Holiday Email Frequency Questions? Call Your Mother!
Blizzards and Black Friday. Tinseled trees. Hearing Mariah Carey belt out "All I Want for Christmas" every-friggin-where you go! Yes, these are all signs that the holidays have started. Being asked one of the following questions is another way I know the busiest time of year for commerce marketers is nigh:
- How many emails should I send?
- How can I tell when I'm sending too many emails?
- My boss said "send more, we'll make more!" What do I do?
- How many times should I call my mother?
OK, the last question isn't related to holiday email frequency, but it's just about as easy to answer. Before I get into the details, whether it's holiday email frequency or calling your mother, my overarching answer to these questions would be: There's no sliver-bullet number to aim for. Under- or overcommunicating could negatively impact the relationship. It can be difficult to know where you stand.
Let me explain:
How many emails should I send?
Most retailers will send more email during the holidays. As the season progresses, keep tabs on how you're tracking against your original holiday plan. It can be easy to lose track of how many messages have actually been sent, and you and your team likely spent a lot of time analyzing past holiday performance to develop this year's plan. Rather than asking, "How many emails should I send?" ask yourself, "Why are we sending more or less than planned?" Poor sales, low inventory or technical glitches could have led to a change in plan. Resolving these matters or adjusting cadence for the rest of the year may be a better way to spend your time.
The average number of emails sent per retailer on Thanksgiving, Black Friday and Cyber Monday continues to increase. Retailers sent an average of 1.7 emails last year on Cyber Monday, according to Bronto's research, with 13.4 percent sending three or more emails within the 24-hour period. Relying on one email on these major shopping days could mean lost sales. This leads us to our next question.
How can I tell when I'm sending too many emails?
Inboxes will be slammed during the holidays, especially around peak events such as Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the final days of guaranteed Christmas delivery. You need to monitor your email program for signs of fatigue and frustration. Downward trends in opens may mean that your messages aren't hitting the inbox at the right time or that your subscribers may be exhausted. Keep a close eye on spam complaints and unsubscriptions. A spike in spam complaints could lead to your messages getting blocked and you having to untangle the issue. A simple rule of thumb: If you feel like you are overmailing, you probably are.
My boss said "send more, we'll make more!" What do I do?
While you may see a short-term boost in sales from simply mailing more, you run the risk of annoying your subscribers in the long term. Think of it this way: Your mother would love for you to call her more, but eventually you would run out of things to talk about and she'd stop picking up the phone. The short-term pop in engagement you get by inundating your subscribers' inboxes will likely be followed by a drop in opens, clicks and conversions along with a boost in unsubscribes.
You can, however, find ways to strategically and thoughtfully increase mailing frequency while lowering these risks. If you're forced to "send more," (and I know some of you will be!) segment subscribers based on engagement with recent campaigns and target content based on those interactions. Nonopeners can get out-of-the-box subject lines. Switch up the email design and call-to-action strategy for nonclicking openers. Reinforce urgency to buy for nonpurchasing clickers.
While there's no magical formula to calculate holiday email frequency, you can leverage historical holiday data and trust your marketing gut to make informed decisions as you ramp up your sends. When the stress and panic of the holiday rush sets in and you feel pressured to send more than originally planned, remember how these last-minute decisions can have a long-lasting impact on the retailer-subscriber relationship. Now, go call your mother. She'd love to hear from you.
Jim Davidson is the director of research at Bronto Software, an email and marketing automation provider.