Five Ways Email Can Make Your Register Ring This Holiday Season

It’s that time of year again; leaves are changing, temperatures are dropping and a predicted busy holiday shopping season is just around the corner.

Last year, marketing research firm ComScore reported $29 billion in U.S. retail e-commerce spending for the November-December holiday season, up 4% over the previous year. And for 2010, research firm Deloitte predicts that nonstore retail sales—two-thirds of which occur online—will climb 15% over last year.

Although the official start, Black Friday, is still more than a month away, now’s the time to enhance your email marketing program—before throngs of holiday shoppers hit your website. Follow these five tips this season and you’ll be on your way to spreading good cheer among your online customers while increasing revenue, recovering lost purchases and building customer loyalty:

Make it easy to subscribe
As they visit site after site looking for that one perfect gift, holiday shoppers are an ideal source of new email subscribers. So make it easy for them.

Be sure every page on your website features a benefit-driven email opt-in form. Gathering email addresses not only adds interested subscribers to your database, it enables you to follow up later with remarketing messages.

Greet shoppers with a holiday-themed welcome program Shoppers who visit your site during the holiday season often have different interests, motivations or concerns. Send a welcome message that addresses this different frame of mind, and use content and design that sets it apart from your standard welcome message or program:

  • Include information on email frequency if you plan to increase it during the holiday season.
  • If you offer frequency options, remind subscribers they can reduce the number of emails they receive and manage their email preferences via your preference center.
  • Focus your content on assuring subscribers that you understand the unique pain points of shopping online during the holiday season.
  • Include information about shipping promotions and schedules, how to return items, gift-card promotions, call-center hours and other holiday-centric concerns.

Dress up your transactional messages
These highly relevant messages can do more than confirm purchases or shipping schedules; they can also serve as powerful marketing messages that generate revenue.

By applying branding and adding cross-sell and upsell offers at a time when recipients are thinking most favorably about you, you can transform an already engaging message into one that is even more memorable, appealing and useful.

Leverage your personalization and recommendation technologies to dynamically add accessories, most popular and recommended products into your order and shipping confirmation emails. Remember to keep the focus on the transaction to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.

Remind abandoned shoppers of items they’ve left behind or pages they’ve visited
Shoppers will turn your carts into wish lists—especially during the holiday hustle and bustle—parking items there and leaving your site. A timely email reminder will bring many of them back to complete checkout. Prepare now by optimizing your cart-abandonment program:

  • Create a multi-email series that follows up with messages distributed a few hours after abandonment, a few days later, and one week later.
  • Adopt a service tone, asking if the shopper had a problem at checkout.
  • Offer to complete the transaction in other channels, such as through live chat or a call center.
  • Refrain from offering incentives in the first message, but add them in ensuing messages as needed to entice shoppers to follow through. Of course, test for what works best.

Many retailers have also begun sending browse-abandonment messages, noting the shopper looked at certain products or categories and then left the site. Although the person doesn’t cart items or make a purchase, the visit actually provides important information about his or her interests. Incorporate this information into subsequent messages.

Keep the holiday spirit going strong with a post-purchase strategy
You’re going to bring in a lot of new customers and generate repeat purchases from existing customers this holiday season. Turn these new and repeat purchasers into engaged and highly-valued customers by following up on holiday purchases with a series of triggered or targeted messages that reflect your customers’ activities and preferences. These can include:

  • Post-purchase survey on the product and shopping experience
  • Invitation to review the purchased items and see reviews that have posted
  • Cross sell recommendations based on purchases or behavior (“since you purchased that, you might like this”)
  • Bounceback offers
  • Out of stock and replenishment reminders
  • Purchase anniversary recognition

Follow these tips and you’ll go a long way toward ensuring each email message you send this season lands in your subscribers’ inboxes like a holiday gift of your own—eagerly anticipated, opened and acted on.

Loren McDonald is vice president of industry relations for e-mail systems provider Silverpop.

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