Why it’s Never Too Early for Retail Holiday Emails
While consumers may still be caught up in the changing colors of fall, now is the time for retailers to begin working on their holiday buzz if they’re hoping for a profitable Christmas. Last year in November and December, retail sales rose to $462 billion. That said, there's a lot of shopping activity already going on. It’s been reported that more than a third of shoppers were already online in May making purchases for the holidays.
Retailers should be building their holiday email marketing programs now. With a solid email marketing strategy in place early, targeting the right message to the right customer at the right time transforms into an action item instead of a chore. To make the process easy, apply the following to get your email marketing program rolling:
Convert visions of sugar plums into reality with a plan
If you’re new to email marketing, pull out your calendar. Working from big-ticket dates — e.g., Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah and final shipping days — lay out your holiday promotions, topics and campaigns. Then decide on the frequency of your emails and how you'll follow up. An early timeline can make a big impact on the season’s success and the amount of time you’re spending on it.
If you’re in the second generation of your email marketing, start by reviewing your email reports from last year’s holiday season. This will shed light on what worked and what didn’t. The results of previous email campaigns provide insights into tactics that work best with your clientele. You can see which of your campaigns were opened most often, which were forwarded, and what links and graphics subscribers clicked on. Use this data to build successful 2011 email campaigns.
Both veteran and new email marketers should evaluate the types of sales tactics to use during the holiday shopping season and lay them into their holiday email timeline. Coupons, discounts and bonuses often entice a window shopper to become a paying customer. A progressive incentive system where discounts, freebies and other perks multiply as customers’ shopping carts fill up can help to grow incremental sales with customers that already shop with you.
Santa is coming to town and this year he may be using an iPad
A good email marketing service offers a wide selection of themes, colors and templates. Revamp your email template with festive colors and graphics. For those using email marketing for the first time, look for an email marketing service that includes integrated editing capabilities. This cuts out the need for HTML expertise and additional graphics programs that can be expensive and hard to use. It also helps you easily manage the look and feel of your emails.
Don’t neglect mobile commerce while building your email template. Larger screens and innovative apps improve the online shopping experience, and the portability makes impulse buying and cost comparisons easier. Provide shoppers with easy-to-use options that make your campaigns mobile friendly.
Check that your mobile recipients can view your emails easily. A good email marketing service will include a default link at the top of each email that gives subscribers the option to view the email as a web page. Using a single-column layout helps make content easily readable in the small real estate available on mobile phone screens.
You also want to ensure that your graphics are compatible with all types of mobile devices. Keep your graphics small and be careful not to clutter the email with too many images. Include your terms and conditions in your email so that the only thing your subscribers need to do is show their mobile device with your promotion to the cashier to redeem the offer on the spot.
Make sure your Ho Ho Ho echoes beyond last year’s list
List building is often the most difficult obstacle to overcome because even the best email marketing services can't feed your list. No matter what anyone says, however, don't buy your email contacts. Email lists often contain names that have never heard of your brand. At best, the consequences will be a poor response because of automatic deletions. At worst, it can damage your reputation as an email sender and a trusted brand.
Leverage what you already have to build your subscription base. Include a link to a sign-up form in every piece of advertising you send. Ask your customers if they want to be added to your email list while a sale is transacted or as an option on your online store. Make it as easy as possible for your website visitors to opt in to your email program by having a very visible link on every page of the site. Signing up should take as little time as possible, so don’t ask for too much information. Sometimes an email address is really all you need to start. You can ask for more information later using a survey or by letting users update their email profile at any time.
Word-of-mouth works in the online world, too. It’s called viral marketing. A good message will be passed along. Make it easy for subscribers to forward your email to others, who will forward it to others, and so on. If the people it’s forwarded to like what they see, they'll opt in. Make it easy for them to subscribe by including links to sign-up forms. While you’re at it, add Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn connect buttons in your emails and on your web pages so subscribers can connect, share and comment, thus helping keep your message alive.
Paul Turnbull is the product manager for Campaigner, where he's responsible for product design and providing an easy-to-use email marketing solution for small- to medium-sized businesses. Paul can be reached at email@example.com.