6 Best Contest Emails & What You Can Learn From Them

If you're reading this, you either have a contest you want to promote for more entries, or you're looking for a contest email example to get your own started. Whatever the case may be, you're in the right place.

I won't drag on and on about how email marketing isn't dead or the fact that 99% of consumers check their email every day or that 59% of respondents say marketing emails influence their purchase decisions. Right off the bat, email is one of the best ways to promote, drive traffic and entries to your brand's contest or giveaway.

That being said, you've probably seen a lot of content on your every day lead generation emails rather than emails specific to giveaway and contests. So, I wrote this article for anyone specifically looking for the best contest email examples and what you can use for your own!

Let's jump right into it...

A well-designed email is a crucial factor to distinguish yourself from the ongoing competitions in the market.

The email design can reflect your brand. You might not be able to make your email look exactly like your website, but it can give a good reflection of your already established style.

1. The Limited

Contest Email Lesson: Keep Your Eyes on the Prize

There are three key things to consider when creating your contest email: the message you want to bring across, the prize, and the (theme or) design of your email. Sure, other small details play a role in your email’s success, but before you even consider anything else, consider those three as your key pillars.

Most of the examples listed in this article are heavily designed emails (especially with images). Why? The answer is simple: they work!

MIT neuroscientists find the brain can identify images seen for as little as 13 milliseconds. Before your email subscribers even read the text on your email, their first focus is your images.

Joe Griffin, CEO of content creation software ClearVoice, once said, "We're visual people, inherently drawn to content that contains rich, attractive images."

The main prize for this giveaway is a gift card valued at $100. Gift cards are great incentives for giveaways because it allows winners to choose the prize they really want. RetailMeNot did a survey and found that two-thirds of consumers have "made a purchase they weren't originally planning to make solely based on finding a coupon or discount." Which means the winner of the gift card will most likely buy something of greater or equal value to that gift card.

The email can also be a reminder for loyal shoppers to take a look at what you have to offer (with hopes of winning the gift card) and might entice them to make a purchase along the way.

The Limited's email design is heavily designed with products. As an eCommerce retailer, showing off your products in your email is a must, especially when you're giving away a gift card instead of a specific item.

The layout of the email places the text at the center but also mimics the experience of a landing page a user could quickly shop on. Just before reaching the body of the email, the readers automatically understand what this email is for with the copy "Pin & Win ..."

The body of the email clearly states how contestants can enter to win, how many winners will be selected, and a CTA at the end to seal the deal.

If you look closely, the color of the CTA button is the same as the header. This color selection isn't just a coincidence, it matches the overall look and feel of the entire email (a warm tone to match the autumn collection) and it stands out just in case the reader is someone who skips the details (like several subscribers) and goes straight from the header to the CTA.

Actionable Takeaways: Looks Matter

The visuals you use for your email can make or break your readers' first impression once they've made it past your subject line. Use product images and designs that help your emails to stand out, clearly, point out what your email is about and have an overarching theme to your design. Here's a quick email design checklist to go over:

  • Use professional product images
  • Choose one email design theme and stick to it. It pays to be consistent
  • Use your colors wisely, including the colors for your CTA button and text. Pick a color that stands out or highlights what is important.
  • Don't try to cram too many designs in one email.
  • If you add too many images in your email, your customer might get confused and forget your CTA.

Need help understanding and creating your own email designs? Here are 10 Examples of Winning Email Design And How To Make Your Own

2. Pull & Bear

Contest Email Lesson: Know Your Audience & Personalize Your Emails

You've heard this a thousand times, from email marketing experts and beginners alike. Well, they say a cliche is a cliche for a reason.

So what does knowing your audience to send a contest email to have anything to with well, your email?

When you send an email that speaks to a specific or your own target audience it shows that understand who is opening and reading your email. Consumers want to feel wanted, appreciated, and part of a community. The old marketing tricks that are focused on just purely selling in emails are outdated.

Once you know who your email is meant for you can move forward with personalization. Once you've got a couple hundred emails on your mailing list, there's no excuse not to send personalized emails. The earlier you start to segment your list and customer data, the easier it is to build a customized email system will be in the future.

It can be as simple as {first name} to all your emails or as complex as showing specific products and sizes based on the person's past purchase history.

Why am I pushing so hard for you to personalize your emails? Personalized emails generated six times higher transaction rates and revenue per email compared to emails that were not personalized.

For example, if an eCommerce store selling gym wear hosts a "Best Female Tuesday Transformation" contest, you shouldn't be surprised that only sending it to female subscribers will improve their emails’ CTR.

Pull and Bear is a mega online retailer that sells a variety of clothing items and accessories. They decided to host a summer giveaway where a contestant would shop and win for a chance to win a free customized surfboard.

Before we go in the copy, layout, and design, let's talk about the entry method for this contest. The entry method you choose giveaway contest entry should always be aligned with your overall marketing goals. If you want more followers or engagement center it around your social media pages, if you're going to increase sales, you can follow Pull & Bear’s entry method of shopping or spending a specific amount for an automatic entry.

Shoppers simply had to make a purchase from Pull & Bear's surf capsule collection to win the prize of a customized surfboard. The reward and the entry method complement each other perfectly.

The email is heavily designed with images of a model in the surf capsule collection and casual lifestyle imagery. Lifestyle photos tell stories, which helps to separate it from your usual generic product photos. It also allows the customer to envision what they would look like in the product or crave for the lifestyle that your images paint -- in this case, surf, sun and fun.

The layout is simple with the brand logo at the top, simple text pointing out the CTA "+INFO" with instructions and the deadline for the contest. My only takeaway is that CTA seems almost blended in the images and could get lost. Try to add 2 or more CTA buttons when you have a long-form email layout and choose a color or text that helps readers to automatically pick up where they should click.

You can try one or two of Hubspot's 31 Call-to-Action Examples You Can't Help But Click.

Actionable Takeaways: Write for Them, Not You.

Before you start writing or designing, take the time to understand exactly who is receiving your emails. Add that to your overarching theme, and you've created an email that connects more authentically with your readers.

Add lifestyle product images showing off your prize, let your pictures tell a story or present a lifestyle that seems appealing to your shoppers.

Lastly, take into consideration that your CTA needs to stand out. Don't get so caught up trying to make your email look beautiful that you forget about the functionality of its design.

3. Birch Box

Contest Email Lesson: Try Adding GIFs & Videos to Your Email

Companies have been using GIFs in emails for a long time, it's nothing new. It has been proven that videos added to your email increase click rates by 300%. They add a fun and engaging element to your email designs, which in turn improves your email's CTR.

However, not all GIFs are supported by emails, sometimes they don't help emails to optimize as quickly as emails with images, which can affect loading speed. But with some test runs and a few frame compressions, you should be good to go.

Birch Box is an online service that sends subscribers monthly beauty boxes with four to five selected samples of makeup and other various beauty products.

Birch Box is known for its stunning email designs and CTAs. Taking a look at the email; the logo is prominent at the top of the email. You also see an offer for free shipping and the qualifications for it so that shoppers aren't caught by surprise.

The header ("We see something awesome in your future”) is a great play on the GIFs element of suspense. The theme of the email is pink, fun, and playful. The CTA is placed in a simple box outline and dead center so that the reader's focus is mainly on the header, CTA box, and the moving GIF. The layout complements each text without making the reader feel confused.

Actionable Takeaways:

Creating your own GIF is easier than ever, you can cut out the graphic designer and go straight to the design yourself. Below, I've listed the top tools and guides to help you below, see what works:

5 Best GIF Maker Tools

Top 3 Guides to Making GIFs


Contest Email Lesson: Gamify Your Contest & Giveaway Email

Radicati found that between 2014 to 2018, the average office worker received an astonishing 90 emails a day, a few of which were from retailers with offers, discounts and new products. Customers are accustomed to getting emails with offers, it's almost guaranteed once they sign up for an email list or create an order.

So how do you get customers more excited about your giveaway and contest, while trying to outdo your competitors?

Try gamifying your contest email. When the Italian restaurant Zizzi launched a 'roll a dice' online board game, giving readers the chance to win restaurant vouchers and even a holiday to Sardinia, it came as no surprise when winners started booking at Zizzi's for lunch and dinner.

The email campaign helped to drive bookings, social media awareness and allowed Zizzi to outdo its local competitors.

Your brand can get the same results. Coming back to the three key pillars of a lead-generating email: the message, the prize, and the (theme or) design of your email, all need to tie in with your email's game. Trust me, readers can always feel the disconnect when it comes to these three, even more so if you add a gaming element.

Take a look at Cadbury's contest email in honor of the Premier League with a "Match & Win" email marketing promotion. Participants had to buy a Cadbury product (again, the goal was increasing sales during the premier league season) and then click the link to enter the code associated with it.

Any chocolate lover knows that Cadbury's brand colors are royal purple, and they went above and beyond to make sure the email represented it. Unlike the other emails, this has one image placed at the top introducing the contest.

We see a sense of urgency being used in the header, "Nearly Time For The Final Whistle," and it also plays on the football theme.

The copy continues by telling the reader first that there are only two weeks left to win the contest, using the fear of missing out to drive readers to the CTA. The rest of the copy clearly states the contest details. At the end of the email, we see a simple CTA, again tied back to the theme, saying "Play Now."

The pro of this email is that it's practical and straightforward. The only drawback would be that readers would have to leave the email (make a Cadbury purchase) and then come back to play to win. This gap between screen and purchase is a bit of a gamble because it allows enough time to pass for readers to forget or think that it's too much trouble to enter. At the end of the day, making a sale is the aim of the game, and Cadbury sticks to its entry method.

Actionable Takeaways: Avoid Boring Emails, Spice Things Up!

We receive hundreds of emails each day, though most email marketers won't admit it, more than half of those emails look and feel the same way. You want to make sure that your contest email stands out against the rest. Gamifying your email is just one of the many ways you can start. It takes time, but once you have all the right code and strategy in place, the result will be worth it.

Click here to learn How Litmus Used Email Gamification to Promote Their Conference. It goes in-depth with their start to finish email marketing strategy, what they needed to gamify their emails, and the challenges they faced and solved.

5. Fat Face

Contest Email Lesson: Select A Prize Worth Winning

You read that lesson right. Pick a prize that's worth winning. So your email design and layout could make an expert email designer cry tears of joy, great, but the prize you choose to motivate people to enter falls flat on its face.

I've seen too many giveaway and contest that offer a 15% discount or a free product that isn't even listed in their bestseller list. They feel more like leftovers than a prize.

A prize should first and foremost be relevant to your target audience. Based on your buyer's behavior, what do they gravitate towards when they shop on your store? If your prize isn't from your eCommerce store, then what kind of reward connects well with your buyers? For example, if your buyers are mainly males, then a shaving kit would be an excellent place to start.

I advocate for finding affordable prizes for contests and giveaways, but the greater the value of your prize, the more likely your contest is to go viral. When Dominos decided to give one lucky winner the chance to win one year of free pizza (with some requirements) just by retweeting their post, the contest and the hashtag #dominos went viral on social media.

Fat face's email layout is bright, fun, and makes use of open spaces. The header is "It's a Win-Win!", which is true since the mechanism of the contest asks that shoppers place an order at midnight for the chance to win their entire order free.

They use the color yellow to put contrast on the copy that needed attention, such as "Win your order" and "25 chances to win". Further in the email, the reader sees pieces from their summer collection to start shopping.

Actionable Takeaways: Choose Your Prize Wisely

Don't try to break the bank by offering a prize that's going to cost you more in the end. Here are four affordable giveaway ideas:

1. Partnered Product Giveaway:

Reach out to a brand that complements your products and join forces to host a giveaway. Partnering with a brand for the giveaway can double your giveaway entries and promotion efforts. This can also help to build lasting business connections in the future.

2. Bestseller Product Set:

Choosing your best sellers, you can create a product kit or set, using the momentum of your product popularity to promote your giveaway. This gives customers the chance to win their favorite products for free and attracts new customers who might have considered buying from you.

3. Free Product Samples:

Exclusive access can make your winners feel like a part of your brand and your inner circle. Why not host a giveaway where the winner gets free access to samples of new products or tools before you launch them on your store?

4. Sponsor a Charity:

Corporate social responsibility has become a big topic, especially when it comes to public opinion. Ask your followers to nominate charities for you to donate to, either once or monthly.

For more prize ideas you can try our guide on 50 Affordable Giveaway Ideas You Can Use Today.

6. Wishpond

Contest Email Lesson: Stop Reading & Get Started

I could spend hours explaining, analyzing and telling you about the best contest emails and why they work (and trust me I can write up a storm on emails) but the best way for you to see this success for yourself is to put it in action.

With Wishpond's email marketing templates and automation system, you can easily promote, monitor, and improve your emails for better results.

Each email newsletter comes with a dashboard to track your metrics, A/B testing and mobile responsive designs, so readers on the go get the same beautiful interface and experience as desktop readers.

Ready to create your own contest emails?

Book a free call to learn how our team of contest experts can help you create high converting contest emails today.

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Written by Victoria Taylor

Victoria is a Marketing Generalist at Wishpond specializing in all things digital marketing and social media marketing. In love with blogging and Taco Tuesdays. Follow her on Twitter @vicknwsbest.