14 tips for your holiday email marketing strategy
Wednesday 29, September 2010
Online retailers will face another challenging holiday season – acquiring site traffic, increased sales goals, increased competition and more-savvy, cost-conscious customers; but with the right strategy and tools in place there is tremendous opportunity.
By now you should be finalising your holiday email marketing strategy and preparing for the busiest time of year.
Here are 14 tips to help you fine tune your strategy before your first holiday campaign is deployed.
Tip 1: Review last year’s campaigns
Take some time to look at last year’s creative, messaging, offers, deployment schedule, and metrics, paying close attention to conversions and any spikes in opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and complaints. Also review your segmentation tactics to identify what worked. Finally, look at emails that were forwarded and shared with social networks the most.
Knowing what worked for you last year, and what didn’t, will help you build a successful strategy this year.
Tip 2: Set yourself up for success
Now is the time to start gathering the data you need to make your holiday campaigns truly relevant. Ask customers to update their information in your preference center or send out surveys or product reviews and closely monitor results. That way, you’ll be able to target each subscriber with personalised, relevant offers to increase conversion and sales.
You should also start testing your campaigns in advance before your deployment schedule gets too hectic. You could also promote holiday reward programs early to increase registrations and to get your customers engaged with your brand before your upcoming holiday campaigns.
Tip 3: Follow the phases of the holiday
Your messaging should be progressive and follow the phases of the season:
Tip 4: Decide on a deployment schedule early and stick with it
Almost every online retailer plans to increase their deployment schedules during the holidays. Don’t just increase the number of campaigns because everyone else is. Instead, put detailed plans in place before the first deployment outlining your message and deployment schedule. Working ahead lets you automate campaigns to free up time and resources and ensures that all of your messages work together to increase revenue.
Tip 5: Pay attention to basic best practices
The holidays are the busiest time of year. You’re probably planning to triple, quadruple, or more, the number of emails you’re sending. But that’s no excuse to let basic best practices slip. Don’t rush through creation and miss important aspects like ALT tags, broken images and links, and other inaccuracies. Pay close attention to:
Tip 6: Design effective landing pages
Getting a customer to click on a link in your message is only half the battle. Getting them to make a purchase is your true goal. Landing pages must be designed to entice and encourage a sale, and must make it very easy for the customer to complete the purchase. Just like your emails, your landing pages should be direct and focus on the product linked from the email. If you require your customers to search for the item you’ll lose them. Also, be sure to include links to Live Chat and/or a phone number to reach customer support so your customers have alternative purchasing options. You can also reduce shopping cart abandonment rates by offering shipping information and delivery schedules up front.
Tip 7: Create a consistent cross-channel campaign
Email is still the best option for engaging your customers, but it’s not your only option. To maximise sales you must communicate with your customers across multiple channels – mobile messaging, social networks, online and print ads, in-store displays, etc. Most importantly, you must be consistent in the content and messaging. You can use a different voice but be sure that the main message, such as prices, dates, specials, etc., remains the same. Your multi-channel campaigns should be designed to work together and support each other – they shouldn’t work against each other.
Tip 8: Engage your customers, don’t overload them with information
Over-communicating with your customers and subscribers can be detrimental to your campaigns as you may be training your audience to tune out instead of tune in. The problem isn’t simply sending too many email campaigns – you must take into consideration the number of times people are hearing from you across the different channels. Your different marketing campaigns can’t exist in a vacuum; you must put a tactical schedule in place and control the cadence of all of your communications carefully.
Tip 9: Launch a special holiday email series
Creating a holiday campaign, such as “12 Days of Christmas”, and promoting it as a special series lets your audience know what to expect in terms of the increased sending schedule and gives them a way to opt-out of the series without leaving your list. There are several ways to implement these campaigns. You could promote it on your website, email, social networks, and mobile messages and require subscribers to opt-in to the series – or you could send it to your entire subscriber base and provide a way for recipients to opt-out of the series without opting out of your list.
Tip 10: Segment your audience by purchase habits
Every subscriber isn’t created equal. Some are your best customers; some have never purchased but have shown interest in your products. These groups shouldn’t receive the same email communications from you. Segmenting your audience by purchase habits helps you create targeted messages surrounding purchase intent. Using the discount ladder approach, you can then maximize your profits by applying larger discounts where they’re needed to encourage a sale, and smaller or no discounts where they aren’t. You can remarket to your one-time buyers with cross-sell, up-sell, or replenishment opportunities as it’s easier and cheaper to sell to a previous customer than a new one.
Tip 11: Put an automated shopping cart abandonment solution in place
If you don’t already have a shopping cart abandonment solution in place, it is crucial that you implement one. You could be losing half of your potential sales to abandoned carts; but an automated reach back campaign can recapture those sales, directly impacting your bottom line and holiday revenue. Our customers are experiencing 20% conversions, 27% increase in the average order value, and an incredible 500% ROI through their shopping cart abandonment campaigns – and these numbers are expected to increase over the holiday season.
Tip 12: Perfect the soft sell in your transactional messages
This holiday season, don’t let the one-time buyers come and go. Instead of sending a generic order confirmation email, include links to related products and special incentives to order more gifts. Or, reward the customer with a special discount for themselves. These offers should be secondary in the message and should be included as a value-added service, not as an attempt to force another sale.
Tip 13: Stand out from the crowd with viral messaging components
The inbox is crowded – especially during the holidays. To stand out, consider implementing a daily sweepstakes or online scavenger hunt across your email campaigns, website, Twitter, and Facebook page.
Not only will people look forward to receiving your messages, they’ll share them with their networks, instantly expanding your audience and increasing your profitability and ROI.
Tip 14: Drive in-store sales with email
Finally, your emails shouldn’t just encourage an online sale. Use your profile fields to send messages that are customized with each subscriber’s local store information – address, hours, buy online/pick up in-store details, local customer service, special promotions, etc. The more targeted your emails are, the better they’ll perform; and one of the easiest segmentations you can perform is location-based.
(This article has been contributed by Megan Ouellet, director of marketing of email marketing firm, Listrak).
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