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Thanksgiving is right around the corner. If Halloween didn’t already mark the start of the busiest shopping season of the year, then Thanksgiving certainly will. In the last couple of years, during the holiday season, retailers reported 50% more traffic coming from mobile. And a large driver of that traffic is email, which we increasingly check on our phones. So it’s a total no-brainer that crafting emails with care is critical for brands who want to stand out from the crowd this holiday season. What better place to start than with Thanksgiving? Here are 7 tips for a fantastic Thanksgiving email.

1. Start with the subject line

Inboxes will be overloaded with emails in the coming weeks, and you can expect a huge chunk of subscribers—about 35%—to decide whether or not to open your email based on the subject line alone. Stand out by putting some thought into your subject line. Try getting readers curious about your email with a line that asks a question, promises a deal or coupon, has a “how to,” or includes a number.

Looking for email subject line tips? Check out our 7 Tested Rules for Email Subject Lines – And When To Break Them.

Here’s an interesting take from PureWow, a women’s lifestyle site, that caught our eye:

Not only is the subject line quirky, funny, short, and unique, but PureWow also capitalizes on a great second subject line by telling readers exactly what they’ll find in the email: 4 easy tricks that will save Thanksgiving. Open the email, and we’re greeted with exactly what they promised:


2. Plan a special delivery

Match subscribers’ holiday spirit with an email that’s festive, taking the opportunity to level-up your usual design style. TasteBook, a website for cooking enthusiasts, has a bright, photo-centric visual identity. Here’s a snapshot of recent posts on their blog:


But look at how they mix up their usual photo-forward approach with this gorgeous illustrated Thanksgiving email:


For subscribers who are used to seeing photos from TasteBook, this email immediately stands out as different and special. Click through, and you’ll see a full illustrated guide for “Your Ultimate Thanksgiving Dinner.” Clearly, TasteBook planned ahead to deliver creative, high-value content this Thanksgiving, and it shows.

3. Have a single focus

Can you count how many times Amtrak says “book early” in this email? It’s a lot, but that’s okay. Having a simple, clear, focused message is a good strategy, and it doesn’t mean you have to drop the holiday spirit. This email from Amtrak is to-the-point, but still Thanksgiving-themed and valuable to readers. Remember: attention spans are short, and you can expect readers to be inundated with more emails than usual from now through the end of the year. The high quality photo with text overlay, simple message (4 sentences!), and single call-to-action button come together in a short-and-sweet email that works.


4. Say “thanks”

Thanksgiving is about being thankful, after all, and what better way to show thanks than to give something back to your loyal readers? In a recent email to subscribers, Evite, a digital invitation and event planning service, offers 15 free digital “Thank you” card sends. The cool thing about this offer is that it encourages readers to get in the Thanksgiving spirit and say “thank you” to friends or loved ones (vs. using a coupon solely for personal use).


The offer is listed at the top of their email, right away, so viewers are sure not to miss it. The entire email itself is fall-themed, and Evite also has a lot of fun customizing their call-to-action buttons so they’re on-brand and unique. I’d rather click on “Pass the Gravy” than on a button that says “Learn more,” wouldn’t you?

5. Design for mobile

It’s a hectic time of year, and everyone—including your readers—will be running errands, shopping, traveling, and moving about. Mobile opens now account for up to 70% of all email opens, and especially during the upcoming holiday season, you can count on a high likelihood of your email being read on a phone or mobile device first. That’s why it’s critical to optimize your email for mobile-viewing with responsive design. A responsive email will totally adapt to the screen size of a tablet or smartphone—layout, font size, images, and padding can all change—so that the message is easy to read and looks great.

Here’s a good example from Real Simple, a magazine about simplifying your life. This is the beginning of their Thanksgiving email viewed on desktop:


And here it is on mobile:


To optimize mobile reading, the email’s multiple columns collapse to one, and font sizes increase, making it easier to read and click. Follow Real Simple’s lead and make sure your Thanksgiving email looks good and is easy to read on all devices.

6. Delight and entertain

With so much competing for their attention, it’s not always enough to simply email readers a coupon code or deal. Savvy subscribers expect to be impressed and entertained by good design, too. Consider simple, elegant ways in which you can level up your visual style. Take this email from Rent the Runway, an online service that provides designer dress and accessory rentals, for example.


The key visual in the center of the email is a GIF showing suggested outfits and accessories for Thanksgiving and possible Thanksgiving weekend events, like a high school reunion or spiked cider with friends.

It’s clever, cute, and creative. And the GIF is an effective way to show multiple products without taking up too much real estate in the email itself.

7. Maintain your brand voice

There’s a lot of pressure for brands to participate in the holiday hoopla, making sure to check off Thanksgiving from a long list of editorial opportunities. It can be overwhelming to brainstorm how to stand out. The answer is to stick to your brand! Be yourself. Think of your core values, mission, and audience, and create content that’s in sync with your totally awesome, already established brand identity.

Here’s a peek at Thanksgiving content brands are emailing that offer something unique while remaining true to their brand identity:

UrbanDaddy, a lifestyle media company with an edge, has fun with an unconventional recipe:

Buzzfeed does its usual round-up thing, this time with recipes for those too cool for pie:

Etsy points readers in the direction of printable gifts and crafts to say thanks:


Pet Plan, insurance for your furry friends, helps keep readers’ pets safe with these holiday tips:


Tasting Table, a website and newsletter for culinary enthusiasts, got our attention with their uniquely goofy copywriting:


Let’s recap:

  1. Spend time brainstorming a killer subject line.
  2. Plan ahead to deliver high-quality content that’s festive and special.
  3. Keep your message short and focused with a single call-to-action.
  4. Thank subscribers with a giveaway, coupon, or special deal (even better if it’s “thank you” themed).
  5. Mobile-optimize your message with responsive design.
  6. Think outside the box to incorporate simple, clever design elements that delight readers (try a GIF).
  7. Be yourself. Keep your content on-brand. And have fun!

Create your very own Thanksgiving email in the BEE editor — all emails you create are always 100% responsive.

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