With 2019 in full swing, it’s never too early to start carefully planning your email marketing campaigns. In fact, it should be at the top of every marketer’s agenda, especially with holidays like Valentine’s Day and President’s Day just around the corner. As you begin developing your email marketing plans with specific attention around upcoming holidays and key events, here are 12 recommendations and tips to keep in mind when formulating your sending strategies in order to maximize your holiday email campaigns.
April is the best month for email engagement
Between Easter, April Fool’s, Earth Day, the end of Tax Season and more, there are a multitude of opportunities for brands to engage over email as April’s showers plant the seed for May’s flowers.
The most popular day for engagement is Sunday
However, this can differ for long holiday weekends, where people tend to engage more on Monday rather than Sunday.
Timing your messages and impressions can be particularly challenging over long holiday weekends
Pushing messages prior to any holiday is best, as marketers who send emails two days before Valentine’s Day face 80% less competition in their recipients mailboxes, and therefore have a better chance of getting a recipient’s attention and business.
Avoid spam complaints by re-engaging
Before you start your holiday campaigns, it’s important to take stock of your engaged and unengaged recipients. Holiday promotions lead to a greater quantity of emails, so you don’t want to run the risk of a spam complaint.
Send a re-engagement email campaign to determine who is still interested—don’t just assume that your unengaged recipients will be open to receiving the same volume or frequency of messages as your engaged recipients. Consider a slow, constant drip of re-engagement emails long before the holiday to determine the appropriate frequency and volume. Set a good cut-off for what constitutes engagement and create segments based on age of last engagement.
When it comes to segmenting your list, have confidence in what you know about your recipients and your content
It’s important to not overreach during any holiday or major event. Instead, send engaging content and be conscientious of your recipient’s mailing expectations. To help keep your list up-to-date throughout the year, create an unsubscribe preference center. This allows your recipients to decide whether or not they want to unsubscribe completely, decrease the frequency or only subscribe to specific content.
Timing is key for holiday day-of sending
While it’s a best practice to send your email marketing campaigns ahead of the holiday, the majority of holiday emails are sent on the actual day. For example, most Labor Day emails were sent on Labor Day. On Cyber Monday this past year, SendGrid reaped its highest sending volume ever with a record 2.9 billion emails sent.
However, sending a holiday email too early in the morning may bury your messages beneath other senders and other messages. Sending in the evening raises opening time to almost eight hours. Based on this data point, messages with time-sensitive deals should be sent before the peak engagement time of 5:00 and 6:00 pm ET to ensure they’re well received.
Get your ducks in a row for the second biggest spending holiday: Mother’s Day
Around holiday weekends like Memorial Day and Labor Day, 90% of emails referenced “sales” compared to regular weekends. However, Black Friday data showed that in 2018, the usage of discounts in subject lines fell to only 6%, which is well below 15% in 2017. This is most likely due to the lower levels of engagement on these messages.
For big spending holidays like Mother’s Day, craft shorter subject lines (four words usually have the best engagement) that maximize on a meaningful message rather than pushing a discount. If you need more real estate, take advantage of the under-utilized preview text to get your message across.
Don’t call out the obvious
Research shows that emails with “Cyber Monday” or “Black Friday” in the subject line perform drastically worse than those that don’t mention the holidays. With that said, resist the temptation to include the names of these big sale days in your subject lines and instead try testing more creative subject lines that either leverage segment specific interests, previous purchase behavior or deliver a wholly different and unique, if not clever and compelling, value proposition.
Emojis: For better or for worse?
For your Valentine’s sends, craft subject lines that aren’t overly cheesy or punny. The holiday is cheesy enough as it is! This means leaving out the heart emojis, too. Emojis in the subject line correlated with lower engagement around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you really want to include them, try A/B testing emoji vs. emoji-less subject lines.
A. Remember to test the content since emojis do not render the same on every device and may not render at all with some email clients. This inadvertently makes the message look broken and possibly spammy.
B. Using symbols such as %, # and ! typically increases the chances of messages going to spam folders.
Stop telling your customers what to do
Remove the words “NOW” and “!!!!”s from your holiday shopping campaigns completely. Subject lines asking for an action “soon” perform better than subject lines urging customers that “NOW” is the time. Customers know they’re running out of time—they don’t need you telling them that, too! The future reminder is less abrasive than a manufactured sense of urgency.
Test more CTAs vs. more emails
Consumers are more frequently coming back to emails that they may have read on their phones in line for lunch and saved to later act on when they’re back at their desk. Try combining multiple CTAs into one email vs. sending more separate emails, keeping in mind that too many CTAs can be confusing. Typically two or three CTAs grab the attention of last minute shoppers. Too many CTAs could mean that your recipient never reaches the bottom of your message—remember that the small mobile screen is still the first screen and consider how long you would scroll through an email to find what you’re looking for.
Make your holiday emails feel like a gift, not a burden
To prevent email exhaustion, take a look at your engagement metrics. Send emails to the high-engagers and offer the low-engagers the option to down-subscribe just for the holiday season.
Armed with these 12 tips, strategies and best practices, you should be able to conquer any and all holidays you plan to target with email marketing campaigns this year.
Methodology: SendGrid analyzed data across key sending holidays such as Valentine’s Day, Memorial Day and Labor Day, among others in 2018, to gather these insights around holiday sending strategies and best practices.
Carly Brantz is Vice President of Revenue Marketing at SendGrid