- Consumer holiday habits and email behavior showed changes last year that suggest marketers might need to retool their approaches to make a bigger impact during the current season, according to an analysis by Yes Marketing shared with Marketing Dive.
- Analyzing more than 6 billion emails, the firm found that marketers had a shorter window to engage consumers in 2018, with average conversion rates on holiday-themed campaigns dropping to 3.1% in December from November's average of 6.1%. Getting an early start was a theme in 2018: 26% of Black Friday email messages were sent before Nov. 19, with some arriving as early as the first of the month.
- Yes Marketing also said some of the novelty of Cyber Monday is wearing off, that 67% of emails sent around the online deals day did not feature a specific offer in the subject line and that just 6.4% of brands leveraged free shipping as a means to draw interest to campaigns. Black Friday actually outperformed other sale-centric holidays when it came to open rates, commanding 12% versus 10.8% for Cyber Monday.
Email remains an important channel for marketers around the holidays to draw interest to promotions both in stores and online, but Yes Marketing's report indicates that optimizing for the season could require shifting campaigns earlier. The 2019 holidays might accelerate this trend since the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is already tightly compressed given the former falling unusually late on Nov. 28.
Major retailers including Target, Walmart and Amazon started pushing their exclusive holiday products and shipping offers as early as late October, before Halloween, according to Ad Age. While relatively few Cyber Monday email campaigns focused on the appeal of free shipping last year, that could change as companies like Amazon sink more resources into expedited delivery and as the e-commerce market gets more competitive.
Retailers overall seem anxious about the shortened holiday period, which will likely lead to condensed spending in December and the lack of the typical lull between Cyber Monday and the Christmas rush, according to Bloomberg.
That could make having a distinctive email strategy more important, but sameness was a challenge last year. In addition to specific holiday-themed emails, 56% of marketers in the 2018 holiday season sent messages with a general holiday or winter theme, an increase of 20% year-over-year. Yes Marketing noted that marketers who use the same holiday themes are competing for attention, which can be one reason for lower results. At the same time, consumers are often prioritizing factors such as product quality over holiday sales focused on low prices.
Similarly, the highest open rate among Christmas-themed emails were no-offer messages, where no particular deal was emphasized in the subject line. Many messages had a Christmas card design and were about building relationships with consumers by offering greetings or value-added content, like gift ideas or tips for a stress-free Christmas dinner.
Thanksgiving in 2018 conversely demonstrated a moderate engagement increase year-over-year, although most emails tied to the holiday did not drive sales, but instead focused on appreciating brand supporters.
"Most marketers should treat Thanksgiving as an opportunity to strengthen their connection with subscribers and build trust and loyalty," the report said.
Nevertheless, email campaigns related to Thanksgiving shopping, such as grocery stores or delivery services, had the best results by focusing on percentage-off discounts.