Believe it or not, the holiday season is right around the corner. This year’s holiday season is projected to rake in $123 billion in online sales, a 15.3% growth over last year. Considering nearly 25% of Cyber Monday sales were driven by email marketing, it is imperative to have your holiday email marketing strategy well planned out. Before getting into ways to prepare your holiday email marketing strategy, let’s look at four trends from last year that I expect to continue.
4 Notable 2017 Trends That Will Continue:
- Thanksgiving Day generated $2.87 billion in online sales. This day keeps growing in importance for retailers. From my personal inbox, it was the fourth-highest email send day. Bronto reported it was their third-highest email send day. Expect this trend to continue this year.
- Black Friday drove nearly $1.9 billion in mobile revenue. That made up nearly 37% of all of Black Friday’s online revenue. It is 2018. If you’re not mobile optimized, you’re not optimized.
- Cyber Monday became the first day ever to reach $2 billion in mobile revenue, setting a new mobile record. Remember that thing I said about being mobile optimized?
- Gray November, a month-long series of discounting, is a mainstay. In 2017, every day in November drove $1 billion in online sales for the first time. In total, 58 of 61 days of the holiday season crossed this figure. The holidays are not black or white. Like the clouds in the Northeast this time of year, they are very much gray.
With these trends expected to continue how, as retailers, should you prepare your email marketing for success in 2018? While I don’t have enough time to lay out all the potential ways, here are seven important steps to jumpstart your holiday season planning.
Preach your differentiators
Not only will you have your regular customers shop with you, but you will also have seasonal or first-time buyers shopping. Remind or inform them why they should choose to shop with you and not elsewhere. Do you offer extended return policies, gift wrapping, price guarantees, satisfaction guarantees, or other value-adds? If so, shout them from the rooftops. This is especially critical if your brand does not discount.
Entice with email design
During the season, the majority of the emails will begin to look like one another. They tend to lack creative design that engages email subscribers. Design your emails to draw attention with the use of flow, color, creative designs, or anything else to break from generic email design. Just as important, design for mobile-first. Last year 46% of all holiday website traffic was from smartphones. This is the new norm.
Determine your promotional strategy
Plan which discounts to offer and when (think Gray November). With so many discount options to choose from, you can determine which will have the most benefit and best protect margins. Three trends from last year included retailers offering category-specific sales, free gifts with purchases, and in-store only discounts. These tactics help keep people opening emails throughout the season, allow retailers to sell add-on items with greater margins, and drive in-store traffic. These trends are all likely win-wins for retailers.
Just as importantly, have a promotional contingency plan and prepare backup promotions or variations in advance. Be sure to have the email creative completed and have the promo codes set in your ecommerce platform and email provider in advance. This will eliminate any last-minute scrambling on your email team.
I saw several retailers offering “exclusive” early access to deals as being a subscriber of the email program. Lulus even asked subscribers to confirm interest by submitting a simple form to gain access. Exclusive access not only reinforces the value of your email program but can also be publicly advertised in advance as a means of growing your email list.
The trend of self-gifting has been rising over the past several years. In fact, it is reported that 25% of holiday purchases are a self-gift. While emails with gift guides and top gifts for the season make sense, they ignore the actual email recipient. In many cases, that person is also a customer. Using intuitive and personalized product recommendations inside of your emails and on your website is a great way to encourage self-gifting while promoting gift sales at the same time.
Optimize transactional messages
Be sure to optimize these highly-read messages with product recommendations, upsells, cross-sells, sister brand promotions, prominent customer service info, brand differentiators, and even email subscription callouts. These messages can not only reinforce the value of your brand but help drive sales. I once had a client who drove nearly 20% of their yearly email revenue directly from transactional messages.
Adapt life-cycle messaging.
Finally, look at your lifecycle messages and determine tweaks that should be made to account for holiday shoppers. For instance, as more people use their shopping carts as wish lists and do comparison shopping, how might that impact your cart abandonment strategy? Consider adding a fourth message, alter your discount structure, or decreasing time between messages. These can all be effective in recapturing sales.
For a welcome series, promoting top gifts for the season, or focusing the messaging on the season may prove to convert new email subscribers at a higher rate. Be sure to tout differentiators here! If you have a purchase anniversary email sending, consider turning it off for the holiday season. Last year I was greeted with one of these messages. The message we sent during their seasonal 50% off sale. The incentive in the email message was far less and was received on the same day two 50% emails from the brand came through. This message did not provide value.
While not a complete list, they provide some starting points to begin planning for holiday success. With an expected 15% growth for ecommerce sales this holiday season, the question becomes clear. How much of that 15% are you prepared to capture? For more creative inspiration and holiday planning tips, be sure to visit Bronto’s Holiday Marketing Academy.
Greg Zakowicz is a Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst at Bronto Software