To say that 2018’s Cyber Monday was a digital doorbuster is a colossal understatement. Nov. 26, 2018 will go down as the biggest online shopping day in U.S. history thus far, with sales reaching a staggering $7.9 billion. I bet you’re wondering what savvy new marketing tool helped drive the holiday season’s record-breaking sales. Was it Instagram Stories? Viral TV commercials? Interactive advertisements powered by augmented reality? The answer is none of the above. The reigning marketing champ this holiday season—and pretty much year-round—is email.
Nearly a quarter of Cyber Monday traffic this year was driven by email, while only a scant one percent came from social media. This is no doubt due to email’s massive sales conversion potential—half of all consumers report purchasing from a website after receiving a marketing email. Why does email prove time and time again to be top dog when it comes to digital marketing? The answer is two-fold: it delivers real business value and continues to be the most reliable means of reaching, connecting and engaging with one’s customers.
Even though businesses send an estimated 125 billion commercial emails each day, many companies still underestimate its marketing power and impact. It’s easy for companies to be blinded by flashy new marketing tools that promise the next, great innovative solution to all their marketing woes. But despite email being perceived by some as an “old school” tactic, it’s a staple marketing tool for a reason. Email generates $38 in revenue for every dollar spent on email marketing—the next highest ROI generator is social media marketing, which has a median return on investment nearly five times less than email marketing. You simply can’t deny that sort of valuation.
If the overwhelming business case for email marketing isn’t enough to convince you it’s your best bet for driving sales during the holiday season and beyond, then take a look at its powerful and resilient influence over consumers. Email continues to serve as a unique online identifier for many—four in five Americans check their email every single day, meaning email marketers have the potential to get their messages in front of nearly 262 million people on a daily basis. Meanwhile, two-thirds of consumers between the ages of 13-50 believe email is an essential fixture in their lives and 83% of Gen Z consumers (ages 13-21, the blossoming consumer base marketers crave) expect to increase or maintain their email usage over the next five years, according to the Future of Digital Communications study. All of these figures paint a clear picture of email as the lifeblood of ecommerce.
On a more granular level, here are some specific insights from this year’s holiday shopping season that should help as you plan out next year’s strategy—because yes, you should absolutely start strategizing now!
- Highlighting discounts in an email’s subject line actually leads to lower engagement over messages that do not therefore, focus on what you know about your recipient and align offers to the segments most likely to open them because you’re capitalizing on data such as last item viewed, abandoned shopping cart, POS, last item purchased, and any other touchpoint that illuminates what your customers really want.
- Message open rates on Black Friday were significantly quicker than your average, run-of-the-mill Friday. A typical Friday delay time for opening is around four-and-a-half hours, while open times on Black Friday decreased by a substantial 42 minutes. Consider human behaviors and patterns. Since holidays are not the same as work days, the idea of cramming your recipients’ inboxes first thing in the morning may actually be anathema. Instead, take the opportunity to spread your deliveries through the day so there is less mail competing for your recipient’s attention in the inbox at the time that your email arrives. Focus on the early evening or during the holiday NBA games when you have an audience glued to the TV and second screening These are opportunistic and perishable moments to experiment with that could be viable tactics for the future.
- The time you send a message doesn’t affect open rates for most of the day, but sending in the evening does raise opening time to almost eight hours. Based on this, time-sensitive deals should be sent before the evening to ensure they’re well-received.
- An increase in send frequency does lead to more engagement, but the higher the increase, the less ROI you’ll experience. Increasing from one to two emails in a week led to 25% more of an email list engaging, but increasing from two to three emails only yielded a 9% increase. A good workaround is implementing multiple CTAs per message to avoid this ROI pitfall.
Particularly for a massive shopping day like Cyber Monday which lives and breathes online, email remains the best tool for connecting with customers digitally and engaging with them in a meaningful way that ultimately converts into sales. The holiday season, in particular, is a critical time for ecommerce and retail brands to engage with their customers, and email remains the most dependable way to do so.
With the proper planning and cultivation, marketers can develop an email strategy that is low-cost, high-reward in terms of results and ROI during the holiday shopping season. Focusing on the four crucial email tenets of deliverability, reliability, scalability and measurability is key in creating a holiday email campaign that is efficient and effective when it comes to reaching customers’ inboxes, driving customer engagement and keeping your send reputation high by not overwhelming your customers and being marked as spam. Behind the scenes, you should also be analyzing and rejiggering each successive campaign through a wealth of efficacy data. Once you’ve cracked this winning strategy, email will prove incredibly useful at driving your online sales more and more with each passing holiday season and year.
Email is not only alive and well, it’s thriving! With a record volume of email pushed out this Cyber Monday, consumers worldwide shelled out more money in a single day than ever before. Critics boasting the “email is dead” narrative simply aren’t paying attention to—or are turning a blind eye toward—its proven marketing utility. If this holiday shopping season is any indication, email continues to be a dominant sales and marketing tool and an unmatched driver of ecommerce sales.
Len Shneyder is Vice President of Industry Relations for Sendgrid