It might too late to start the initial planning for your holiday marketing campaigns, but it's still early enough that you can make adjustments and tweak your strategies. And as advertisers keep shifting ad dollars to visual social media platforms, they shouldn't leave email as an aftertought this holiday season.
Jerry Jao, Retention Science's CEO, told Marketing Dive there are several reasons why you should keep email in mind for holiday marketing beginning with the fact it is malleable and relatively cheap.
“[Email is] cost-effective, can be highly personalized, and consumers accept, even expect, more frequent communications from brands leading up to the holidays," Jao explained. "A recent study by Yesmail showed that open rates remained steady through Q3 and Q4 of last year, even though email volume ramped up 46% in the fourth quarter from holiday-related campaigns.”
Further, the increase in volume means marketers must put in some effort to cut through the inbox clutter.
Make use of discounts, but watch your ROI
Shoppers check holiday emails for offers and promotions. Discounts are a way to grab their attention, but Jao said that offering promotions purely to drive sales will damage profit margins. Instead, he offered, find other ways to provide value to customers and use discounts to push more reluctant people into a purchase, or encourage more spending from high customer lifetime value people.
Mike J. Woodall, email marketing manager at Diamond Candles, gave Marketing Dive a brand-side view of holiday email, explaining he agreed that discounts where a key tool, but also a possible stumbling block. He said Diamond Candles will be using predictive analytics to navigate discounting decisions.
“By creating predictive email segments, we can offer higher discounts and maximize our revenue among email subscribers who are less likely to purchase," Woodall explained. "Plus, we’ll be able to protect our profit margin by offering lower discounts to consumers we’ve already determined will purchase again."
Promotions aimed at top customers can be effective, according to Jao. Exclusive deals and offers reward those customers, but other ways to provide value for less include “stocking stuffer” samples with purchases, sneak peeks at deals, and holiday shopping tips or guides. Jao added that it can be effective to remind people to treat themselves, saying, “According to NRF, people spent an average of $126.68 on gifts for themselves last season. Creating an exclusive email campaign where the focus is on gifts for your best customers is sure to create some goodwill and encourage spending.”
And understanding that discounting and promotions can impact profit margins, Jao had some advice on ROI, “The top way to increase the ROI of your campaigns is to ensure your marketing practices are backed by data. Analyze last year’s numbers and open rates to see what worked and what didn’t [and] create segments based on transactional and historical data specifically for the holidays. Focus on mobile optimization: 66% of all email in the US is opened on mobile devices.”
Personalization and detailed targeting beats batch-and-blast
Woodall said Diamond Candles’ email goal is one-to-one marketing, and will be using some interesting technology to get very personal with email sends. He specifically mentioned a new project the brand is launching with weather-based marketing tool Skymosity.
“[Skymosity takes] publicly available historical weather data and compare that with the zip codes and purchase dates of our customer. For example, we might see that Diamond Candles sold more Christmas Tree Ring Candles when a customer saw their first day of snow," Woodall explained. "With that knowledge, we can trigger an email message to any zip code that is experiencing their first snow of the year. We could say, ‘Happy First Snow Day! Celebrate with the fresh holiday scent of a Christmas Tree.’"
Let email influence the multi-channel strategy
Jao said considering the entire customer experience helps you integrate email into multi-channel strategies with themed messaging and “a cohesive aesthetic across all channels, and also keep track of inventory and logistics to avoid featuring a popular item in email if stock is running low." And, of course, have social buttons in your email. His advice is to "provide an experience that feels seamless across all channels by focusing on experience from first search to final purchase."
Diamond Candles integrates email into its multi-channel strategy, particularly with social advertising. Woodall explained Diamond Candles has started to create more highly-targeted ads on social mirroring their efforts on email. "That can mean if someone doesn’t purchase our newest holiday candle because of a marketing email then we can re-target them with an ad on Facebook saying, ‘Hey Mike, Have you thought about our new Winter Festival Ring Candle? Here’s 10% Off,'" he said.
The candle brand has also begun working on an integration system that will let them track email subscribers' shipping statuses and then notify them via Facebook video when their candle has arrived.
It’s not too late to get going (but it’s getting close … )
Yes, it’s a bit late in the game if you're just now getting started thinking about holiday email – but if you already have the ball rolling you're right in line with Jao’s recommended timeframe for holiday email strategies:
"Focus on building relationships and starting engagements through non-holiday offers during the time leading up to mid-October," he suggested. A pre-holiday push will impact your holiday ROI by helping you clean out your email list and ensure your customers receive the right holiday offers at the right time.
Jao also suggests beginning holiday mentions in mid-October. "NRF reports 40% of consumers start holiday shopping before Halloween, but these should be secondary snippets of content and banners to the main email messaging," he explained. "You want to have the holiday shopping option available for the niche early shoppers without alienating the rest of your clientele."
The holiday marketing season is upon us, and hopefully the email channel figures into your marketing strategy in a big way. If not, these insights should give you some ideas on getting email into the mix.