6 Best Practices for Successful Holiday Email Campaigns
For many email marketers, August is the busiest month of the year. It's when planning begins for their holiday email campaigns. How much should they increase their email volume? Which days should they send their holiday messages? How can they stand out in their customers' inboxes?
To help marketers with these decisions, Seattle-based email marketing agency Smith-Harmon recently published its Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season, which tracked 4,700 emails from 100 top online retailers during the fourth quarter of 2008 via the Retail Email Blog.
The following are six best practices outlined in the report designed to help retailers and other business-to-consumer email marketers have a successful holiday season this year:
1. Review last year's holiday campaigns. Thoroughly examine what happened during your 2008 holiday email season, the report recommends. Ask yourself the following:
- Which of my email campaigns generated the highest conversions?
- Which campaigns generated the lowest conversions?
- Which segmentation tactics were most successful?
- Which campaigns were forwarded and shared the most?
- Which campaigns generated the highest unsubscribe rates?
- Did I have to send any apology emails? What did I apologize about? Have steps been taken to fix the problems?
2. Start Christmas campaigns early. On average, retailers began their 2008 holiday campaigns 67 days before Christmas, which was nine days earlier than the 2007 holiday season, according to the report. Retailers’ desire to close sales ahead of poor economic news was likely the motivation for the more aggressive early messaging. With the economy still weak, the report says the messages likely will start early again this year.
3. Use complementary preholiday messaging. Complement early holiday messaging, the report suggests, by doing the following:
- Ask subscribers directly to update their preferences, or make the link to your preference center more prominent by moving it above the fold.
- Ask subscribers to complete a survey about your email program.
- If you’ve recently relaunched or improved your website, tell your subscribers about it.
- If you’re using product reviews in your emails, make sure products have a sufficient quantity of reviews by spurring subscribers to review products during the summer and early fall.
- Try a delayed reward program designed to bring customers back during the holiday season.
- If you have a private label credit card, loyalty program or member-based shipping program, promote it in the run-up to the holiday season.
4. Send more email. With consumers actively looking for ideas, 90 percent of major online retailers ratchet up their send volumes during the holiday season, according to the report. The most popular email days of 2008 came in the weeks before Christmas — including Cyber Monday, which took the No. 1 spot. While these days are popular because they achieve better results, they’re also the days when emails have the most competition in the inbox. If that logic appeals to you, the report says, then send on the days just before or after these days. Also, it recommends targeting brand loyalists with a "daily deals" email series or an “X Days of Christmas” campaign that requires an additional opt-in.
5. Stand out more. With more emails pouring into subscribers’ inboxes, email marketers must stand out with relevant content, big deals and helpful advice during the holidays. They also must offer compelling subject lines and eye-catching and effective designs, such as:
- a holiday header and navigation bar;
- a gift services footer; and
- animated gifs.
6. Leverage social sharing. Last holiday season, email marketers’ primary viral tool was forward-to-a-friend, the report says. This holiday season, however, a significant percentage of retailers will adopt “share-with-your-network” (SWYN) functionality into their emails, empowering subscribers to easily share the content of their emails with their friends and family on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks.
While adding SWYN to the social media bar or footer of your email is standard, look for opportunities to pull a “share with your friends” call to action into the body of your message to spur viral sharing, the report suggests.