Email is a cost-effective channel for reaching consumers during the all-important holiday season. And while there have been proclamations over the last ten years that “email is dead”1 or that other channels would overtake it, it remains the most accessible channel to connect with your audience. As such, marketers who invest more in it this holiday season will reap the benefits. In fact, according to Hubspot, email marketing generates $38 for every $1 spent, a 3,800% ROI.2 In a year that’s been quite unpredictable, email will help us dominate the holiday season.
The COVID-19 pandemic has limited live and in-store events. To remain relevant as subscriber inboxes become more saturated than ever, marketers must continuously iterate and improve their email marketing strategies. To capitalize on the busiest shopping season of the year, marketers can implement the following email marketing tactics.
There are two reasons brands hesitate to use personalization to its full effect; first, they might not have confidence in their data, and second, they are worried consumers might find it off-putting. If this sounds familiar, you should:
a. Not be afraid to use your data
According to a recent Data Axle consumer report, 55% of customers find that relevant content and relevant delivery channel are the most important marketing factors when purchasing from a brand for the first time. These findings suggest that it’s imperative for marketers to take the leap with personalization, even if their data isn’t perfect. The easiest example is first name. While you’re not going to be 100% accurate, you’ll see a strong lift in campaign performance.
b. Clean up your database
Much like a home, a database has to be continuously cleaned. Practicing good data hygiene means having routine maintenance processes to help ensure data accuracy. Mistyping information while rushing through the sign-up process happens to everyone. Vendors, such as Data Axle, can help you clean up your data to ensure that the basics – such as name and email address – are accurate. As an added bonus, this will help with deliverability this holiday season and going forward.
Brand example: Fitbit & Spotify
Some brands have started sending ‘end-of-year’ summaries to show how consumers have used their products throughout the year. Brands such as Fitbit and Spotify have seen success with these emails – with consumers even uploading them to social media to show how active they were during the year or to share their taste in music with others. This level of personalization requires brands to use the data they have on their customers, but instead of viewing it as a security or privacy concern, customers have embraced the summaries and created viral moments for the brand.
Anticipate an extended shopping period this holiday season, as both advanced planners and last-minute shoppers will have to consider shipping timeframes to a larger degree than in past years.3 Amazon’s October 13-14 Prime Day sale brought on an influx of early consumer spending.4 The success of Amazon’s Prime Day has prompted brands like Walmart, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Best Buy, and Target, to start their own special sales days.
Many companies might not expect December sales to be higher than usual, but I predict they will be. Email is a great way to reach these last-minute shoppers.
Brands can get creative with a December theme and communicate urgency by running Green Monday promotions. Green Monday is typically on the second Monday of December. The day was created by ecommerce giant, eBay to mark the last day shoppers could make purchases online and still receive them in time for Christmas. The theme has been adopted by a number of retailers over the last few years.
Brand example – Kohl’s
Apparel retailer Kohl’s isn’t waiting until Black Friday to start heavily promoting their WOW deals. WOW deals are Kohl’s equivalent to Amazon’s Prime Day. They take place over 4 days in October and Kohl’s has been emailing their subscriber base daily to push these deals and make sure they catch consumers’ attention as early in the shopping season as possible.
Emojis are an informal way to help communicate emotion to your digital audience or add a little bit of fun to the inbox. A recent survey by Adobe found that nearly 80% of people said using an emoji increased likability.5 Putting a smiley face, a snowflake or Christmas tree emoticon in an email subject line makes it feel personal, fun, and like it’s coming from a friend. Companies that used emojis on Twitter saw a 25% lift in engagement.6 And while the research is still out on their effectiveness,7 it’s worth testing with your brand.
Brand example: Chewy
Digital pet product retailer, Chewy, has been leading the pack 🐾 with emojis in their subject lines as we head into Q4 sales. They use a mix of cat, dog, and seasonal emoticons, such as pumpkins, ghosts, and Christmas trees, to entice consumers to open their emails.
Bonus tip– put an emoji in your ‘friendly-from’ address instead of the subject line. Changing the ‘friendly-from’ helps draw consumers’ attention.
Quick and convenient is the rallying cry for the 2020 holiday season. Consumers might not be able to exchange presents in person – so handing over a wrapped gift isn’t an option. Fast delivery and gift wrapping are perks that could tip the scales in your favor when shoppers are trying to pick the right gift. While I don’t recommend making these perks the main focus of your major holiday pushes, make sure they are highlighted in the lower half of every message; this serves as great reminder and reassurance for your audience.
Brand example: Mac Cosmetics
This high-end beauty brand usually charges $4.95 for gift wrap services but in 2019 they offered complimentary gift wrapping for the holiday season. The service generated a lot of publicity for MAC, as it was highlighted in articles rounding up brands offering free gift wrapping in 2019.
Many brands are reluctant to test during this time of year. There’s a lot on the line – you need to hit all your revenue numbers, and it seems like testing is too much of a risk or not a high enough priority. In fact, this is the best time of the year to test because email volume and engagement allows for quick and comprehensive performance measurement. If testing during this time of year is intimidating – don’t do a full 50/50 A/B test but consider doing a 90/10 or a 10/10/80 style of testing. This approach will ensure you collect critical learnings that you can use for next season. I recommend you start testing during the November holiday week and daily coming out of Cyber Monday to set yourself up for success in 2021.
Brand example: Lands’ End
Retailer Lands’ End was able to grow revenue from their triggered emails by 200% through testing. With the help and guidance of Data Axle, Lands’ End built an extensive trigger program spanning transactional, lifecycle, and remarketing communications informed by subscribers’ email activity, purchase history, and browse behavior and interests.
Lands’ End determined optimal message frequency through testing and a carefully planned message hierarchy, which contributed to the brand’s trigger program becoming one of the most efficient and profitable enhancements over the last several years. The program has:
The 2020 holiday season brings pressures, and challenges brands have not faced before. But with strategic planning and innovative thinking, reaching and even exceeding Q4 goals is entirely doable.
Now that you know the email trends in play this holiday season, make sure your email design is optimized. Watch our webinar, “Email design strategies that boost conversion rates,” to get the most out of your email campaigns.
As Senior Director of Client Services, Kyle is responsible for helping major clients implement new programs, processes, and data-driven strategies to create campaigns that drive revenue. With a passion for technology implementation and a background in database, email, web, and social media marketing, Kyle turns his real-world experience into actionable tactics that help clients see incremental revenue, subscriber engagement, and customer retention. A lover of all things Chicago, when Kyle is not reading up on latest marketing practices or focusing on improving client programs, he can be found enjoying the city’s great restaurants or wearing his heart on his sleeve while rooting for all Chicago-based sports teams. A curious individual willing to try any and every food that does not include raw onions, he is always looking for exciting dining options and new adventures around the city.