While the holiday season may not have officially hit, holiday marketing is certainly underway. With Thanksgiving less than two weeks away, brands have already started gearing up for the busiest shopping days of the year. A head start is key for holiday marketing. Competition for consumer business is fierce, and the pressure is on for retailers to score their share of this massive spending season. The National Retail Federation forecasts nearly $580 billion in sales in the coming months. That is quite a chunk of cash. Brands need to start early if they want to be the first to engage customers.

But before you coordinate your preemptive holiday marketing strike, be sure you include one key element: email marketing. Email is consumers’ preferred channel for marketing communications reports Exact Target, and the holidays are no exception. Email was the second leading way consumers found a shopping website last holiday season after old-fashioned word-of-mouth. So while it might not be the most cutting-edge marketing channel, it might just be the most important.

Do not neglect your email strategy this winter. Here are five tips to help you execute effective holiday email marketing that will engage consumers and boost your profits this season.

1. Plan ahead. Every brand should have an email marketing holiday calendar planned far in advance to optimize their seasonal campaign. Scheduling campaigns ahead of time provides a method to the madness, and if there is any time you want to get organized, it’s the holidays. For the best results, begin hinting about the holidays at the end of the summer and slowly ramp up promotions each month. By November, you should be sending a high level of holiday messaging.

2. Deliver value. The best way to win consumers is to provide them with relevant, helpful content. Send your subscribers gift guides, decorating tips, free shipping deals, discount promotions, and insider deals. Such exclusive perks will boost open rates and maintain loyal customers.

3. Optimize for mobile. 75% of all email openings happen on a phone or tablet, but 75% of consumers are “highly” likely to delete an email that isn’t easily read via their mobile device. It is absolutely imperative you optimize email subject lines and email design for the mobile screen. If you don’t, you risking losing a sizable chunk of holiday business.

4. Get Personal. Most modern shoppers hit the stores smartphone in hand. Take advantage of geolocational technology and deliver consumers location-specific offers and store maps. Black Friday shoppers will appreciate such messaging as they check in-store deals and plan their shopping strategy on-the-go.

5. Timing is everything. Know the top shopping days and plan your promotions accordingly. Send emails on Thanksgiving evening to help Black Friday shoppers gear up for their marathon mall day. On Black Friday, send location-centric emails like those described above to catch consumers as they shop. On CyberMonday – the biggest holiday sales day – provide consumers extended offers to prevent shopping cart abandonment.

For more email marketing tips, check out the handy infographic below from Yesmail.

BostInno can help you with your holiday marketing. Learn more about our Channels and getting your brand involved with our Holiday Guide.