Holiday sales for 2017 blew past the National Retail Federation’s estimates to include an increase of 5.5 percent over the same November – December period in 2016. The $691.9 billion sales number included more than $138.4 billion in online and non-store sales and represented an almost 12-percent increase from 2016. If these numbers are the start of a trend (as many retail experts predict), then you must act now to get a piece of that growing holiday retail pie.
So what are the best holiday email campaign practices for competing in a crowded (and often very noisy) holiday season inbox?
6 holiday email campaign tips
Here are six of our top tips for holiday email campaigns that lead to sustained sales:
Improve after-sale communication.
Make big mistakes less costly.
Customize daily deals.
Use email real estate wisely.
Offer last-minute solutions.
Give the gift of digital.
Let’s take a closer look at each strategy.
1. Improve after-sale communication
Nurturing a customer used to mean sending out emails in advance of a purchase, hoping to make the buying process easier and more rewarding. Urban Decay took the initiative in November, however, to provide an enriching experience after customers placed and received orders. They claim that the change in focus through these post-sales messages led a higher-than-average holiday sales report. Urban Decay’s holiday season’s post-sale emails resulted in 31 percent higher sales than their typical customer and bounce rates that were 25-percent lower than their usual holiday email campaigns.
The lesson: A repeat customer is the most valuable customer.
Use a targeted holiday email campaign to follow a customer throughout the entire sales cycle, including shipping, tracking, returns and reorders. Be sure to ask again for a sale.
2. Make big mistakes less costly
Ordering online might be a simple feat for refilling your cereal supply or making sure your printer paper is stocked. For more extravagant purchases that are difficult to size correctly, the customer might find it easier to make an in-store purchase.
Ease their minds — and their wallets — by giving them a variety of ways to make a bad purchase right again, whether it be through pre-paid return labels, an in-store option or a partnership with a shipping company that can pick up the unwanted item.
The lesson: Maximize sales in big-ticket categories by remembering that the holidays are rife with returns, and customers might need some extra hand-holding to feel confident in their buying.
Use your holiday email campaign to assure big-spenders that you acknowledge the risk and your business will do everything in your power to minimize it. Holiday shopping shouldn’t be scary.
3. Customize daily deals
If your business is doing a holiday “countdown” promotion, you might have decided to offer a different sale or featured item each day. By using data tracking and site analytics, however, it’s possible to know which of each day’s deals your customer is most likely to buy.
Will it be the rug of the day or the coffee of the day? Online retailer Rue La La has been using this tactic to fine-tune emails so they offer just what their daily deals subscribers want.
While generic daily emails can be overwhelming (and often end up in the trash folder), emails that only feature deals you want are too hard to ignore.
The lesson: If you have the flexibility to feature daily deal items in multiple categories, dig a little further to target customers and send them the deal that’s best-suited to them.
4. Use email real estate wisely
There is nothing more critical than a first impression, and that lesson couldn’t be truer than in email marketing. We all know how important the subject line is, but beyond that nothing matters more than the first line of your email message. That’s because most mobile devices — and some desktop solutions — give you previews of the first few sentences of any email, allowing you to determine if it’s worth trashing before you ever open it.
If your deal isn’t grabbing their attention within the first two lines, you’ve likely lost your customer to a flashier (if not exactly better) offer.
The lesson: Get to the point in every holiday email campaign.
Avoid the temptation to customize a greeting with your customer’s name in a personalized intro field. It’s wasted space and only pushes your most important words further down the preview pane.
5. Offer last-minute solutions
Savvy shoppers start buying for the holidays earlier every year, and competitive pricing certainly plays into their decision as to where they spend their money. As the weeks to Christmas go by, however, the focus shifts away from value. Last-minute shoppers aren’t as concerned about how much an item will cost as whether they will get it on time.
By shifting your emails away from deal-focused messaging and toward solving their problems, you’ll see a better response.
Can you offer two-day shipping? Is gift-wrap included? Will there be a way to ship to multiple addresses on one order? These are common questions late shoppers have, and the retailer who can answer them satisfactorily wins the sale.
The lesson: Stagger your late holiday emails to include a mix of great offers and pro shopping tips.
Explain how to wrap the perfect gift (or how you’ll do it for them.) Give ideas for pairing a wine with that chocolate they just bought. Be the planner they never had and help save the holiday!
6. Give the gift of digital
There’s nothing more profitable than a gift card sale (it’s pre-purchased merchandise!), and yet many retailers mix it into their regular holiday messaging as an ongoing — and not particularly spectacular — gift choice. Where the digital gift card fails in innovation and personalization, however, it makes up for in instant gratification.
You should have at least one holiday email campaign message dedicated to its virtues, how it can be used, ways to make it more special, and why it’s never a bad gift. Send this message toward the end of your holiday sequence for the maximum effect.
The lesson: Digital gift cards don’t have to be boring.
Gift cards also don’t have to be sent via email. Give customers options for printing at home for an instant gift they can tuck into a lavish holiday card and present with a bottle of wine. Your emails should present a variety of ideas for classing up digital gifts.
Holiday email campaign wrap-up
While the National Retail Federation’s 2018 projections haven’t come out yet, we predict there will be some big numbers on there — especially for online retailers and those who use email newsletters to communicate best. Start planning those sequences now, and watch your holiday sales grow!