In a Post-Holiday Season Rut? Try Unconventional Email Themes to Boost Engagement
The first half of the year can be a tough time for retail marketers. Consumers settle into the new year and are less eager to shop and engage with brands coming out of their holiday spending spree. In fact, email unsubscribe rates skyrocketed in the first half of 2018. The number of unsubscribes per delivered email jumped by 16 percent from Q4 2017 to Q1 2018, according to Yes Marketing data.
This year is likely no exception, and as a marketer you may be concerned about how to get out of that post-holiday season rut. The good news is that many retail marketers have found success boosting engagement early in the year by spicing up their email messages with unconventional themes based on events that occur outside of major holidays.
Creating “energy moments” around events like National Coffee Day can help you stand out in subscribers’ inboxes year-round and maximize engagement.
Learn Which Themes Perform Best
So how well do unconventional email themes actually perform? Yes Marketing data found that many themes like Groundhog Day and Pie Day drove significantly higher engagement metrics than non-themed or business-as-usual (BAU) emails in Q1 2018. Therefore, as we push further into Q2 and move into Q3 2019, consider leveraging some holidays and events that take place between April and September.
Top-performing themes among Yes Marketing clients in Q2 2018 included:
- Tax Day: Tax Day-themed emails generated a 14.2 percent click-to-open rate (CTO), 54 percent higher than the 9.2 percent average CTO for BAU emails.
- Spring season: Marketers who used the spring season for a theme enjoyed a 15.1 percent open rate, which was slightly higher than the BAU average of 13.8 percent.
- Festivals: Emails mentioning festivals, such as SXSW or Coachella, generated an 18.9 percent open rate, which was 37 percent higher than the average open rate for BAU emails in Q2.
- Earth Day: Earth Day-themed emails drove a 4.3 percent conversion rate, which was 16 percent higher than the conversion rate for BAU emails.
Top-performing themes among Yes Marketing clients in Q3 2018 included:
- National Dog Day: National Dog Day-themed emails drove an 18.6 percent conversion rate, which is more than four times the 4.2 percent average conversion rate for BAU emails.
- National Coffee Day: Emails with a National Coffee Day theme generated a 23.9 percent CTO rate, more than twice the BAU CTO average of 10.1 percent.
- Oktoberfest: Oktoberfest-themed emails drove a 22.2 percent open rate in Q3 2018, which was 64 percent higher than the average open rate of BAU emails during the same time frame.
- Black Friday in July: Black Friday in July emails generated a 16.6 percent open rate in 2018, a nice jump from the BAU open rate average of 13.5 percent.
You can also create your own holiday to generate off-season excitement and sales. A great example of this is Prime Day, which is Amazon.com's inventive shopping holiday that generated $4 billion in sales in July 2018. Now don’t simply copy Amazon and throw a major sale on the calendar every July. Instead, pick a day that’s important to your brand or an obscure fun holiday and promote it with unique messaging that aligns with your brand values.
Stay True to Email Marketing Best Practices
While unconventional themes can help generate engagement, that doesn’t mean you should rest easy. As with any email message or campaign, it’s important to follow email marketing best practices to maximize success.
- Keep your brand front and center. Tie the message of your email back to your brand so the theme doesn’t overpower your message. For example, H&M once used National Coffee Day as an email theme. However, the brand didn't use the holiday to promote a generic offer, which would have felt irrelevant and likely confused subscribers. The clothing retailer used National Coffee Day to promote it’s lesser-known household items, which include coffee mugs.
- Build awareness and anticipation. While unconventional themes can be fun and unique, most of the successful holidays or events aren’t well known. It’s important to get them on your marketing calendar well ahead of time and develop a fun communication strategy around them. That way you invest the time into the creative to ensure it builds awareness and anticipation with your subscribers.
- Don’t rely on offers. While offers (e.g., free shipping or a percent off) are a great way to drive engagement and conversions, not all themed emails need to include one. Unconventional themes lend themselves well to awareness-building messaging. Use them to simply surprise and delight subscribers, which can encourage your customers to make a habit of opening your emails.
As a retailer, you know how important it is to create excitement and capture customer attention to gain a competitive edge. Have a little fun with some unconventional themed emails and add them to your Q2 and Q3 calendars today.
Kyle Henderick is the senior director of client services for Yes Marketing, a multichannel marketing solutions and services provider.
Kyle Henderick is the senior director of client services at Yes Marketing, where he is responsible for helping major clients implement new programs, processes, and data-driven strategies to create campaigns that truly drive revenue. With a passion for technology implementation and a background in database, email, web, and social media marketing, Kyle turns his real-world experience into executable tactics to help clients see an incremental lift in revenue, subscriber engagement and customer retention.