Read Time: 3 min

A Case Against the Holiday Opt-Out Email 


There’s a ubiquitous email that’s getting under my skin. It feels like they’re flooding my inbox, and it’s got me thinking.

This kind of email is more often sent by retailers—both online and brick-and-mortar. It’s a good thought, too, often sent under the guise of empathy. But here’s my hot take: email marketers should rethink this email tactic.

What tactic am I talking about? The “opt-out of this specific holiday” email. 

You’ve probably seen these emails in your own inbox. Be it for Mothers’ Day, Fathers’ Day, or even the King’s Coronation.

On a single morning, I received 3 emails all with the subject line “Opt out of Mother’s Day emails” from 3 very different retailers within minutes of each other.

This email tactic appears strategic and full of empathy for your customers and subscribers. But here’s why it’s not:

  1. You’re surfacing the very holiday that could be a sensitive topic for your audience
  2. You could be creating a negative emotion by asking to opt-out
  3. Handling suppression lists for specific holiday opt-outs can get complicated so you could increase the chance of segmentation errors in the future

So what should you be doing instead?

1. Allow your audience to opt-in rather than opt-out

Use your email preference center to give your audience the opportunity to opt-in to emails about holidays and special occasions versus asking them to opt-out. This gives your audience greater control of their inbox. And gives you a useful data set of customers who WANT to hear from you during those highly seasonal promotional periods. And also quite nicely gives you a segment you could use to target paid media with seasonal/holiday messages.

2. Sprinkle in holiday-specific messaging into existing campaigns

Create opportunities to find folks who are interested in seasonal holiday campaigns by sprinkling the messaging offers in existing campaigns. If someone’s clicked on a Mother’s Day offer in an email campaign, use that data! Serve them up a follow-up email campaign focused on that click. Your volume might be lower than if you sent a standalone email campaign—but your audience intent is potentially higher resulting in higher conversion rates. 

3. Find the right seasonal holidays for your brand

It’s very tempting to jump on what everyone else is doing. Everyone else is launching an email campaign centered on Mother’s Day, so you should be, too! But think about how authentic your brand might come across to customers if you’re trying to force a connection. Understand who your audience is, what they want, and choose seasonal campaigns that will bring all of that together. And in a crowded inbox where everyone’s trying to message around one very specific seasonal holiday, your brand will stand out by leveraging a topic that resonates better with your audience. 

Here’s my challenge for you, dear readers: Be a better email marketer. 

You can do better than jumping on email trend bandwagons. Instead, be strategic and tactical. Understand your audience and what they really want. 

That’s how you stand out in a crowded inbox. 

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Jaina Mistry

Jaina Mistry

Jaina Mistry is the Director, Brand & Content Marketing at Litmus