4 Tips for Holiday Email Campaigns That Will Ring Into 2016
It’s November, which means holiday season is in full effect, and retailers are fighting for consumer attention and wallet share. Not surprisingly, the biggest spike in customer acquisition tends to happen in November and December when shoppers are buying gifts and taking advantage of numerous deals.
Well-timed and personalized email marketing campaigns can help retailers lure first-time buyers, but what happens when the holiday sales shutter and stockings are stowed? How do they keep the customers they earned and maximize their lifetime value?
The best email campaigns are ones that don’t have an expiration date. Here are four tips to build campaigns that will stand the test of time — and still give you an edge during the holidays:
1. Timing is key, but earlier doesn’t mean better. Holiday creep is reaching new heights, with retailers beginning their campaigns earlier and earlier. Thanksgiving Day is the new Black Friday, and over-eager retailers are sending out holiday messaging even before people start craving pumpkin spice everything. These companies are hoping to gain an edge by getting in early, but hold steady: earlier isn’t always better.
Consumers are more receptive to promotional emails during the holidays, but you can cause fatigue by sending too many too early. Instead, focus on creating campaigns that both hit the holiday sweet spot and can be carried over into the new year. Make your marketing emails more informational in early November, when people are doing more researching than buying. Your holiday push should hit full throttle in mid to late November when people are ready to spend.
Ensure the holidays are well represented, but not the main focus of these campaigns, as you want to appeal to both early shoppers and customers who aren’t yet interested in holiday gifting.
2. Reward high customer lifetime value (CLV), not just holiday power shoppers. Not all customers are created equal. Just like the gambling world's high rollers, there will always be bigger spenders in a group of customers — those with a higher CLV. Casinos provide private rooms and lavish perks for these "whales," all of which are tactics engineered to keep them betting big. Similarly, rewarding your most valuable customers with rewards, particularly during the holidays, will keep them spending into 2016.
Rewarding these high CLV customers doesn’t have to break the bank, however. Provide value for less by giving them extra “stocking stuffer” samples with purchases, sneak peeks at upcoming shopping events and pre-holiday content. According to the National Retail Federation, people spent an average of $126.60 on gifts for themselves in 2014. Remind your top customers to “treat themselves” by creating an exclusive shopping event that puts the focus on indulging themselves, not just family and friends.
3. Test for the holidays, but not just the holidays. A/B testing before the holidays is crucial to making sure your email campaigns go off without a hitch. The two most important A/B tests to run are subject lines and messaging. To achieve better open and conversion rates, try shorter subject headlines (even as few as two words) and incorporate holiday song lyrics, movie titles or pop culture references.
Other email marketing tests can be applied well into 2016, so make these a priority too. Testing your calls to action, from the messaging to the placement and size of the “buy” button, will show you small tweaks that can make a big difference. Even more important is testing for mobile, as up to 65 percent of emails are now opened on mobile devices. Track what devices your customers are using to optimize engagement for the holidays, but make sure to test on every device and operating system you can get your hands on, since many will receive the newest versions as gifts.
4. Plan for both pre- and post-holiday product recommendation improvements. Product recommendations can make all the difference in sustaining engagement, both by inspiring gift ideas during the holiday and by encouraging some post-holiday self-gifting. Make sure to tailor your product recommendations to reflect the changing needs of the customer.
For example, during the holiday season, focus on pulling recommendations based on their most recent purchases instead of older orders. This increases the chances of recommending items that are gifting appropriate. The holiday season is a good time to try exploratory recommendations, which are random since people are shopping for others and open to different ideas.
As the holiday season winds down, shift back to focusing on the customer’s own preferences by using historical data to recommend products related to previously purchased items.
The pre-holiday season is a crazy time for marketers, but it’s also the best time to plan ahead for next year. Don’t risk a post-holiday slump by focusing solely on the promotions leading up to Thanksgiving and Christmas, which might end up cutting into the success of those campaigns. Instead, focus on the long haul by incorporating preparations that will continue to prove useful in the coming year. Your awesome holiday email campaigns should ideally bridge the gap into equally awesome post-holiday campaigns, which will set the momentum for 2016. Keep calm, and keep thinking big.
Jerry Jao is the co-founder and CEO of Retention Science, a retention marketing firm that helps retailers and brands understand, engage and retain their customers.