Christmas Holiday Email Marketing Strategies: Lessons from Kohl’s

| December 31, 2015 | Reply

Kohl’s, a Milwaukee-based company that operates department stores in the United States, extensively uses email marketing to reach out to their customers to generate repeat sales and ensure top-of-mind awareness. Kohl’s is department store chain  that offers private label, exclusive, and national brand apparel, footwear, accessories, beauty, and home products to children, men, and women customers.

Kohl’s sends daily email to their list, and this holiday season is no exception. Here’s a look at how Kohl’s does its email marketing in December for the holidays:

Subject Lines of Kohl’s Emails

Throughout the year, the subject lines of Kohl’s emails are almost always about discounts and savings, whether it is about bonus buys, extra 30% off, or savings of $10. Even when mentioning their latest brand collaborations or new arrivals, their subject line mention either the discount they offer or the savings that the recipient can get.

The strategy of highlighting the savings or discounts continue with Kohl’s December holiday emails. Here are samples of their email subject lines in December:

  • Just a few hours left: Save an extra 20% & get free shipping when you spend $25! (Dec. 1)
  • Get an extra 30%, 20% or 15% off & Shop must-haves from brands you love! (Dec. 11)
  • Take an extra $10 off gifts that sparkle & shine! (Dec. 16)

Kohl’s also prominently encourages sharing the savings (and sharing their emails in social media particularly Twitter and Facebook). Check out the headlines

  • Starts now: Extra 25% off Friends & Family savings (Our biggest event of the year!) (Dec. 2)
  • Share your Extra 25% off Friends & Family savings with your family & friends! (Dec. 3)
  • Last day for Extra 25% off Friends & Family savings! (Dec. 6)

Occasionally, Kohl’s also gives incentives for opening their email, such as their Dec. 7 email with the subject line “We’ll give you $10 just to open this email”. The $10 off was given for online purchases of $30 or more.

On Christmas Day, Kohl’s sent a holiday greeting that includes a 25% off offer for online purchases. The email also advertised their Early Bird special starting the following day, and their After Christmas Sale.

Kohl's December 25 email

Kohl’s December 25 email with the subject line “Merry Christmas from all of us at Kohl’s – Celebrate with an extra 25% off”

After Christmas, Kohl’s ramped up their After Christmas sale with the following email headlines:

  • Dec. 26 = Take an extra 20% off + shop and save on Early Birds
  • Dec. 27 = Save up to 70% during the After Christmas Sale!
  • Dec. 28 = Save an extra 20% during the After Christmas Sale!
  • Dec. 29 = Save up to 70% on new Clearance markdowns!
  • Dec. 30 = Bonus Buys are here today & gone tomorrow (plus, save an extra 20%!)

Kohl’s Shipping Schedule

A key part of holiday online retailing is letting customers know when they can expect to receive their orders if they want to receive the item on or before Christmas. Kohl’s put the notice of the dates when they should place their order prominently in their emails.

Here are the dates set by Kohl’s:

  • To get the item by Christmas through regular shipping, orders must be placed by 11 p.m. CT on December 20.
  • Last day for 2-day rush shipping was December 21, 1 p.m. CST
  • Last day for 1-day rush shipping was December 22, 1 p.m. CST
  • Deadline for buying online and picking up in store was December 24 at 12 p.m. local time

Contents of Kohl’s Emails

Kohl's Email marketing strategy

Above-the-fold content of Kohl’s December emails follow this template

The body of the emails sent by Kohl’s in December follow a certain pattern:

  • Top of the email contains two key promos: (a) free shipping with $50 purchase and (b) buy online, pick up in store.
  • A yellow bar with the reminder on the last day of ordering to ensure arrival by Christmas, which Kohl’s started adding to their emails on December 13.
  • Discounts given to Kohl’s Charge (credit card) users – and invitation to those who doesn’t have Kohl’s Charge
  • Kohl’s Cash offer, where customers can get $10 redeemable in stores and online ¬¬for a specific period of time
  • Featured products – this is the section in Kohl’s emails that is dedicated to featuring their products based on different groupings and categorizations. One email typically includes 4-5 different promotions for featured products.

Here are some of the ways Kohl’s presented their featured products section in the emails:

  • Showcase of low-cost gifts grouped according to price, which includes Gifts under $10, Gifts under $20, Gifts under $30, and Gifts under $100. Some examples include Wrapped Up in Warmth featuring pajamas and sleepwear; and Now and Wow gifts featuring jewelry, toys. Home, and sleepwear.
  • kohls2

  • Gifts that make perfect scents for their perfume and scented lotion products
  • Kohl's December scents sale

  • Sales from the brands they carry such as Nike and Star Wars
  • Kohl's December Nike sales

  • Product category promos like 12 Days of Jewelry Deals
  • Kohl's jewelry deals

Lessons for Small Business Entrepreneurs:

Kohl’s offers a number of important lessons for small business entrepreneurs:

  • Make sure that you include email marketing in your marketing arsenal, particularly during the holiday season
  • Test which types of subject lines work best with your customers. Given Kohl’s extensive usage of numbers in their subject lines, it appears that their customers respond favorably to subject lines containing savings and discounts.
  • Track the performance of your emails. Kohl uses tags in their emails that can help them analyze what type of traffic each mailing brings, including data such as the date of the email and the day sent.
  • Track the opens and clicks of your emails: what subject lines generate the most opens; what types of call to action gets the most clicks, how do customers respond if there is only 1 offer in the email vs. 4 offers, and other ways that can help you determine how customers react best.
  • Carefully plan out your promotions for the holidays, including when you can safely assume that the items ordered can reach the customer using normal delivery as against expedited shipping. Let the customers know of your shipping schedule



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Category: Email Marketing, Retailing

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