Tips to Improve the Performance of Your Holiday Emails, Part 1
This year's holiday e-commerce sales are expected to grow by as much as 22 percent, reaching a staggering $134 billion. For most retailers, this season presents the biggest growth opportunity of the year. One of the primary avenues of potential growth is email marketing. It was reported that nearly 25 percent of 2017 Cyber Monday sales were driven by email marketing. For the season as a whole, 20 percent of all web traffic came via the channel. While email is a critical tool for holiday success, just sending emails and hoping for growth is neither a strategy nor a sustainable model.
If you want to plan for a successful holiday season, here are a few email strategies to get you started.
Visually Engage Your Email Subscribers
If your emails aren't mobile optimized, your brand isn't optimized. It's 2018, and I'm constantly amazed when I see retailers not take a mobile-first approach to email marketing. In 2017, Black Friday generated nearly $1.9 billion in mobile revenue, accounting for nearly 37 percent of all online revenue for the day. Cyber Monday became the first day ever to cross $2 billion on mobile revenue. And during the season, 45 percent of all website traffic came from smartphones. Have I made my point?
When it comes to email design, think mobile-first. Use images, text and calls to action (CTAs) that can stand out on smaller screens. Use designs that immediately grab a reader’s attention. Try something fun, use white space, or stimulate an emotion. People on phones love to scroll. Longer emails that continue a story while a reader scrolls can work wonders, but they need to be engaging. And try using animated GIFs. They can be a great way to include engaging content into an email.
As we move deeper into the holiday season, you'll see more and more emails become generic in nature. They don’t stand out. They don’t engage. They don’t inspire. This is an opportunity to be different.
Use Promotions to Protect Margins and Increase Engagement
Let’s face it: Retailers have trained consumers to wait for discounts, and the holiday season certainly has no shortage of them. Think beyond the typical dollar or percentage off and determine which promotions will not only appeal to your audience, but also protect margins.
The types of promotions available are plenty, from dollar amount, percentage, tiered, flash sales, free gifts, bonus points, category-specific, and daily deals, to name a few. In fact, three themes I identified from 2017 were category-specific sales, free gifts, and in-store-only discounts.
Category-specific sales accomplish two things. First, they keep subscribers opening emails, especially if they're looking for something specific. Second, they can generate full-priced add-on purchases. This happened to me last year. I was shopping for items from multiple categories, one of which was not on sale (at least, not at that time). I ended up ordering everything at once (for convenience purposes) and paying a higher price than I could have ultimately gotten had I waited and purchased separately. Consumers care about convenience!
Retailers that want to grow profits should think of their promotions strategically. Using incentives to increase average order value, such as with tiered discounts, or to protect margins, such as by offering free gifts, is critical. Email continues to be the most important tool for holiday success.
Utilize Product Recommendations
During the holidays people buy for themselves as well as for others. After all, no one wants to be left out. With nearly 25 percent of holiday purchases being a self-gift, there's opportunity for retailers to meet both needs. The challenge for retailers is that emails during the holidays are focused on gift-giving. Enter product recommendations.
Implementing a personalized product recommendation strategy in both your emails and on your website can help accomplish both goals. A gift-giving email message that contains user-specific recommendations can appeal to both a subscriber’s needs and wants. Who knows, maybe you’ll even want to create a customized “gifts for yourself” section inside of your emails in order to draw attention to it.
As a bonus piece of advice, be sure to use product recommendations in your other messaging, such as transactional messages. Inserting cross-sell opportunities in order and shipping confirmation messages can be a boon for your email program revenue.
Look for more tips in part two of this two-part article, coming a week from today.
Greg Zakowicz is the senior commerce marketing analyst for Oracle Bronto, a cloud-based marketing automation software solution for mid-market to enterprise retailers to track their e-commerce and email marketing efforts.
Related story: Black Friday. Cyber Monday. Gray November?
Greg Zakowicz is a veteran marketer and the Director of Content at Omnisend. With 15-plus years of experience in email, mobile, and social media marketing, he’s helped over 100 DTC companies around the world, including numerous from the Internet Retailer Top 1000, maximize sales through their email marketing programs. Zakowicz is a frequent speaker at ecommerce events, often shares his ecommerce insights across various industry media outlets, has been retained as an ecommerce expert witness for trial, and is the host of Omnisend’s Cart Insiders Podcast.