Valentine's Day emails Valentine's Day emails

Six ways to make your Valentine’s Day email marketing stand out

Valentine’s Day may be in the middle of February, but the Valentine’s Day shopping season pretty much begins as soon as the Christmas shopping season is over. While you’ve still got leftovers in your fridge, stores are busy subbing out the red, green, and silver decor for red, pink, and… more pink. And while Valentine’s Day isn’t quite the shopping bonanza of Christmas (no holiday is), it’s still very good: Last year, in 2020, Americans spent a record $27 billion on the holiday.

Naturally, you’ll want your store to bring in a piece of all that Valentine’s Day spending—even if the products you sell don’t immediately jump out as perfect romantic gifts. In this article, we’ll explore six strategies for making sure your eCommerce email marketing stands out during the Valentine’s Day season, regardless of what you sell.

1. Be strategic with your subject lines

Around major holidays like Valentine’s Day, customers’ inboxes will be filled with holiday promotions, so it’s especially important to make sure your subject lines stand out. Here is a snapshot of the Valentine’s Day promotions that had already hit my inbox in mid-January.

Early Valentine's Day emails.

These subject lines employ a wide range of subject line strategies

  • Curiosity gap. UrbanSitter piques curiosity with “Now here’s a great Valentine’s gift idea…” And Lush Cosmetics also builds curiosity with “Valentine’s Day came early.” (They also make good use of the preview text: elaborating a little, but still leaving enough of a mystery to entice clicks.)
  • Humor. Roger Williams Park Zoo uses a playful subject line: “Roses are red, Pandas are too!”
  • Honest and direct. OshKosh B’gosh goes for the direct route with “BE MINE! UP TO 50% OFF”—that’s a lot of capital letters, but it makes the value proposition unambiguously clear.

Try using lots of different strategies for your emails in the lead up to Valentine’s Day to keep your customers from developing ad blindness toward your promotions—and to see what works best with your customers for this holiday.

It’s worth noting that none of those January emails is using scarcity or urgency as a Valentine’s Day sales technique—yet. That strategy comes into play as we get closer to the holiday. Here are some emails from the week leading up to last year’s Valentine’s Day—when brands begin leaning on urgency.

Valentine's Day emails with a sense of urgency.

2. You don’t have to limit yourself to red and pink

People see lots of red and pink in Valentine’s Day email promotions. It’s important to remember, though, that there are ways to pull off an effective Valentine’s Day theme without overwhelming your subscribers’ eyes with red and pink—especially since too much red may have an unintended effect on mood that makes people feel angry, not loving.

This email from Carter’s uses the company’s standard blue and white color scheme and employs red and pink judiciously and strategically. The reds and pinks set the Valentine’s Day mood without becoming an eyesore—and they effectively draw the eye to the most important parts of the email.

An email from Carter's that makes judicious use of red and pink.

You also shouldn’t feel like you have to include red or pink heart emojis in your subject lines. As you can see in the inbox screenshots earlier in this article, there are a lot of emojis in the subject lines of Valentine’s Day emails—mostly involving red hearts, pink hearts, and the smiley face with heart eyes. Rather than falling in with the pack and using the same predictable Valentine’s Day emojis, try something different. (Even if it’s just a heart that’s not pink or red.)

Here’s how Death Wish Coffee Company used a very on-brand black heart to stand out with their Valentine’s Day promotion last year.

Using a black heart emoji on Valentine's Day.

3. Use storytelling to frame your products as meaningful gifts

There’s often a lot of pressure on people when they’re hunting for a Valentine’s Day gift. They want something that’s romantic, thoughtful, perfect for their significant other, and preferably not just a stereotypical gift like a heart-shaped box of chocolate.

As a marketer, you can use your email content to demonstrate to your customers that you’re selling the perfect gift that checks all of those boxes. Use your copy and photos to do more than just display a product shot. Tell the story behind the product. Paint a picture of the type of person who would want it. Show someone actually using it—or receiving it as a gift—and how happy it’s making them.

This email from Tuckernuck doesn’t just show off a product—in fact, it barely shows the product. Instead, it describes the inspiration behind the product. That, in turn, helps a customer see who it might resonate with as a gift (someone who loves art and traveling, in this case). Many relationships revolve around shared experiences like travel and cultural appreciation; Tuckernuck is drawing a connection between these relationship-defining interests and this collection of products.

Telling the story behind the products for Valentine's Day.
Via: Milled.

And hey, if your store sells heart-shaped boxes of chocolates, don’t despair! Think of ways to tell the story of why your product is unique.

4. Use the “love” theme even if you don’t sell romantic products

You don’t just have to promote romantic- or holiday-themed gifts for Valentine’s Day. No matter what you sell, there’s a way to tie into Valentine’s Day. You can always play off the idea that your customers “love” your products. Or you can emphasize how customers can use your products to pursue the hobbies and interests that they “love.”

Here’s an example of a Valentine’s Day email that applies the concept of “love” to things like food coloring and black pepper. Customers aren’t buying those as Valentine’s Day gifts (at least, they probably aren’t)—so instead, the brand takes advantage of the holiday’s themes by reminding the customers that they love the products.

Love our products for Valentine's Day.
Via: Milled.

5. Remember the single people

Not every single one of your customers is in a relationship. (Unless maybe you sell couples’ Halloween costumes? Or relationship counseling services?) While you don’t need to apologize for marketing your products as gifts on Valentine’s Day, you can also throw single folks a bone with marketing content that specifically celebrates the joys of the single life or the love between friends.

Here’s an email where Lenox, a home goods shop, taps into the cultural phenomenon of Galentine’s Day, which was invented by Leslie Knope on Parks and Recreation and has since become a popular way for women to celebrate friendship with each other. The email speaks to young women who are looking for great ways to honor their friendships, regardless of the status of their dating life.

A promotion for Galentine's Day.
Via: Milled

6. Incorporate Valentine’s Day into your automations

It’s an advanced move to update your automated emails to be topical—a move so advanced we couldn’t find any examples of brands that have done it for Valentine’s Day. (Christmas, yes. Valentine’s Day, not yet.)

Here are just a few of the temporary changes you could make to your automations for the Valentine’s season to really stand out from all the other eCommerce stores out there.

  • Add your Valentine’s Day shipping deadlines to cart abandonment emails to increase the sense of urgency for your customers.
  • Use Valentine’s imagery and language in a welcome email.
  • Use phrases like “We still love you” with a Valentine’s Day-themed win-back email. That phrase might come off a little creepy during another time of the year, but it plays in this season.

When you update your automations with a seasonal touch, it helps them feel fresh and relevant, and shows you’re very engaged in your business—which builds customer trust. Just make sure to set a reminder to change your automations back to normal after Valentine’s Day.

Key takeaways

Valentine’s Day offers eCommerce stores an opportunity to kick off the new year with a holiday boost—even stores whose products aren’t typical romantic gifts. And with the right email marketing strategy, you can help your Valentine’s Day promotions really stand out.

  • Be strategic with your subject lines. Use different subject line strategies to draw attention to your Valentine’s Day promotions—and ramp up the urgency as the holiday approaches.
  • Don’t limit yourself to red and pink. Rather than overwhelming your customers with red and pink promotions, try incorporating those colors judiciously to give them more impact.
  • Use storytelling to frame your products as meaningful gifts. People are hunting for meaningful gifts for Valentine’s Day. Present your products strategically so your customers can see exactly why they’d make great gifts and who they’d resonate with.
  • Put your own spin on love. There are many different types of love. Valentine’s Day can be a good time for celebrating the passions and interests that drive your customers to support your business.
  • Remember the single people. Some of your customers might choose to use the holiday to celebrate platonic love. Tapping into cultural moments like Galentine’s Day can help position your products as gifts for friends.
  • Incorporate Valentine’s Day into your automations. It’s an advanced move to update your automated emails for Valentine’s Day—but you may find they bring you even more value if you do.