October E-mails Key to Holiday 2008 Success

In 2008, there are fewer shopping days between Thanksgiving and Christmas than in the previous five years. That means early season October campaigns are more important than ever to stimulate sales during that abbreviated holiday window, according to a new study from Epsilon.

In Epsilon’s Holiday Shopper analysis of the 2007 season, Mike Penney, executive vice president, recommends marketers develop a thoughtful strategy for their holiday campaigns early, especially considering the economic downturn.

First off, look at the calendar: If you didn’t start planning your holiday e-mail strategy last month, you may be too late.

“It’s important this year to factor in a shortened order curve and consider moving up marketing campaigns to October for an early season push,” Penney said in a statement. “It pays to start early so you’re not competing with as many companies over a short period of time.”

Epsilon’s research shows e-mail messages need to be carefully targeted, and marketers need to know their audience and understand their browsing and purchasing behavior. For example, since average order amounts may be higher early in the holiday season, retailers with big-ticket items should send e-mails before Cyber Monday.

Here are some of Epsilon’s tips for e-mail marketing during the compressed 2008 holiday season:

· There is an inverse relationship between e-mail volume and response metrics like opens and clicks. Marketers tend to think of their competitors as other companies in their industry, but research suggests that e-mailers are competing against all other e-mailers for attention in a consumer’s crowded in-box. It’s especially important to follow creative best practices and have compelling subject lines to stand out.

· Send a series of early season messages with content focused on brand building and commerce. A triggered follow-up should be delivered to all individuals who open the early season message.

· To counter any negative any preconceptions of e-mail, create a series of branded, holiday-focused messages that set consumer expectations.

· Schedule e-mail and direct mail earlier in the season and consider combining drop dates and e-mail deployments.

· Focus messages on the weeks prior to and after Cyber Monday to break through in-box clutter.

· During the peak season (mid November to the first week in December), avoid sending e-mails on high volume days such as Tuesday or Friday. Conversions are higher on low volume days like Wednesday and Sunday.

· Recognize the limitations of late season e-mail to maximize holiday campaigns. Instead, include messaging that targets post-holiday bargain shoppers.

The 2007 Holiday Shopper analysis examined more than 775 million e-mail messages from retail companies who sent e-mail in October, November and December of 2007. The findings also reflect the historical purchasing activity across the Abacus Cooperative database from Jan. 1, 2003 through Dec. 31, 2007.

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