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Why you should really send birthday emails (and other celebratory ecards)

· 15 min read · Email marketing · Feb 12, 2021

Do you have automated happy birthday emails set up for your subscribers? If your head is moving left to right at this moment, it’s okay.

Many businesses overlook the importance of automated birthday emails. We’re here to explain why that is a missed opportunity.

Celebrating birthdays by sending an ecard is one of the easiest and most effective ways to boost engagement. 

You’ll love birthday emails because they:

  • Perform better than any other promotional email type

  • Strengthen the relationship between you and the recipient

  • Are highly relevant and personal

  • Apply to all recipients, not just specific customer segments

  • Have the potential to result in conversions

Sounds like a party you can’t miss, right? We’ll start with a bit more insight into how birthday emails work, show you examples for inspiration and end the party by helping you set up your own birthday email campaign.

A happy birthday email is arguably the most personalized, automated email there is. And the best part is that you don’t have to remember it! Birthday emails are automatically sent on your subscriber’s special day! 🎉

For this type of marketing automation email, you need to know the birth dates of your subscribers. You can either add this information manually, ask your subscribers to add it (for example when signing up) or sync the dates from your shop backend, using an integration.

When the birthday automation is set up, your email tool will automatically check every day whether there’s a recipient that matches the exact day and month. If so, the birthday email will be sent out. As it’s not taking into account the year, this date trigger will happen annually.

In a broader sense, the birthday email automation can also be used to celebrate other types of anniversaries (more on that later!).

It’s eleven in the morning, your phone is buzzing with incoming birthday messages and you’re (hopefully) about to dig into a piece of delicious birthday cake (bonus points if it has buttery vanilla layers and sprinkles).

You check your email inbox. Then you see this: “Tom, we have a gift for you!”

Now, if you’re Tom and it’s your birthday, that email is pretty extraordinarily accurate. Assuming that most of us like gifts, the email open depends on how strong the brand relationship is—for the most part. If Tom likes the brand, the open rate will be 100%, and potentially, the birthday boy will even click through within the email to obtain his gift.

Birthday celebration emails are the most personal automated trigger within email marketing. And there’s research to back this up.

Experian found that birthday emails outperform all other promotional emails

They generate 481% higher transaction rates, have 342% higher revenue per email, 179% higher unique click-through rates and 53% higher open rates.

If birthday emails are not part of your email marketing strategy, you’re missing out on a great opportunity.

1. Think of ways to collect people’s date of birth

If you’re lucky, you already know when your customer celebrates their birthday (e.g. from previous purchases). If you have no idea, you first need to know how you want to collect this information.

There are a variety of options. In MailerLite, you can send out a survey email asking people to share their birthday to receive goodies on their big day. 

You can also ask people to insert the date via an email signup form. This can be an existing form, as long as it makes sense to ask for the subscriber’s birthday (when people are just signing up for the newsletter, it probably doesn’t make sense).

Below you see an example of how e-commerce store Tatcha asks subscribers to add their birthday by updating their account.

Tatcha asking for birthday email

2. Put your subscriber in the spotlight

Even though the timing of the birthday email is immaculate, you still need to make an effort to personalize the message. 

A name placeholder is easily inserted, though many people refrain from adding one. Looking at our customers’ birthday emails, we found that only 5,6% use name personalization in emails.

Apart from mentioning the subscriber's name in the subject line and email content, also ask yourself what other ways there are to make the emails more personal. Can you adapt it to the person’s gender, location or purchase history?

Tip: If you want to learn more about how to make emails more personal and targeted, read our ultimate guide to email personalization.

3. Show readers what to do with a clear call to action

Whether you’re giving readers a discount code or offering them a small gift, it’s important that they know what to do to obtain their gift. Your call to action (CTA) should be crystal clear.

For discounts, the CTA can be “Go to shop” or “Redeem your voucher”. For gifts, the CTA button text can read “Get my gift”. The text can vary, as long as readers can easily understand what it is they’re getting and what action they should take to get it.

4. Go beyond birthdays and celebrate other occasions too

One main advantage of birthday emails is that they strengthen engagement and brand relationships. This goal can also be pursued with emails that celebrate other occasions.

For example, do you celebrate employee birthdays, work anniversaries and team wins? These types of emails can serve as team building and improve employee satisfaction.

Quick tip

Are you sending an internal newsletter already? To get started, read our industry guide for sending internal employee newsletters.

Other things to celebrate are loyal customers and company milestones. Below you’ll see how deodorant brand Native celebrates their fifth birthday by giving readers a $5 coupon code for their next order.

Native birthday coupon email

Just when you thought we were done Marie Kondo-ing, here we are again! When it comes to happy birthday email templates, pick one that puts a smile on your recipient’s face. Make it upbeat, colorful and celebrative. 

As for the content, make sure your birthday surprise is worth it. Though you don’t need to offer discounts, it’s recommended to offer value and make your birthday celebration email worthwhile.

Let’s look at some more birthday email examples and how they celebrated subscribers.

Send your best birthday wishes

Though vouchers and gifts are an added bonus, it’s definitely not a requirement. Your subscribers will already feel special if you just send them your birthday greetings on their actual birthday.

Make your birthday wishes personal and fitting to your brand image. For example, in the birthday ecard below, Curology inserted a picture of their team holding balloons. The imagery and text in this email design feel approachable and warm and can help to strengthen the customer relationship.

Curology team celebrating customer birthday email

Gift a special promo code

If you do want to give subscribers a little something, a special promotional code is always a good idea. The birthday discount and minimum order amount are totally up to you. 

For example, New Look treats readers to 20% off and J. Crew gifts $10 off on the next order (with a purchase of $10 or more). Both emails clearly state the birthday offer in a bigger font, and add fun with balloon GIFs and a muffin candle picture.

New Look discount birthday email
J. Crew discount birthday email

Surprise readers with a small present

Is there something small you can surprise readers with? It might be a free gift that comes with their next online order or a surprise that can be picked up in-store. You can either tell subscribers what to expect (like Chipotle below) or keep it mysterious so that readers need to head over to your online or physical shop to find out.

In the emails below, you see how Chipotle offers readers free guac and chips during their entire birthday month. Birchbox doesn’t celebrate someone’s birthday in particular but makes it a celebration for all their customers. Their promotion offers free boxes and additional samples.

Chipotle free guac birthday present email
Birchbox free samples birthday email

Offer free shipping

If your business doesn’t already offer free shipping, birthdays are a good occasion to take over these costs for customers. ReserveBar’s email below motivates readers to gift their September-born friends a bottle—without any shipping costs. The moving golden details and sparkly wine glasses make this email feel like a night out.

ReserveBar birthday gift newsletter

Lift the mood with fun GIFs

When looking at a variety of birthday emails, we saw one thing happening regularly in email templates: GIFs! Whether they’re a birthday email thing is debatable, but they do make the email campaign more celebratory. Common GIFs are balloons, cake and confetti. 

Forever21 makes their email more captivating with a fun sale cake (that, by the way, gives us instant cake cravings).

Forever21 fun GIF birthday email

Think outside the box

I personally think about lobster rolls often, but never about gifting these treats to friends as a birthday gift. In fact, even as a fervent Luke’s Lobster cheerleader, I never knew they offered a lobster birthday treat box. 

By sending an out of the box email like the one below, Luke’s Lobster does 3 things: They put a creative twist on birthday email campaigns, they found a way to generate new sales during the pandemic and they introduce readers to their new concept using a fun narrative.

Luke's Lobster birthday package email

Remind people about their birthday treats

After you’ve sent subscribers an email coupon or gift, remind them to redeem their birthday offer. If your gift has a deadline, mention this date again in the reminder email to create a sense of urgency.

The email below from Subway puts a fun spin on a birthday reminder email. The email subject line reads: “Hurry, your birthday cookie is going to crumble soon…”

Subway birthday email

Crafting birthday email subject lines that get opened

Now that you’ve gathered newsletter ideas for your own birthday email campaign, let’s focus on the subject line. 

There are a couple of tips to keep in mind when crafting the best birthday email subject line.

  • Use the recipient’s name to make it more personalized

  • Mention “birthday” or “happy birthday” in the email subject so it’s immediately clear this is a birthday email campaign

  • If you offer a discount or gift, mention this in the subject line to make the reader more excited

  • Add some mystery to enhance curiosity (“Surprise gift inside”)

  • Use emojis if it fits your brand’s tone of voice

Birthday email subject line examples

Happy birthday {$name} 🎉

Happy Birthday to ME (and some bargains for you)!

❤️ Happy Birthday from us!

It's Almost Your Birthday {$name}, Let’s Celebrate?

Happy Birthday! Here's a gift from us to you!

You Say It's Your Birthday So Pick A Day

{$name}, When is Your Birthday?


Happy Birthday Sisley! 10% OFF

A birthday present for you (even if it's not your birthday soon)

What do YOU want for your birthday?

Happy Birthday to Me, Here's your present, {$name}

We want to be there for your birthday, {$name}! Could you share the date with me?

Join our Birthday Club and Get a FREE Pie on Your Birthday!!

When talking about birthday campaigns in MailerLite, we’re also keeping it “lite”. There’s very little to set up when creating an automated birthday marketing campaign. You just need to click a few times to create the automated trigger and then you can go straight to designing the email.

To create your birthday email workflow, you start with a new automation. As the trigger, pick The anniversary of a date, choose the subscriber group and create the date field. After that, you can already start creating your birthday email template design. Once that’s done, you just need to turn the workflow on to automatically send your birthday wishes.

For detailed workflow instructions and tips on how to make your birthday email campaigns more personalized, click here.

Birthday emails are a great way to strengthen customer relationships, boost engagement and even generate sales. 

7 things to remember for your birthday email automation 💡
  1. Collect the right info: Include a field in your signup form, and/or send out a survey email to gather your subscribers’ birth dates.

  2. Try something different: You don’t have to stick with birthdays—you can also celebrate wedding anniversaries and company milestones, for example.

  3. Make it personal: Show your subscribers that you care about them on their special day by personalizing the email.

  4. Stick with your branding: Use color schemes and layouts that match your company’s brand, so that your subscribers will recognize your email straight away.

  5. Craft your subject line: Create an exciting birthday email that is instantly recognizable just by the subject line.

  6. Add a sweetener: Whether it’s a small gift, a discount code or free shipping, make your subscribers feel special on their birthday. (And make it visible and accessible with a well-positioned CTA!)

  7. Send a follow-up: Remind people about their special discount in a tasteful follow-up email.

When used to celebrate customer’s birthdays, these emails are highly relevant and personal (you’ll love their performance). But birthday emails can also be used to celebrate other anniversaries such as company milestones—both for customers and employees. They’re truly an opportunity that can’t be missed!

Are you using birthday email automation? Let us know how your campaigns perform in the comments!

Editor's note: This article was originally published in September 2020, and it has now been updated with extra tips for your birthday emails.

Jonas Fischer
Jonas Fischer
I'm Jonas, Content Manager at MailerLite. I’m not the 4th Jonas Brother, but I do write content (which is similar to being a teen heartthrob). After writing for a bunch of companies over the years, I discovered my professional passion—helping add some humanity to B2B marketing. Email is the perfect place to start!