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What’s cooking this Thanksgiving? Email marketing tips to win sales without cutting prices

11 min read
VP of Growth @Ongage

Faced with the prospect of lost customers and fewer sales, it can be tempting to take profit-cutting measures to entice shoppers to say yes to your wares during the Thanksgiving shopping season. But is lowering your prices or offering a discount the best move for your business? Before you slash prices to beat the competition, consider these alternative ways to deliver value to your subscribers and win their holiday spending this year. 

The retail shopping season that starts on Thanksgiving Day is the biggest shopping season of the year and your brand’s last chance to impress customers and increase revenue in 2023. 

We’re putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive guide to what matters most to consumers this holiday shopping season. 

But I wanted to give you a taste as a special Thanksgiving treat to say, “Thanks for being here!”  

Want to jump ahead?

Early-Thanksgiving email marketing campaigns served up savings, FOMO, fun, and affordability
Season’s Greetings: Thanksgiving email marketing strategies that deliver value for subscribers and brands Reward loyalty with treats and incentives your customers want (and can’t get anywhere else)
Use retargeting campaigns to recover near-misses this holiday marketing season
Employ smart analytics and automation to send discounts selectively
Online vs in-store: Will your subscribers still be shopping online for holiday gifts after the Thanksgiving weekend? Can you win sales without cutting prices this Q4?

The whole Ongage team and I are so thankful that you chose to spend your time with us here on the Ongage blog. 

Let me start by acknowledging the turkey in the room. 

As we enter the biggest shopping weekend of the year, price matters to consumers in 2023. 

A lot. 

A mid-year consumer outlook report by NielsenIQ noted that inflation, job insecurity, post-pandemic health concerns, and global political strife have left people “unsettled.” Even financially secure consumers were spending less freely and saving for the unexpected. 

Closing out Q3 2023, there were a few signs of optimism following the July 2023 Prime Day event and again when September’s retail performance figures were released. 

However, as inflation continues “working its way through the economy,” economists and retail experts warn that consumers will be spending less and making trade-offs to make their holiday budgets last. 

Businesses will have to make trade-offs, too. 

How much can or should you discount your products or services to win your share of consumers’ holiday shopping wallets? 

Before you hit send on that ‘ultimate, lowest price ever before’ email blast, consider alternative methods to secure your subscribers’ loyalty and their purchases this Thanksgiving.

Here’s what we cooked up for you. 

Early-Thanksgiving email marketing campaigns served up savings, FOMO, fun, and affordability

In the run-up to Thanksgiving, retailers are promoting value-priced packages for products ranging from the ingredients for a traditional Thanksgiving meal to holiday gifts for friends and family to appeal to price-conscious consumers. 

In subscribers’ inboxes, brands are using a mix of price-focused and alternative appeals. 

When Melissa examined 2023’s early Black Friday email campaigns, she spotted several brands using exclusivity, scarcity, and urgency to move subscribers to act. Other brands promoted early-bird discounts to get first dibs on this year’s seasonal purchases.  

Feelings of excitement, anticipation, and surprise are part of what makes the gifting season so fun, whether you’re the giver or receiver. Brands wrapped those positive emotions into their holiday offers with anticipation-building subject lines, early access offers,, and promises that they could find affordable, people-pleasing gifts. 

In the weeks since we last took a peek, Thanksgiving, Black Friday, and Cyber Week email subject lines have maintained these themes. 

But we’ve also noticed brands making cost-saving offers that come with conditions. 

The deepest discounts may only apply to merchandise the marketers want to move, and many of this year’s free shipping offers require a minimum purchase. 

🦃📧 Ballard Designs kicked off Thanksgiving week on Monday with an email subject line announcing 
Up to 75% off the hottest deals of the year

🦃📧  Wolverine entices early Thanksgiving shoppers with a weekly deals email under the subject line: 
New Deals On-Site! Don’t Miss Out! 

The email’s preheader text, appearing about a holiday-themed hero image, promotes “free standard shipping on orders $74+.”

Urgency is always in fashion during the holiday shopping season. Consumers don’t have much time to shop, and early orders help businesses manage inventory and ensure that packages arrive on time. Leverage last chance emails for limited-time sales low inventory items and to communicate shipping deadlines. 

Mix in some messages of reassurance, too. 

Thanksgiving shoppers want to know that they’re getting the best deal on gifts their recipients will like. 

Here are a few of the confidence-building words and phrases we’ve spotted in Thanksgiving marketing emails this year: 

🦃📧 The biggest sale,
🦃📧 The perfect gift, 
🦃📧 Gifts “sure” or “guaranteed” to please, and 
🦃📧 Gifts, gift guides, and deals that are “ultimate,” “stunning,” or “best.” 

What combination of strategies and tactics should you use to maximize your conversions and profits this Thanksgiving shopping season? 

Use the following tactics to win sales and increase revenue this year. 

Season’s Greetings: Thanksgiving email marketing strategies that deliver value for subscribers and brands 

Even though consumers are spending with caution, most still plan to celebrate, entertain, and give gifts during the coming holiday season. Your business can be a part of those plans by delivering email messages that emphasize all the value (and values) you bring to the table. 

Supplement your sales offers and win your subscribers’ attention this holiday season by:

  • Delivering tangible and intangible value with every product or service you offer,
  • Rewarding your loyal customers with emotion-driven experiences and signs of appreciation outside the buying cycle, 
  • Employing strategic retargeting campaigns that communicate the right message at the right moment and
  • Using analytics and automation to selectively offer incentives that make financial sense

Here’s how to do it. 

Reward loyalty with treats and incentives your customers want (and can’t get anywhere else) 

Among the after-effects of the pandemic were major shifts in consumer attitudes and priorities. Many of your customers have stopped caring about owning more stuff and are focused on experiencing more of life. 

For these shoppers, quality trumps quantity, and they view purchasing holistically. 

Whether buying consumer goods, services, entertainment, or leisure experiences, it’s not just about what they get, but how they get it. 

This interest in experiences presents opportunities for brands to encourage loyalty in new and innovative ways—ways that don’t require offering bonus discounts or free merchandise. 

Emotional loyalties formed through the delivery of these memorable experiences are stronger and longer-lasting than transaction-based brand loyalties.  

Around the globe, businesses are investing in partnerships and other methods to deliver experiential and non-buying cycle loyalty rewards to their customers. 

Creating unique loyalty experiences that they can’t get anywhere else drives demand for rewards points and the purchases that earn them. 

Offering exclusive bundles, early access to new products, or one-of-a-kind experiences to your customers gives you a way to tap into the trend toward experiences over ownership, even if you sell a physical product. 

Don’t overlook the value of rewarding your engaged customers between purchases, either. 

Thanksgiving is the perfect time of year to show appreciation by doing something for your subscribers instead of asking them to buy something from you. 

🦃📧 Spotify frequently receives kudos for its personalized attention to its customers. The audio streaming service keeps subscribers engaged with customized nudges throughout the year, including messages like the one below that arrived in an Ongage Team member’s inbox during Thanksgiving week. 

The 70s are calling…

The message aims to draw subscribers to Spotify’s platform by inviting them to discover more about their favorite artists. 

The subject line copy promises interesting information: 
The songs that define your favorite artists. 

The preview text seals the deal with a value offer that doesn’t involve a discount. It explains that Spotify has put together a custom playlist for this email recipient: 

”Songs from the artists you live–in one playlist.”  


Hyper-personalized content like a customized playlist or tailored email message are some advances brands gain when they add artificial intelligence applications including generative AI tools to their marketing stacks. 

Your loyal subscribers will be inundated with “buy now” and “last chance” emails this Thanksgiving. Send them a message of gratitude and appreciation to stand out from the crowd.

By staying top-of-mind and showing your appreciation with customers when they don’t have a lot of money to spend, you’ll earn their loyalty when they are ready to shop again. 

🦃📧 Beautyhabit sent the email pictured below to subscribers during Thanksgiving week 2023. 

The subject line for this combination of appreciation and promotion says: 
A Big THANK YOU + Free Shipping! 

Inside, the luxury beauty and cosmetics brand writes,

“As this festive season is upon us, we want to take a moment to express our heartfelt gratitude to you! Thank you for shopping “small” with us.” 

There’s an offer in this message, too. 

The copy invites subscribers to use the coupon code “thankful” before midnight on Thanksgiving to receive free shipping on US orders over $50. 

To help customers get started shopping, there are also links to a selection of “holiday staff picks” and “what’s new” products. 

Create mutually beneficial gift guides this holiday season by incorporating inventory, sales, and consumer behavioral data into your product recommendation emails.  Provide your subscribers with insights about the gifts their family and friends will enjoy and move your high-inventory stock. 

Use retargeting campaigns to recover near-misses this holiday marketing season

Delivering value from the first moments of your relationship and through the entire customer lifecycle can help your business weather economic setbacks without losing revenue. But still, converting shoppers concerned about their spending is no easy feat. 

So, besides demonstrating the quality of your products and services and the experience your business delivers, you may need to ask your customers to say yes more than once to win the sale. 

Retargeting enables you to make one (or more than one) last appeal to indecisive shoppers and can help you recover revenue-boosting, almost-lost sales.  

Data deprecation, including tracking obstacles and wall gardens, may make retargeting more difficult than in the past. However, strategic retargeting to regain high-value sales is still worth the effort. 

Retarget or remarket to consumers while they’re visiting your website with product recommendations or offers that respond to their on-site behaviors. With your subscribers’ consent, continually gather new data so that you can serve them relevant content and desirable deals!

Thanksgiving and Black Friday campaigns give your brand an opportunity to learn more about your subscribers to improve your targeting efforts. 

Invite shoppers to gain benefits by joining your rewards program, save money by bundling their purchases or enrolling in a subscription program, or promote your free shipping and flexible payment options on your product pages and in your emails. 

🦃📧 Breo Box offers exclusive access in exchange for data in this pre-Thanksgiving week promotion. 

With just a few words, this email’s subject line and preview text explain why subscribers should open the message–to get first dibs on something: 
Black Friday is here in 3…2…1…🎆 Sign up now! 🎆

Inside the email, the tech subscription box seller explains what that something is: “the coolest tech we’ve seen yet.”

FOMO and exclusivity are looming large in this campaign.

Subscribers need to sign up to get early access to the Black Friday deal. For those who can’t wait, a secondary offer and accompanying call-to-action invite them to get a box now. 

Across the web, you can remarket to prospects and customers through paid social media and paid search retargeting campaigns. Make these campaigns more effective by using dynamic content that displays recently viewed items or offers tailored incentives. 

However, these methods may not be as effective or as welcomed by your subscribers as triggered email campaigns that leverage systems and behavioral data to send what they want straight to their inboxes.

A 2023 consumer trends report reveals that 61% of consumers don’t like being followed around the web by third-party cookies serving ads. However, 65% of those surveyed say they appreciate receiving abandoned cart reminders, which are sent in response to their on-site behavior. 

Use triggered recovery campaigns like the examples below to invite website visitors to return to your shop after they’ve placed items in their cart but didn’t check out, engaged in product searches, or added merchandise to their wishlists. 

🦃📧 Craft supply shop JoAnn sends a customized recovery reminder that includes financial incentives to encourage this targeted email recipient to complete their purchase. 

The email’s subject line is suitable for any time of year; it says:
We think you might like these…

Further inducement follows this helpful, intriguing subject line with a preview text copy that says, “Top products are even better with a deal.” 

A deal, you say? 

The savings offer gets top billing inside this email, appearing above recommended products. 

Under a header that asks, “Leave something behind?” is a graphics panel inviting the recipient to “check out our top picks for you & get an extra 25% off + $2.99 shipping!” 

You don’t always have to offer a discount to win back a consumer who browsed but hasn’t bought. 

🦃📧 Home goods and furnishings seller Wayfair wins favor and repeat purchases with targeted recommendations based on subscribers purchase and browsing histories. The brand personalized the email below with images of browsed items. There’s also a general recommendation section highlighting related sale items. 

Gain sales while preserving your margin by using your retargeting campaigns to: 

🗸 Answer questions and address objections.
🗸 Instill confidence with social proof and testimonials. 
🗸 Reassure hesitant shoppers by explaining your quality guarantees and return policies. 
🗸 Highlight non-transactional benefits such as VIP statuses or participation in your brand community and
🗸 Offer shoppers one-on-one help and present other channels through which they can get in touch with your brand. 

Employ smart analytics and automation to send discounts selectively  

The Thanksgiving holiday has traditionally been a time to reflect on the good things in life with gratitude. It’s also a time to indulge in those good things—food, sports, and fun with friends. 

But you know, you can have too much of a good thing. Like when you try to eat one slice of every type of pie or go for the dressing, the potatoes, and the bread. 

Okay, you get the idea. Sometimes, you want it all, but having it all might make you miserable. 

Offering your best deals to every subscriber could be your ‘having it all’ downfall if those great offers don’t lead to real profits and lasting relationships. 

AI-powered analytics, smart segmentation, and automation can help you quickly determine which subscribers’ potential value justifies the risk of outsized offers during Cyber Week. 

Plus, these tools can predict which subscribers you can likely convert with an alternative offer such as an exclusive bundle, early access, extra VIP rewards, or some other perk. 

Being strategic about what offers you send, to which of your subscribers, and when can make or break your Q4 email marketing program’s metrics this year. 

AI-powered predictive analytics and content selection use behavioral and other cues to identify different customer segments and the offers most likely to appeal to each. 

Using these tools, your ‘right message, right person, right time’ emails become ‘optimized outcome’ emails. 

Real-time analytics about your ongoing campaigns paired with email automation ensures that this optimization endures. As new data about a blast campaign or targeted email comes in, your analytics applications can alert you to rising issues or respond automatically. 

You get to enjoy the holiday break and keep your email campaigns flowing smoothly.

Online vs in-store: Will your subscribers still be shopping online for holiday gifts after the Thanksgiving weekend? 

The end of the year is coming soon, but there’s still time for both digital and physical stores to reach consumers and help them find gifts for their friends and family. 

The pursuit of the perfect gift online peaked in 2021, when 85% of US consumers did at least some of their holiday shopping online, according to Circana’s 2023 US Holiday Purchase Intentions report

This year, 82% of the 3,429 US consumers who participated in Circana’s September survey said they would shop online for the holidays. 

But these shoppers won’t be going online exclusively. 

Holiday shopping online and off will get equal attention from most shoppers in 2023. 

An early holiday shopper survey fielded by Morning Consult in August found that the rate of online orders with home delivery vs in-store shopping remained steady year over year. In-store shopping held a slight lead, with 77% doing their holiday shopping in person vs online’s 71% share.

Who are these people doing their holiday shopping in August? And can I get them to finish my holiday to-do list?) 

That same survey found that the use of in-store pickup and mobile app orders increased by 19 and 18 points, respectively, between 2022 and 2023. 

Communicating local pickup options can help your digital store extend its holiday selling season and satisfy consumer demand. 

Also, make sure your promotional emails and newsletters include details about shipping deadlines and alternative delivery choices so your subscribers know exactly how long they have left to get their gifts! 

🦃📧 This Thanksgiving week message from Not On The High Street reminds shoppers they must order their advent calendars now if they want to start their Christmas countdowns on schedule. 

The subject line and preview text convey the crux of the message (and a discount offer): 
Get your advent calendar in time. 🎄 – And up to 50% off in our Black Friday sale.

Not On The High Street uses animated GIFs at the top and bottom of the email pictured below to catch subscribers’ eyes and show off more of its merchandise in this catalog-style email newsletter. 

The email’s footer is dedicated to promoting a different kind of value. The bold copy says:
“Buy nothing this Black Friday unless it’s from a small business.” 

Can you win sales without cutting prices this Q4? 

The answer is yes. Consumers want to make their budgets go as far as possible, but they still value quality products and experiences. 

Demonstrating real value and delivering a personalized, positive experience is key. Stay ahead of the competition and keep the sales coming with customer-first strategies that show care, transparency, and reliability. 

VP of Growth @Ongage
Mark's specialties took companies from launch to profitability through fitting their product to the right market, channel, and model, followed by centering on scaling it. In Ongage, he focuses on developing creative solutions for email marketing challenges. He believes that growth develops as a story, and like with all stories, the heroes need an exciting journey and to wield the right tools to conquer the trials they face.

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