Email marketing: Best practices for increasing ROI
Tapping into the Halloween spirit through email marketing can help you expand your reach and boost subscriber engagement during this fun and light-hearted holiday season.
However, email marketing’s effectiveness means you’ll have to vie with plenty of other businesses for your target audience’s attention this October.
In this article, we’ll provide Halloween email tactics and campaign examples from real brands to inspire your strategy. We’ll also share email marketing best practices to help you get the best returns on your marketing spend.
1. Show off your Halloween promotions and products
If you have any Halloween-related products or special offers, now’s the time to promote them with captivating email marketing content.
This tactic is particularly relevant to business-to-consumer (B2C) retailers with seasonal product ranges, like e-commerce clothing and gift companies.
According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), U.S. Halloween spending will reach $12.2bn in 2023, surpassing last year’s all-time high of $10.6bn. To get your share of it using email marketing, ensure your messages contain the following:
High-quality product imagery and clear product descriptions where appropriate
A summary of your offer’s benefits and terms
Links to landing pages containing further information for each product or offer
Baron Fig’s Halloween sale email is an example of this in action.
The message is immediately recognizable as a holiday email and contains all the information readers need to understand the Halloween deal’s benefits and conditions (“Use GHOST22 for 22% off all orders of $60 or more”). This means they can quickly choose whether or not to click through to Baron Fig’s website via the prominent “Shop All” button.
Note: The brand also plays on readers’ fear of missing out (FOMO). It leads with a deadline (“Our Halloween Event Disappears in 24 hours”). Creating a sense of urgency like this can speed up shoppers’ buying decisions.
2. Choose a Halloween email subject line
Halloween-themed subject lines tell readers to expect something fun and topical from your content, which will make some recipients more likely to click through.
Your audience’s inboxes will be filled with “trick-or-treat” puns and “Halloween treats,” so try using less obvious phrases to stand out.
First, list relevant words and phrases that you can brainstorm with. Here are a few to begin with:
You can use an AI tool like ChatGPT to generate more ideas or ask your team for contributions.
Then see how you can naturally weave these terms into snappy and compelling subject lines.
“Our Spooky Sale Starts Now”
“Hocus Pocus: Magic Savings inside, 20% Off!”
“Scary Good Offers Coming Your Way”
Filevine took this approach as part of a demo promotion, using the subject line “👻 Summon Your FREE AirPods Today!” for the following email.
The company placed similar phrases throughout the email copy to maintain its light-hearted theme. Look closely to see some Halloween wordplay in every line.
While cliches are part of what makes Halloween enjoyable, they’re unlikely to help you stand out from a crowd of other email marketers.
Consider what you can do differently to grab and keep your audience’s attention. It could be as subtle as involving funny costumes rather than scary ones or swapping the classic orange-and-black Halloween color scheme for black with green or purple.
Restream did both with this promotional email.
It leads with purple text on a dark background and uses a space theme rather than relying on predictable imagery like monsters, zombies and skeletons. Readers who’ve received too many similar Halloween emails already may find this style refreshing and, therefore, more engaging.
4. Weave playful language into your email copy
Halloween is all about fun, so don’t be afraid to relax your professional tone of voice for this campaign.
Injecting some lighthearted Halloween terms throughout your email copy (i.e., not just your subject line) will add some festive flair to make your message more memorable.
You can use some of your earlier subject line ideas but don’t stop there. Adding topical pop culture references is a great way to build more emotive, meaningful connections with potential customers.
Harvard Business School Professor Gerald Zaltman found that 95% of buyers’ decision-making takes place in the subconscious mind. So it’s often emotion that discreetly drives people’s purchases.
The “Graveyard Smash” line is a nod to Monster Mash, the classic holiday song by Bobby Pickett. It quickly yet subtly aligns the message with Halloween and will spark positive holiday memories for many readers, making them more likely to convert.
Building anticipation around a holiday is an effective way to keep your subscribers engaged for weeks rather than just a few moments.
Consider sending a series of emails counting down the days to Halloween. These emails can feature themed content, exclusive offers or sneak peeks leading up to the big day.
Increasing the number of Halloween-themed emails you send to each subscriber will also improve your chances of them seeing your content. Someone may not be ready to open your first message but have more time to engage with the second, for instance.
Brewbike began promoting its Pumpkin Spice Brew coffee before Fall, planting a powerful seed in readers’ minds.
The message gives potential customers time to consider their buying decision, which boils down to choosing Brewbike over the more familiar Starbucks (“Starbs” in the email).
The brand also helps readers feel important with its call to action (“sign up below to get first access”) while playing on their FOMO to encourage conversions (“before we sell out”).
Another effective way to build anticipation is to use email countdown timers in your content. These are animated gifs that you can place in your Halloween email designs to count down to the big day.
6. Halloween-ify your established brand image
Consistent branding in your marketing content is key to establishing and maintaining a strong, recognizable brand image.
Rather than completely ditching your familiar design style and typography, complement them with a few subtle holiday-themed tweaks.
As well as helping your email content stand out, keeping some brand-unique visual elements will ensure your Halloween marketing efforts fit within your broader marketing strategy.
In the Halloween email example below, Modcloth complements its usual muted color scheme with Halloween costumes and other subtle tweaks.
There’s wordplay throughout (e.g., “spooktacular accessories” and “boo-tique”) but the content is still visually familiar to Modcloth’s subscribers and website visitors. It means customers get a consistent and comfortable experience across all marketing touchpoints.
Using emojis in your Halloween email marketing campaign’s subject lines can help you grab inbox browsers’ attention.
Search Engine Journal found that subject line emojis generally (i.e., throughout the year) reduce open rates. However, during holiday periods, when marketing emails tend to be less formal, they can have the opposite effect – as long as you use the right ones.
When Return Path (now part of Validity) analyzed data from around 5.4 billion commercial emails, it found subject lines containing spider and moon emojis achieved average open rates of 23% and 22%, respectively. The average across all Halloween promotional emails was 20%.
It also found that other emojis, such as aliens, candy and skulls, reduced spam complaint rates, while pumpkins and ghosts led to lower “delete before reading” rates.
Uber used this tactic for a Halloween newsletter.
You can tell Uber chose the subject line emojis carefully because they match its email content. Again, this contributes to a consistent customer experience that could improve conversions.
Email marketing: Best practices for increasing ROI
It usually takes some experimentation to achieve long-term email marketing success, but there are ways to speed up the process.
Use the following tips to improve campaign effectiveness and make your marketing budget work harder for your business.
Practice good email list hygiene
Keep your email list up to date by regularly removing inactive or bounced email addresses. This ensures that your emails reach engaged subscribers who are likely to open, read and engage with your content.
Email marketing software streamlines this process. It gives you a high-level view of subscriber engagement and lets you make quick changes to keep your list clean.
Other ways to keep inactive and uninterested subscribers off your email list are to use double opt-ins and set clear expectations for readers early on so they can choose to unsubscribe themselves.
Transparency and respect for subscribers’ choices are essential in email marketing, so provide a clear and prominent “unsubscribe” option in every email.
Making it easy for subscribers to opt out helps you comply with email marketing regulations (e.g., GDPR and CAN-SPAM) and maintain a high-quality list of engaged recipients who genuinely want to receive your emails.
Segment your email list for better targeting
Segmentation involves categorizing your email subscribers based on their interests, behavior, demographics or purchase history. It allows you to tailor your messaging to the unique needs and preferences of different subscriber groups, whether you send a “Happy Halloween” message or share a discount code at another time of the year.
Personalizing your content like this can significantly improve open rates and conversion rates, growing your email marketing ROI.
Note: Tools like Pipedrive’s Campaigns add-on let you segment your audience with customizable filters to ensure you get the right message to the right audience.
Be clear and honest with your subject lines
Ensure your subject lines accurately reflect the content of your email. Misleading teasers can erode audience trust and lead to high unsubscribe rates.
Honesty and clarity in subject lines help set realistic expectations for subscribers and increase the likelihood of them opening your emails.
It’s helpful to write, or at least refine, your subject line after finalizing your email’s body text, as you then know exactly what to summarize.
Use numbers to inspire opens
Numbers in your subject lines provide clear and tangible promises, making your content seem more specific and actionable. Yesware found that this increases open rates and responses.
For example, “10 Tips for Boosting Your Productivity” is more compelling than a vague subject line like “Productivity Tips” because it tells the reader what to expect.
What’s more, using numbers over words (e.g., “13” instead of “thirteen”) saves characters. That matters as readers generally find shorter subject lines more compelling.
Optimize your email cadence
Finding the right email cadence can be a delicate balance. Too many emails can overwhelm subscribers, leading to unsubscribes or spam reports. Too few emails may cause people to forget about your brand.
Analyzing engagement data to determine the optimal email frequency for your audience is essential. Conduct A/B testing to find the cadence that generates the best results while avoiding subscriber fatigue.
A significant portion of email opens occur on mobile devices, so optimizing your emails for smaller screens is non-negotiable.
Use a mobile-friendly email template, avoid small fonts and include clear and actionable CTA buttons that readers can easily tap on touch screens. Your email marketing software should let you preview your designs on multiple device types.