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35 Best Holiday Email Subject Lines And The Most Popular Emojis

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Karolina Petraškienė
Content Marketing Manager
Reading Time: 7 minutes

In order to really grab your customer’s attention this holiday season, you’ll need to use the absolute best email subject lines that are effective and actionable.

Of course, this is easier said than done – especially during the holidays when every business is sending emails and our inboxes are overwhelmed with hundreds of messages.

From this article, you’ll learn how to craft that “effective and actionable” subject line, as well as which subject lines performed best during the holidays last year and in 2018.

We have analyzed the most common words, discounts, and emojis that contributed to the best open rates. Carry on reading to learn from those that are the best and most effective – and feel free to take ideas for your own campaigns.

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Insights Into Holiday Email Subject Lines From 2019

We analyzed over 10,000+ campaigns sent to Omnisend client bases with more than 5000 subscribers between Dec 3rd and Dec 31st, 2019. This time period was chosen on purpose to cover the entire holiday season, starting just after the BFCM weekend.

The main takeaways:

1.The most popular words in the subject lines remained the same as in 2018. “Off,” “Sale,” “new,” “Christmas,” “free,” etc.

2. 29% of all holiday subject lines had a “%” sign. This is very similar to last year’s results (27%), and also proves that retailers carry on offering deals to customers even after the BFCM weekend.

What is interesting is that the discounts offered by retailers differ significantly. In 2018, the most popular discounts for December were 25% and 30%. Meanwhile in 2019, the most popular discounts were 5% (27% of all deals), 20% (13%), and 25% (12%).

Discount Offer for Holiday CampaignsFrequency in 2019

The subject lines that generated the best open rates last year had the same qualities as the year before:

  • They contained power words “get,” “don’t miss,” “the last call,” etc.
  • They had emojis.
  • They had a clear offer.
  • They were concise and straight to the point.
  • A lot of subject lines mentioned delivery by Christmas.

Top 15 Holiday Email Subject Lines in 2019

Subject lineOpen rateIndustry
? Holiday Special48%Food & Beverages
Hydras Back in Stock this Saturday!48%Jewelry & Accessories
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from [Brand] ?46%Computer & Electronics
A note from Santa’s Workshop40%Jewelry & Accessories
Exciting Last Minute Christmas Ideas & Offers!40%Computer & Electronics
? You’ve Got a Present from [brand name]43%Fashion & Apparel
Order Now for Delivery by Christmas!39%Computer & Electronics
?Merry Christmas, Let’s Thank You ?39%Jewelry & Accessories
Today Only! Green Monday ? Apple Sale!37%Computer & Electronics
Gold is for the Holidays! ?37%Jewelry & Accessories
Giving Tuesday – Buy One, Give One35%Fashion & Apparel
Have Your Seen Christmas Gifts Guide?35%Jewelry & Accessories
?Christmas Sale has started plus a few new fabrics & ideas for you34%Fashion & Apparel
Want It by Christmas?34%Jewelry & Accessories
Last-minute delivery34%Toys & Games

Insights Into Holiday Email Subject Lines From 2018

We analyzed over 6000 campaigns sent to client bases with more than 5000 subscribers between Nov 27th, 2018, and Jan 5th, 2019. This time period was chosen on purpose to cover the entire holiday season, starting just after the Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend.

For the best Black Friday/Cyber Monday subject lines, carry on reading here.

What we found in campaigns coming after Black Friday/Cyber Monday stood well apart from the shopping weekend.

First of all, merchants sent multiple campaigns. During the six weeks that we analyzed, merchants sent significantly more emails than they usually do. Some of them were sending campaigns related to dates and occasions, but the vast majority of senders did so randomly.

The most popular words in those subject lines were the following:


It was quite surprising that during this time only 3.75% of subject lines had “holidays” mentioned in the subject lines. “Christmas” was much more popular.

As you can see the most popular word was “OFF”, which indicated discounts. Overall, 27% of all subject lines had a discount mentioned. It means that even when the biggest sales of the year were over, merchants carried on offering deals and discounts for their customers.

The most popular discounts during this period were 25% and 30%. See the list of the most popular discounts that were offered by merchants during the 2018 holiday season:


25% and 30% discounts were the most popular. Exceedingly few merchants offered generous 50%+ discounts. On the other hand, a 10% discount was seldom as well.

What was interesting that discounts with “$” signs were used less than 20 times in all 6000+ campaigns.

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Top Five Emojis In Holiday Email Subject Lines

Emojis are getting more and more popular in email subject lines. Last year, 18% of holiday email subject lines had one or more emojis added. Emojis add that little punch of color and fun to draw your customer’s eye and make your email stand out from the crowd.

If emojis fit your brand identity, consider using them in your subject lines as well. Here’s why:

  • Emojis help you to stand out in a crowded inbox
  • Emojis increase your open rate
  • These little icons save space in the subject line
  • They help convey an emotion
  • A/B testing with and without emojis won’t cost you a thing.

During the holiday season last year, some particular emojis stood out from the rest. Obviously, these were the ones most related to the holiday season:


Top 20 Holiday Email Subject Lines

At Omnisend, we analyze subject lines a lot. See the top 20 holiday email subject lines sent in 2018 below. If you want to find more great examples, check out our collection of the best subject lines.

#Subject LineOpen Rate
1? This is an Emergency47.15%
2? Catch of the Day45.39%
3❄️ Price Freeze – Black Friday Deals Back44.58%
43D Moon Lamp ?: 50% OFF(7 Days Shipping)41.58%
5? Your Adventure Begins NOW39.53%
6?Tick tock. (early holiday up to 75% off )39.08%
7Psst !! Up to 75% OFF happening right now!37.31%
8Happy New Year from [brand]36.89%
9Even more ? off – 75% OFF!!36.78%
10?Christmas Sale ? ?32.22%
11? Gifts For Her Under $20!31.82%
12? Gifts For Him Under $20!31.75%
13?Last call for early Christmas deals 25% off31.07%
14Merry Christmas Sale!30.63%
15Boxing Day Sale ?30.58%
16Christmas Pattern Sale!!30.33%
17Box these deals like you mean it! 25% OFF29.81%
1825 % OFF + Christmas shopping deals29.67%
19Thank you! 75% OFF for being an awesome customer29.65%
20Ho Ho Ho FreeShipping, Here we go! ✌️29.59%

The Five Main Principles To Crafting Your Holiday Email Subject Line

You can only learn which subject lines work best for your business by testing different variations.

However, some best practices can facilitate your initial ideas for subject lines. By following them, you’ll increase your chances of being noticed and getting your emails opened. Also, you’ll reduce the chance of ending up in the SPAM folder, which is critical to any email campaign.

So, let’s check out some good subject line practices for your business:

#1 Concise subject lines

As you can see from the email subject lines listed above, you don’t need fancy words in your subject lines. Try to be short and straight to the point.
Subject lines should be visible for both mobile and desktop users, so the sweet spot is 4-6 words or 21-50 characters.

Subject lines of this length are optimal for all of the gadgets that people use for reading emails.

#2 Key information goes first

Long email subject lines are always at risk of being cut off on mobile devices. To avoid this, focus on your key proposal and put it in front.

If you have a sale, start your email subject line with “Sale”. If it’s for Black Friday or new arrivals, put that in the front.

#3 Urgency and FOMO matter

If people leave something “for later”, it often means “never”. That’s just how we are.

That’s why you should create urgency and push your customers to act now and don’t postpone it for later.

You can create that by using limited-time offers: “24-hours offer”, “Only today”, “Sale ends tonight”, etc.

Another good practice is including FOMO (fear of missing out) elements, like “Don’t miss”, “Have you already seen…”, etc.


#4 Use actionable verbs

All marketers know: a strong and measured call-to-action is king in online business. Use this rule in your email subject lines. Short and punchy words like “get”, “buy”, “discover”, “learn,” etc. encourage people to click on and take action.

However, don’t overdose on them because they might trigger spam filters.
I wouldn’t suggest using them together with spammy words like “free”, “100%”, or in spammy combinations with letter capitalization, exclamation marks, etc.

#5 Include numbers

50% of the top holiday subject lines listed above include numbers. As you can see, merchants use them a lot.

There are a few reasons why numbers are useful in the email subject lines:

  • They stand out from the text
  • They provide specific information about a sale or discount and set up
  • customer expectations
  • Numbers are definitely something worth trying for upcoming holiday email campaigns.

Retail Holiday Calendar For December

Apart from Christmas, there are many different occasions during the holiday season to send a message to your customers.

Find below the ultimate retail holiday calendar for 2020-2021. It might have some great ideas for your holiday communication.

Download The Ultimate Retail Holiday Calendar for 2020-2021!
Don’t miss the opportunity to get in touch with your customers.
Click here

Key Takeaways

  • Although the holiday period happens just after the Black Friday sales and covers Christmas and other seasonal holidays, the most frequent words for subject lines remain “OFF” and “Sale”.
  • In 2019, merchants offered smaller discounts (5%, 20%) than in 2018 (25% and 30% discounts were the most popular).
  • Retailers use emojis to get momentum and stand out in customer inboxes. Every fifth email subject lines sent during the holiday season had at least one emoji in 2018. In 2019, this trend was even bigger.
  • Email subject lines that generated the best open rates were short, contained power words, emojis, and numbers.

If you are specifically interested in Christmas subject lines, you should check out this article.

Boost Your Open Rates!
Analyze and improve your subject lines with our free tester before sending out your next campaign.
Try It Now!
Karolina Petraškienė

Karolina is a writer, content marketer, and email enthusiast at Omnisend. When she's not curating articles, you can find her in the woods challenging herself in hiking boots or off-roading her bike.