10 Tips For A Very Merry Email Marketing Holiday Season
With the holiday season upon us, it's time to super-charge your email marketing strategy. Columnist Chad White has some tips for avoiding lumps of coal and getting truly merry email marketing results.
Retailers, ideally, you’ve been warming up your subscribers and generating some early holiday sales over the past month or two, but now that Halloween has passed and it’s November, it’s official: The holiday season is here!
To help you make the most of it, here are 10 tips that will make your email marketing results merrier:
1. Use Progressive Profiling To Send Segmented Offers
Predictive intelligence and individualized recommendations are great, but during the holiday season, your subscribers’ historical data (even very recent data) may not be very helpful because they’re shopping for others more than themselves. Rather than using data to make guesses, it can be more effective to just ask your subscribers what kinds of products they’re interested in.
For instance, on Nov. 13, 2013, Zulily sent a progressive profiling email that resulted in a brand alert email being triggered on Thanksgiving Day. And on Nov. 5, 2014, Sony sent a progressive profiling email where respondents received a targeted triggered email on Black Friday.
In both cases, that’s great timing for an email that the recipient is already primed to act on.
2. Add Seasonal Content To Your Triggered Emails
Triggered emails are not “set it and forget it,” they are “review and renew.” That’s especially true going into the holiday season.
Make your triggered emails more relevant to holiday shoppers by adding seasonal imagery to the headers and gift services footers to the bottom of those emails, and adjust the logic and timing of your cart and browse abandonment emails. For instance, time to purchase is compressed during big shopping days like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Green Monday, so you’ll likely want to fire off your abandonment emails more quickly than usual.
3. Ensure Your Emails Are Rendering Properly, Particularly After The Launch Of iOS 9 Mail
Hopefully, you’re testing the rendering of every email you send. But if you’re not, you’ll want to ensure that the quirks of iOS 9 are not messing up your beautiful emails.
For example, fixed-width email designs can run into problems with iOS 9 Mail’s new zooming feature; interactive emails relying on the general sibling selector can run into issues; and forced padding is changing full-width backgrounds.
4. Have An Apology Email Templated And Ready To Go
Most apology emails aren’t sent because of email errors. They’re sent because of site outages.
’Tis the season for overwhelmed websites, so make sure you’re not scrambling if you need to make a quick apology.
If you don’t have an apology email template, create one. And if you haven’t used your apology email template in a while — and I hope you haven’t — then it’s probably wise to double-check that it still:
- has the current logo and footer text.
- has functional navigation, administrative and unsubscribe links.
- renders well across all major email clients.
5. Use Preview Text To Support Your Subject Lines
This is a quick win for the holiday season. Preview or snippet text is displayed under or to the right of the subject line in the inbox view of many major email clients, including the native iPhone email app, Gmail and Yahoo Mail.
Last November, only 47 percent of B2C marketers were optimizing their preview text so that it supported their subject lines, according to research I did with Salesforce. Anecdotally, it’s only slightly higher today.
Think of preview text as a second subject line — and you wouldn’t dream of having long URLs, administrative text and other nonsense filling up your subject line. Whether you use visible or hidden preheader text to create your preview text, don’t leave it to chance.
6. Use Social Media For Aspirational Discovery, And Site Search And Purchase Data For More Practical Discovery
Social media sites like Pinterest can tell you what people aspire to buy from you, and that information can be super-useful in getting your subscribers excited about the holiday season and thinking about the possibilities. That’s especially true early in the holiday season.
But what’s actually happening on your site and in your stores, regarding the products that your customers are buying or actively considering, can be much more telling and worthy of focus.
Consider using this information in your email campaigns more as we get further into the season, when the wisdom of the crowd can be a powerful tool to direct shoppers to your most popular products.
7. Return To What Has Worked In The Past
Every holiday season is different, but that doesn’t mean you have to start from scratch. Examine your holiday campaigns that have done well and repeat them — refining the message, updating the design and so on.
For example, Norm Thompson reused the same successful holiday campaign every year between 2007 and 2012, tweaking the campaign a little from year to year. When your subscribers respond positively to a campaign, give them more.
8. Resist The Urge To Email Chronically Inactive Subscribers
It can be oh-so-tempting to want to get a little holiday boost by emailing a bunch of your subscribers who haven’t engaged with your emails in a long time, but resist the urge. The vast, vast majority of subscribers who haven’t engaged in more than two years are likely long gone, with a good chunk of those having abandoned or changed their email address.
Email a bunch of those folks during the holiday season, and you risk getting junked or blocked — which means that you risked your ability to reach your loyal, engaged subscribers for a shot at re-engaging a tiny percentage of inactive subscribers. Not a good bet.
For a smarter, less risky bet, try to identify the seasonal shoppers among your subscribers, those who were engaged and purchased during the holiday season but then quickly became silent afterward and haven’t engaged since. Those subscribers are much better candidates for re-engagement efforts going into Thanksgiving week.
9. Send Mobile-Friendly Emails
Year after year, the holiday season has seen a spike in mobile behavior. Consumers are out and about — a little bored at their parents’ or grandparents’ house on Thanksgiving, waiting in lines at 5:00 a.m. on Black Friday, going from store to store on Small Business Saturday — and mobile keeps them plugged into the latest deals, product details and reviews and competitive pricing.
Many retailers still haven’t embraced mobile as part of their email marketing strategy. Only 56 percent of B2C brands were using mobile-friendly email designs for their promotional emails as of June, according to joint research between Litmus and Salesforce.
Every year, the opportunity cost of not being mobile-friendly grows. For instance, this year 21.4 percent of smartphone owners will use their devices to purchase holiday merchandise, and 37.9 percent will use their smartphones to research products, according to the National Retail Federation’s Holiday Consumer Spending Survey.
So if you haven’t moved to a mobile-friendly email template, now’s the time.
10. Have A Plan For Last Sleigh Day
Because Christmas falls on a Friday this time around, express shipping is likely to play a bigger role in the final days of the holiday season. Last Sleigh Day, which is Dec. 22 this year, marks the last chance for guaranteed Christmas delivery with express shipping for most retailers.
After you wrap up your Cyber Week promotions, be sure to include your order-by deadlines for standard shipping and express shipping in a module at the bottom of your emails. And if your brand is going to offer discounted or free express shipping going into Last Sleigh Day, be sure to communicate that to your subscribers.
Good luck, and I hope everyone has very merry email marketing holiday season.