Unconventional email themes can improve engagement with the right approach
Themes like Tax Day, National Dog Day and your brand's birthday can add a little flavor to your subscribers’ inboxes. Here's a list of best practices for themed emails.
As an email marketer, you may be feeling the post-holiday lull as 2019 starts to take shape. After a period of high subscribe rates and massive online sales, you might be left wondering how to avoid a drop in your email metrics as the excitement winds down.
If this sounds familiar, you’re not alone. My employer, Yes Marketing, collected data from Q1 2018 and found that unsubscribe rates increased dramatically this time of year, and marketers struggle to keep subscribers active and engaged. Instead of getting lost in the crowd, it’s time to exercise that creative muscle and think outside the box.
One of my favorite ways to get creative this time of year is by using unconventional themes — holidays and other events that occur outside of the typical holiday season — within email messages. Unconventional themes, from Tax Day to National Dog Day to a holiday unique to your brand (like your birthday), can help you add a little flavor to your subscribers’ inboxes.
What are some examples of unconventional themes?
Unconventional themes can be anything from season changes to small holidays to national events. We also found higher engagement with email themes like Groundhog Day and Pie Day than they did with non-themed or business-as-usual (BAU) emails in 2018. As we head into Q2 and start preparing for Q3, consider some unconventional themes that may add some spark to your email messages between April and September.
Top performing themes among our clients in Q2 2018 included:
- Festivals: Emails that used festivals, such as SXSW or Coachella, as a theme in 2018 generated an 18.9 percent open rate, which is 37 percent higher than the average BAU emails in Q2 (13.8 percent).
- Tax Day: Tax Day earned marketers a 14.3 percent click-to-open rate (CTO) in 2018, 55 percent higher than the 9.2 percent average CTO for BAU emails.
- Earth Day: Earth Day-themed emails generated a 4.3 percent conversion rate for marketers, compared to the 3.7 percent conversion rate for BAU emails.
- Spring season: Marketers who leveraged the spring season for a theme earned a 15.1 percent open rate, compared to the BAU average of 13.8 percent.
Top performing themes in Q3 2018 included:
- Oktoberfest: Emails with an Oktoberfest theme generated a 22.2 percent open rate, 64 percent higher than the average open rate of BAU emails for Q3 2018 (13.5 percent).
- National Dog Day: National Dog Day-themed emails drove an 18.6 percent conversion rate, which is more than four times the 4.2 percent BAU average for Q2 2018.
- National Coffee Day: Emails with a National Coffee Day theme excelled at driving CTO rates. In Q2 2018, these emails generated a 23.9 percent CTO rate — more than twice the BAU average of 10.1 percent.
- Black Friday in July: Black Friday in July emails generated a 16.6 percent open rate in 2018, compared to the BAU open rate average of 13.5 percent.
You can also generate buzz around holidays that are unique to your brand. A great example of this is Prime Day, which is Amazon’s annual shopping holiday in July that has attracted a lot of followers. In 2018, Prime Day generated more than $4 billion in sales. Strategies like Prime Day are successful because they are an organized campaign that surprises and delights customers off-season.
Of course, the larger the brand, the easier it is to create interest around a made-up holiday. That’s why using unconventional holidays or events that subscribers are familiar with can create “energy moments” that boost engagement outside of the standard shopping holidays. However, that doesn’t mean you can simply slap a Prime Day-like event on the calendar in July. Instead, take what makes your brand unique and share it with the world.
Best practices for leveraging unconventional themes
While unconventional themes can generate high engagement, marketers still need to follow email marketing best practices to ensure success with themed emails. Best practices for themed emails include developing a communication strategy, thinking beyond offers and always tying the theme to your brand message.
- Develop a communication strategy: When experimenting with unconventional themes, schedule them on your marketing calendars well ahead of time, and develop a communication strategy around them. It’s important to build anticipation with your subscribers since these holidays and events aren’t always well known.
- Think beyond offers: Not all themed emails need to include an offer (e.g., free shipping or a percent off). Many brands have found success using unconventional themes to build brand awareness and to surprise and delight subscribers. Emails that simply generate a smile through humor or goodwill can condition subscribers to get in the habit of engaging with your emails moving forward.
- Bring it back to your brand: Always find a way to tie your themes back to your brand. When connected to your brand in some way, the theme won’t overpower your message. For example, H&M once used the National Coffee Day theme to promote the brand’s lesser-known household items, which included coffee mugs. Rather than just using National Coffee Day to send a blanket offer, the brand chose to tie the theme back to a very relevant product it carried.
Don’t wait. As Q2 fast approaches, get some unconventional themed emails on your marketing calendars and start testing. As subscribers hit the road for vacations in the spring and summer months, they’ll spend less time shopping online, so you need to work harder to grab their attention. Having a little fun with a National Dog or Coffee Day theme can go a long way.