Welcome to the Off-Season ... Now Get to Work
For many retailers the fourth quarter is the season of return on investment. To capitalize on it, email marketers often use the early fall to begin their ramp-up and enter the holiday season with gaining consumer mindshare and optimal inbox placement. But is this soon enough? Research shows that subscribers tend to be less engaged with retail brands during the summer, when holiday gifts and end-of-year sales are far from their minds.
That trend could make Q2 and Q3 the perfect time to experiment with your email program and gain confidence in a data-backed strategy to reach consumers during the critical last months of the year. Consider the following tips:
Segment Your Audience
Before you can start your warm-weather experiments, you need to understand your test audience. Segment your subscribers by engagement levels, at least high engagement, low engagement and inactive. To be clear, these levels refer to engagement as mailbox providers see it, not the limited open/click measures that track campaign performance. That means read rates, complaint or TIS (This is Spam) rates, TINS (This is Not Spam) rates, and ignores or deleted unread rates, among others. These metrics can provide an in-depth measure of your subscribers' engagement with your content and overall program, from a mailbox provider's viewpoint.
Collect and Analyze Feedback
Once you've classified your subscribers by their engagement levels, begin testing. Make sure to consider their relative engagement in your analysis. For example, take advantage of your highly engaged audience's comparably robust feedback. Beyond whether they read your messages, examine what they forward and dig out of their spam folders. Highly engaged subscribers do this, and can deliver quick, significant results for design and copy tests.
Less engaged users, of course, are more reserved with their feedback. Their infrequent interaction with their email (yours and others) makes it harder to collect enough data to confidently compare creative treatments and more subtle tests sent to them. They can provide invaluable guidance on cadence, though — consider less-engaged subscribers to be your best frequency critics. They can also give you a clear indication when an offer or unusual campaign overcomes their inertia, either to spark response or complaints. If a test concept gets this segment to vote with their feet, it's probably a breakthrough winner ... or loser.