The holidays are here! For email marketers, that means it’s finally time to start sending all the campaigns you’ve been agonizing over for months. But hitting “send” is only the beginning. Email marketing is a constant cycle of analysis and optimization, to ensure that learnings from one campaign are applied to improve future campaigns. In addition, high level insights are needed to understand how your email program performs overall during the holiday season.
Often, the past can provide valuable clues for the future. To help email marketers prepare for the 2018 holiday season, Return Path studied email performance during the 2017 holidays. The following insights can help you understand where email marketers succeeded—and failed—during last year’s holiday season.
Email volume rose during the 2017 holiday season
It comes as no surprise that brands send more email during the holidays. The 2017 holiday season was no exception, as email volume was well above the year’s average. Email volume began to ramp up in mid-November, in advance of post-Thanksgiving sales. The first real spike of the season in email volume occurred on Thanksgiving Day, when email volume reached 78 percent above the annual average. Holiday send volume peaked on November 29, at 122 percent above the 2017 average.
Because consumers’ inboxes are overflowing with holiday cheer, marketers need to make sure their messages stand out from the crowd. This means your subject lines need to catch subscribers’ attention, and your content needs to be enticing enough to drive them to action. Segment your list based on past behavior and preferences, and the craft subject lines and content designed to create an engaging, personalized experience for each subscriber group.
Mobile devices were popular for both reading email and making purchases during the 2017 holiday season
In 2017, subscribers read more than half of their holiday emails (52%) on mobile devices. Research also shows that 40% of all Black Friday online transactions were completed on smartphones—up 11% from 2016.
Today’s consumers aren’t just reading email on their phones and tablets—they’re also comfortable using these devices for purchase transactions on these devices. If your email campaigns aren’t already being designed to optimize the mobile experience, it’s time to embrace a mobile-first or responsive design philosophy.
Subscribers engagement increased during the 2017 holidays; that’s both a good thing and a bad thing
Subscribers were very active in the inbox during the 2017 holiday season, with an average read rate of 24 percent (compared to the 2017 average read rate of 21.5 percent). However, as is often the case, higher email volume during the holidays led to a sharp increase in spam complaints. Overall, complaints trended upward throughout the 2017 holiday season, peaking at nearly 0.9 percent toward the end of December (compared to the 2017 average of just 0.17 percent).
Spam complaints are damaging to email deliverability—and the negative effects may be magnified during the critical holiday season. To reduce the potential for spam complaints, focus your holiday email on subscribers who have already shown an interest in your brand. Resist the urge include inactive subscribers and old lists in your mailings—and whatever you do, don’t use rented or purchased lists. When it comes to your email list, quality is more important than quantity!
You might feel like there’s nothing you can do this late in the game, but there’s still time to make adjustments to your holiday campaigns—especially aspects like list hygiene and segmentation. Trends from the past can provide clues about what the 2018 holiday season may bring, so use these insights to refine your holiday email strategy and position your brand for success this holiday season.
Jen Ribble is Director of Public Relations for ReturnPath