extended scroll works well for:

  • Specific product style guides.
  • Top gifts.
  • Step-by-step or numerical order guides/recommendations.
  • Contest/gamification.

Extended Scroll examplesSo there you have it – five email layouts that can be tuned to add some spice to your email program during the holiday season. When trying to determine which style may be best for you, think through the ultimate goal of the email and ask yourself, “Does the layout accomplish this goal?”

Looking for a new email design for this season? Check out our new responsive template available in the Holiday Marketing Academy.

  • Ben Argov

    This is great info – thank you! One followup set of questions – should the landing pages differ given the different email types? Or regardless of the type of email, should the landing page mimic the email? Or should the email click directly to the items shown?

    Thanks again!

    • Greg Z

      This will likely vary based on the style of email being used. In general, you want to limit the amount of clicks the user needs to make to find the item/content they are looking for. If they need multiple clicks, do the clicks represent a natural progression or are there multiple clicks for no real reason?

      If you can click from email to item, that will likely be the best case. But say you are advertising a top gifts under X amount, the landing page may be a better solution as it will surely contain more products than would be included in an email (thus providing a better experience).

      When all is said and done, use your best judgement. If the user experience is positive, you are OK. If you find the experience of multiple clicks to be annoying or pointless, you will likely lose the customers’ attention.

      • Ben Argov

        Thanks Greg – very helpful! I had read (from another consultant) that there always should be a landing page to mimic the email – bc customers want consistency – ie it’s jarring to skip from the email to a webpage that has a different look/feel than the email, and may not have the promo language from the email. So, we’ve recently taken the approach that, unless it’s a direct item to item link, we always want to have a landing page that mimics, even if it means an extra click, and we’ve seen conversions increase dramatically.