An Email Marketing Checklist for the Holidays
With Black Friday fast approaching, there's no better time for marketers to begin prepping for their holiday email campaigns. To boost sales during this critical time of year, brands must start testing their strategies early to identify the best opportunities to engage customers and increase conversion rates.
Because consumers are receiving more promotional messages than ever—email volume is up 9 percent, while click rates are down 14 percent—brands have to take additional steps this year to stand out in inboxes. The number of emails sent out by brands is only going to increase over the next couple of months, meaning the same old strategies won't cut it.
Marketers should make a list and check it twice. More than ever, marketers have to focus on understanding their audiences and meeting the needs of each subscriber. By doing the pre-holiday legwork now, brands can ensure that their stockings will be full on Christmas morning.
Holiday Email Checklist
After analyzing billions of promotional emails sent out over the past year for its "Email Marketing Compass" report, Yesmail Interactive has identified four key activities that will make or break holiday campaigns in 2014.
1. Make Sure Messages Get Noticed: This is the obvious starting point, but it's often the biggest roadblock to a successful email campaign. Inboxes are crowded, and customers are increasingly selective about what they open and click. While this appears to be a setback, it actually presents an opportunity for marketers to stand out if they create relevant and timely content.
Before sending out any holiday email messages, marketers should test important variables, such as subject lines and pre-header text, and then incorporate the best performers into their holiday mailing schedules. The next step should be segmenting your audience based on email activity, device preference, purchase history, browse history, etc. For example, take a look at what days and times garner the highest open rates, and consider whether that changes based on consumers' device preferences. Finally, develop a pre-holiday activation program to identify the most active subscribers, re-engage subscribers who haven't been active in a while, and remove dead records from your lists.
2. Enhance and Use Customer Data: Marketers can provide a better customer experience by using data to personalize messaging and offers. By auditing existing customer data and enhancing it before the holiday season—through additional data collection, preference identification and data append services—you can tailor your campaign messages to subscriber preferences and test segmentation to refine your holiday strategy.
Implementing triggered campaigns is another way to personalize content. By triggering messages based on subscribers' browsing behavior, purchase history, email interactions and events like abandoned carts, you can drastically increase response rates. Yesmail has found that open rates for triggered campaigns are 2.5 times higher than those of general campaigns, while unique click rates are double. Don't ignore this important component of your holiday email marketing strategy.
3. Improve the Mobile Experience: Mobile and email will play a major role in in-store and online holiday shopping activity. But while more people are opening emails on mobile, consumers remain twice as likely to click on a desktop email compared to a mobile email, probably due to rendering issues or calls to action that do not consider the context of the mobile reader. If customers can't read an email and aren't instantly able or aware of how they should act on it, they won't.
When thinking about mobile, prepare now while identifying future opportunities. First, determine which interactions lend themselves naturally to mobile and incorporate calls to action that relate to the mobile context. Then, make sure to employ scalable and responsive design through the entire customer journey so that your emails translate from a desktop to a mobile device.
4. Start Telling a Story: Not every message should be a sales pitch. Marketers must supplement calls to action with relevant content that provides both a unique point of view and valuable information to consumers. While sales-focused emails certainly are important, you should be building a relationship with your customers leading into the holiday season so they're more likely to pay attention when you send that Black Friday offer.
Marketers should build a library of holiday content that aligns with company messaging and takes advantage of existing resources that can be leveraged for seasonal campaigns. Consider using sticky content—or bite-sized information that adds value, yet may not link anywhere—to keep customers engaged. By providing useful information and tips, you will build brand loyalty and keep your subscribers responding.
Marketers have to contend with a distracted audience every day of the year, but the stakes are even higher during the holidays. By planning ahead and testing your email marketing strategies now, you can capture the attention of increasingly selective email readers and make sure your messages lead to happy holidays for your brand.
Bryan Finke is VP of communication strategies and experience for Chicago-based email marketing services and software provider Yes Lifecycle Marketing. Reach him at Bryan.Finke@yeslifecyclemarketing.com.