Three Things That Are Already Different About This Holiday Season

Every holiday season is a little different when it comes to retailers’ email marketing. Here are a few ways this year’s has changed from previous seasons:

Stronger holiday messaging early. After late-July’s “Christmas in July” messaging, there’s a long break before retailers start sending significant holiday messaging again in September. This messaging tends to be banners and other secondary messaging. However, this year starting in late September there was a noticeable trend toward retailers sending full, dedicated emails about the holiday season. This trend continued into October, when there wasn’t necessarily more holiday messaging, but it was certainly much more prominent.

Many people scoff at early holiday messaging, complain about “Christmas creep,” and gripe that “Halloween isn’t even over yet.” Some even believe that Christmas promotions should wait until after Thanksgiving. However, the data is not on their side.



The truth is that 40% of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween, according to the National Retail Federation. That’s particularly the case when it comes to holiday décor, products like dinnerware and cookware, and certain gifts. More than in past years, retailers seem driven to tap this interest this time around.

More explosive start to November. Along with much more prominent early holiday messaging, November started with a bang! Among the more than 100 retailers that I track, 42% of the emails they sent on Nov. 1 referred to the holiday season. That figure is significantly higher than on Nov. 1 in recent years.

One of the reasons for the early push is that Hanukkah is very early this year, starting on the evening of Nov. 27 — the day before Thanksgiving. While Jewish Americans are a small percentage of the population, they command outsized spending power and therefore are an important audience to address.

Another reason is that Thanksgiving is the latest it will ever be — and therefore the number of days between Thanksgiving and Christmas is the fewest it will ever be. Retailers can’t afford to have too many consumers wait until Black Friday to begin their gift-buying, so there’s real urgency to lock in some sales in early November.

Less “Black Friday” messaging. Because of the early Hanukkah and late Thanksgiving, I fully anticipated a strengthening of the Black November trend, where retailers promote “Black Friday” branded deals and pricing starting as early as Nov. 1. I was particularly excited because Nov. 1 was a Friday this year, so I thought the month would start with heavy “Black Friday” messaging.

But that’s not what happened. While there was more holiday messaging than usual, “Black Friday” messaging was almost nonexistent. And what messaging there was referred to the actual Black Friday, like this innovative Nov. 1 email from Lowe’s that makes use of Pinterest.

It could be that retailers are pulling back on the “Black Friday” brand and using the term more exclusively to refer to their deals on the day after Thanksgiving. Or, with Black Friday so late in the month, they might just be delaying their Black November messaging a week.

I’ll be watching closely to see what happens and how retailers adjust their email messaging to meet this year’s unique set of circumstances. Have you noticed anything usual or interesting in retailers’ email marketing campaigns so far this holiday season?

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