Holiday Planning: Easy as a Day at the Beach

christmas-holiday-summer-300For ecommerce marketers, the holiday season is a time of extremes. The high-five inducing thrill of watching holiday sales roll in is coupled with long days in the office filled with high-pressure, high-impact quick decisions.

While it’s nearly impossible to totally avoid holiday-related stress, you can start your holiday planning early to help you and your team to be better prepared when faced with unpredictable, nerve-racking moments.

It can be a struggle to simply start your holiday planning, especially when you are likely more focused on trying to squeeze in one more trip to the beach. The fact is, you need to start your holiday planning now.  Delaying the inevitable need for a solid, well-constructed holiday plan will only leave you scrooged and put your email program at risk of turning into a clunky lump of coal.

I’m not here to ruin your summer or buzzkill your beach brain. I’m here to help get you into a sparkle and shine holiday state of mind even though there may be sand between your toes.

Apply Sunscreen

Everything is amplified during the holidays including your email frequency. If you do not have a well thought out email marketing calendar for the holidays, you are basically laying out on a cloudless day with an SPF of 0.

A marketing calendar will not only protect you from reactively slapping emails together during the busy season; it will also help to define guardrails that can help you to better understand exactly how many emails your subscribers are receiving. You will be able to make more informed decisions about when you have some wiggle room to send another email to help boost sales or when you should just focus on the content of the messages you have already mapped out. Just like sunscreen that needs to be reapplied frequently, your plan doesn’t have to last throughout the entire season.

Having all of your promotional themes, segmentation strategies, subject lines, remailings, etc. mapped out in a central location will help all teams, from marketing to design, better tackle any mid-season course corrections.

Build a Sandcastle

Sandcastles take a lot of time to build, never look that great and are easily washed away and forgotten.  Sounds dismal, right?  Well, the thing is, you will only get better at building sandcastles each time you try. Yes, they are still equally as fragile and will not work out the way you thought they would, but you get to have some fun and learn along the way.

Apply this philosophy to some pre-season email testing.  Build off of successes you had last holiday, such as segmentation strategies or design variations, to see how your subscribers react. Review how your program has evolved in the New Year to see which strategies have underperformed and should be dropped. Test to see if these modifications impact performance before you have to make such decisions in the boom-or-bust madness of the holidays.

Go for a Swim

Jumping into the ocean can overwhelm the senses. Your eyes can either focus on the endless horizon of open water or the stable ground that you have left behind.  Before you get too deep (literally or figuratively), the waves can beat the hell out of you. Leave the beach behind and see your email program from a new perspective by creating a new email address and signing up to receive your email messages.

Review the opt-in process and determine if there are ways the forms could be streamlined.  Take the perspective of a consumer who is completely new to your brand to evaluate the entire onboarding experience. You may need to prepare holiday-specific forms or a welcome series to truly optimize the experience for deal-seeking new subscribers who may be more interested in buying gifts than shopping for themselves.

Even though the holidays can wreak havoc on a commerce marketer’s nerves, the season is full of thrills and excitement as retailers bring out their best strategies to compete for consumers’ dollars. Start your holiday planning today to make sure you are ready to make a splash when the snow starts to fall.

Jim Davidson is Bronto’s Director of Research. 

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