Are There Cracks in Your Email Foundation?
The end of the year is in sight. Children are back to school and companies have emerged from the sluggish summer season, but the holiday mania hasn’t yet started. The air is a bit crisper and the pumpkin goodies are plentiful. It’s a bit of a lull for retailers, a welcomed pause before the hectic end-of-year campaigns begin.
Often, thinking about year-end (which is also month-end and quarter-end!) conjures up visions of all the things that could go wrong. Will we make our numbers? Will we beat the competition? Will that critical campaign fail from a pricing error? Will the hottest item of the season be back-ordered?
While these are all valid concerns, just worrying about worst-case scenarios won’t help you avoid them. Instead, take some time to focus on the fundamentals. Specifically, follow these three steps to ensure that the foundation of your marketing program — email — is in great shape before the holiday rush begins.
1. Don’t let social distract from email. While social media gets a lot of attention for continued growth, buzz factor and increased expenditures, the latest CMO Survey cites an ongoing struggle in proving the channel’s contribution to the bottom line.
That’s not the case for email. With an average of 222 percent return on investment and 72 percent of consumers preferring email as a communication channel, email is critical for delivering results. Continue to leverage social media for fostering positive brand sentiment, but use your time and budget wisely and ensure your email program isn’t being under-resourced during the peak revenue-generating season.
2. Get back to basics. It’s important for foundational elements to be functioning properly all the time, but especially during high-volume months. Even a small problem will be magnified when more consumers than usual experience the snafu. Take some time now to audit your own program flow. Make sure your signup, unsubscribe and list suppression processes are all in working order to help reduce the risk of data-related errors when you're in the throes of heavy campaign sends.
3. Draft a contingency plan. Due to revenue pressures that come with the end of the year, marketers are often asked to do things they wouldn’t normally consider — e.g., send one more campaign (or five), reach back deeper into that inactive file or (gasp!) mail suppressed subscribers if they haven’t formally opted out. This happens every year with every retailer. Instead of hoping this year will be the exception, have a plan.
What can you do to drive more revenue in a pinch, without disregarding best practices? Maybe it’s a loyalty member promotion or a surprise gift-with-purchase for nonbuyers only. Taking some time to think through options now allows you to react faster and smarter when the need arises.
These concepts aren’t the glitziest or most fun to tackle, but doing some due diligence in advance of the holidays is wise. Exhausting your budget to support the channel, having a faulty suppression process or being pressed in the moment to save the day with extra revenue aren’t fun either. Spend as much time making sure these foundational elements are sound as you would proofing a campaign; you’ll save yourself some stress later and prime your email program for success.
Bonnie Malone leads the consulting, client training, and knowledge and editorial organization of Return Path, an email data solutions provider.
Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and Total Retail.