Preparing Your Email Marketing Strategy for the Holidays, Part 1
The holidays are a "make it or break it" time for marketers. During this peak season, consumer buying behavior changes and shoppers are much more willing to buy gifts in a variety of categories. They're looking for the best deals, gift ideas and the hottest items.
Now is the time to begin planning your email marketing strategy for the holidays. Anything you do now to improve your email performance will pay benefits for the rest of the year and position you for success during the holidays. Consider the following tips to help you get started:
1. Do your homework. One of the first things you should do is revisit your email campaigns from the 2011 holiday season. Take a hard look at the results to figure out what worked and what didn't. What subject lines drove the highest open rates? What promotions gave you the highest conversion rates and revenue per email? Did gift ideas, gift guides and themed promotions work? There's no reason to reinvent the wheel. You're sure to have some surefire winners from 2011; plan to run updated versions of these campaigns.
2. Look at your inactives and come up with a reactivation strategy. Now isn't the time to prune dormant subscribers from your list, since many may only purchase during the gift-giving season. If you can re-engage them, you'll have more subscribers interacting with your emails. One good way to start is to have them update their preferences, including their interests. Or offer a welcome-back incentive, one that doesn't go out in your regular emails. Test subject lines that address their inactivity such as "We miss you! Shop with us again and save 50-75% + Free Shipping."
3. Take a look at your email templates and make sure they're mobile friendly. Close to 30 percent of emails today are read on mobile devices, yet reports show that open and clickthrough rates aren't as strong on mobile as they are on desktops. Do everything you can to improve the mobile experience for your subscribers. Keep your width as close to 500 pixels as possible; left-justify your emails and put important headlines to the left to ensure they're noticed; and boost your font sizes (many designers recommend a minimum of a 14-pixel font for body text and 22-pixel font for headlines).
This email from Office Depot is significantly narrower than a similar email from competitor Staples. It includes a headline at the very top followed by both "View on Mobile Device" and "View as a Website." The sale call to action is on the left.
4. If you don't have customer reviews on your site, implement them now. Reviews are altering how consumers make purchase decisions and you'll also enjoy more traffic from search engines. Reviews will increase conversions. For example, Dell has found that if a shopper spent time reading reviews on its site, they're twice as likely to make a purchase. Of course, you can also feature top-rated products in your emails. Implementing reviews on your site doesn't have to break the bank. PowerReviews has a relatively inexpensive offering.
5. Examine your segmentation strategy. You don't want to do this when you're in the midst of the holidays. Pay particular attention to past buyers.
6. Give your site the grandma and grandpa test. Get some noncomputer savvy people (e.g., grandma and grandpa) to go through an exercise: Give them a task such as searching for and purchasing a particular item on your site. Then sit back and watch — don't help them. Can they easily accomplish the task? It's also helpful to ask your testers to talk through what they're thinking during the process. A usability expert recently explained that doing this exercise with as little as five people will uncover most of the problems.
7. If you don't have an abandoned cart program, get one! Different sources peg average cart abandonment rates between 71 percent and 75 percent. If your site statistics are similar to the industry average and you don't have an abandoned cart email program, you're losing a lot of money. An abandoned cart email program can help you recapture between 5 percent and 15 percent of otherwise lost sales.
This example from Sports Authority doesn't picture the item that was left in the shopping cart, but it does sweeten the deal and entice the shopper to reconsider with a "Hurry Back and Receive an Extra 10% off Your Order" promotion.
Here are some factors to consider when developing your abandoned cart email program:
- Timing: send your first email within a few hours of the abandonment.
- Product inclusion: including an image of the product left in the cart should improve conversions.
- Series: send more than one email to recapture the lost sales (some companies send as many as seven emails).
- Offers: don't immediately sweeten the deal. If you send a series, your first two emails might not include an offer, after which you can introduce an inducement such as free shipping or a discount. By the way, some retailers examine whether another cart has been abandoned recently by this consumer and suppress offers to him or her. They don't want to train consumers to always abandon carts in order to get a better deal.
- Subject lines: address the issue. For example, "Tom, just a reminder, you still have items in your shopping cart."
Planning your email strategy now will lay the foundation for a more successful holiday season. I hope I've given you some ideas to consider. Do remember to start with an analysis of your 2011 holiday campaigns. That will get you up and running!
In part two of this series, I'll examine when is the right time to step up your frequency during the holidays and when to begin your holiday promotions as well as offer strategies that work.