By Beth Curtis-Clarke
With only 80 days left ‘til Christmas, the time to build a better online marketing strategy is NOW!
You’ve only just put away your picnic basket and beach gear, but in the digital marketing world, Christmas is just around the corner. Since the holiday shopping period can account for up to 40 percent of merchants’ annual revenue, it’s critical to get your online marketing strategy right. And with 42% of holiday shoppers getting a start by the end of October (according to a Google Survey), the time to do so is now.
With its low cost, high ROI and positive impact on customer retention, e-mail marketing is one of the best ways to reach shoppers and increase sales. To get you started on the right track, here are 10 easy steps to make sure your holiday email campaign is as successful as can be.
1. Rewind the clock to last year
One of the best ways to get a good start on your holiday email strategy is to take a good look at last year’s successes. A good email service provider offers a rich host of metrics on your campaigns, and there’s a lot to learn from examining them.
Take a good look at the stats from last year and you’re well on your way to a great holiday season. Which subject lines got the most opens? Which approach generated the most clicks and conversions? How did your database of customers respond to the increased frequency?
Also take a look at which subscribers made purchases last year. You likely have a segment of customers who have ONLY ever purchased at Christmas. Why not target them with a “avoid the holiday crowds” type campaign? And don’t forget to examine exactly what people bought last year. Are there upgrades or complementary products that you can offer?
2. Get an Early Start Holiday-ifying Your Designs
With so many shoppers getting an earlier start, the average email marketing program now starts in mid-October. Getting prepared over the next couple of weeks is critical to getting ahead of the game to ensure your emails cut through the inbox clutter.
38% of retailers use a different design for their email campaigns for the holidays, and this number increases every year. Why? Because it works! Give your subscribers an early taste of the holiday season. They’ll appreciate the reminder that the holiday is fast approaching, and that getting a jump on their shopping is a great way to alleviate that last minute rush.
3. Don’t get lost in the “Cyber Monday” Shuffle
According to comScore, consumers spent over BILLION online on “Cyber Monday” 2010 ‒ the Monday following Thanksgiving in the US ‒ making it the highest Online spending day of the year. With the opportunity to capture this augmented consumer spending, it’s no surprise that this is a day the majority of marketers choose to send out their campaigns. So perhaps it’s one you should avoid.
Consider sending out your Cyber Monday promotions in advance. Try testing your customer response to a Sunday email in advance as preparation.
There will always be shoppers who wait until the last minute, you therefore need to keep potential customers engaged by perfecting your triggered and sequential campaigns.
4. Make sure YOURS is the email that gets opened by using a good subject Line
The subject line is one of the most important parts of email marketing message, and it is THE factor that most often determines whether your email gets opened. With so many emails flooding inboxes every day, it’s critical that you catch their eye.
Think about adding personalization, appeal to emotions, or make it funny. Give a lot of thought to your subject lines, and conduct testing with a small portion of your database to see what works best.
5. Be Conversational and Social
Customers today are empowered like never before. They want to be treated like real people with individual interests and preferences. They want to engage in dialogue and interact with brands and products.
When preparing for your holiday campaigns, think about creating a more two-way dialogue with your subscribers. Don’t be afraid to interact with them – let them know you’re on Facebook and Twitter, and invite them to get more involved. And give them incentive to come back. Perhaps you can start a “countdown” to Christmas with your emails and include something new and fun each day. Also, if you’re expecting your subscribers to get social with you, you should get social back. Link to blogs you like, Facebook games, people you are following on Twitter that inspire your own festive holiday spirit!
6. Ensure Relevance through Careful Segmentation
Relevance is key to getting your message through. If an email is perceived as irrelevant, your potential customers might unsubscribe, or even worse, they may complain. Be sure to divide your subscriber list in meaningful ways. Tailor the offers you send to more specific preferences and demographics and work toward developing content that appeals to different segments.
7. Pay Attention to What’s Working, When and for Whom
One of the factors that makes email such a great platform for marketers is its ability to return useful measurements in real time. It’s not just about how many were delivered and opened.
Use measurement to your advantage. Pay attention to which links are generating the most revenue, know which segments of customers are buying the most, and put this intelligence to work for you. You can use it to further split your database – such as implementing a system of Gold, Silver and Bronze customers according to spend – and tailor the emails based on things purchased through previous campaigns.
8. Select and Use Images Strategically
Images are a tricky issue for email marketing, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take advantage of their appeal. Select images that are eye catching, and leverage their power to communicate the aspirational aspects of your brand. Just be sure to remember that many email clients won’t display them outright, and create enticing alternate text that encourages subscribers to switch to “images on” viewing.
9. Don’t forget the Mobile Channel!
Smartphone penetration is increasing rapidly, and with it, so is mobile commerce. With m-commerce projected to hit billion worldwide in 2012, proper campaign execution across the mobile channel should not be an afterthought.
More and more of your subscribers will be viewing your messages on smartphones, so be sure to optimize for the smaller, narrower viewing area. Don’t put links too close together, and try to avoid text-heavy messages that will require a lot of scrolling around. And again there’s the image issue – don’t rely too heavily on graphics, as they can be slow to load.
10. While the Holiday Season Ends in January, your Customer Relationship should Last All Year
Your holiday strategy may have been great, but even responsive and interactive subscribers can easily become disengaged if your efforts decline when the decorations come down. Make sure you’re looking after them all year round – New Year’s, Valentine’s Day, the first day of spring – seize the opportunity to maintain the dialogue. But really think about frequency – as we said, consumers have a whole new level of empowerment, and this means they may be sensitive to too much email. You want to be seen as a trusted source, not a purveyor of spam.
Email remains one of the most high-impact of a marketers tools, but when executed poorly, it can do more harm than good. Be mindful of these 10 simple steps, and you should be off to a fabulous holiday season (even before first frost)!
About the author
Beth Curtis-Clarke started her career working within Online Publishing in Oxford, before joining the Digital marketing industry in London. In 2008 she joined Email and Social Service Provider Emailvision UK where she has works with clients such as Habitat, Not On The High Street, Kurt Geiger and Office Shoes. She has built a reputation as an expert within the Email and Social Marketing fields, and shares this knowledge in her posts on the Emailvision Blog.