Winning Holiday Email Tactics You Can Use Throughout The New Year

This past year, for the first time ever, I did all of my holiday shopping online.  I didn’t set foot inside the mall or buy any gifts at crowded stores.  And, while I might have been shopping in solitude, I certainly wasn’t alone.  comScore reported a 15.3% increase in online shopping between Nov. 1 and Dec. 26 as customers spent $37 billion on e-Commerce sites, which is a new record for those of you who are keeping track.  Cyber Monday alone brought in $1.25 billion ― the heaviest online shopping day in history ― and Green Monday wasn’t far behind, with $1.1 billion.  All in all, there were 10 shopping days this past holiday season that surpassed the $1 billion mark in online sales.

Online holiday shopping exceeded everyone’s expectations, except for maybe the online retailers themselves, whose preparations and due diligence paid off.  Here are some of the tactics used by the most successful online retailers that you can use throughout the year:

Acquire New Subscribers. I’ve seen estimates stating that email accounted for 2.8% of all online sales each day during the holiday season, except on Christmas Day when it jumped to 20%.  This proves how effective email is at prompting subscribers to make purchases even when shopping isn’t necessarily on their minds.  Email simply drives sales.  While the quality of subscribers on your list certainly matters more than quantity, acquiring new subscribers should always remain a top priority.  For example, we’ve seen a lot of success with online sweepstakes, promoted via email, onsite and with viral components ― especially when companies give away their own merchandise as prizes.  Doing so ensures that entrants are interested in your products and brand, allowing you to acquire the email addresses of people likely to turn into customers.


Implement A Bold And Dynamic Deployment Schedule. Customers are somewhat more lenient with the amount of email received over the holidays. While I don’t recommend sending that often during the rest of year, I believe that some of the deployment tactics used during the holiday season can work throughout the year. These tactics might include promoting sales in advance; allowing customers to sign up for special, more aggressive campaigns; and creating triggered campaigns based on online activity and purchases.  As long as the emails you’re sending are relevant and useful to subscribers, they won’t mind the increase in the number of messages.   It’s important to note that one-size-fits-all email campaigns are a thing of the past; Not every customer will be interested in everything.  The key is to use your profile data and customer purchase metrics to send targeted, relevant messages.

Target Offers And Discounts. Over the holidays, online retailers did whatever was necessary to gain business. (I’m talking to you, Amazon Price Check app).  But you don’t have to undercut every other retailer to meet and even exceed your revenue goals.   I can’t stress this point enough.  If you’re relying on discounts in your email campaigns to drive e-Commerce sales, you’re doing yourself a disservice.  While offering a discount certainly is an easy way to attract customers, it isn’t always necessary, and you’re diminishing your margins and profitability by always discounting.  Instead, use a discount ladder to apply discounts only when necessary.  A discount ladder suppresses the offer to customers who are most likely to buy while offering different levels of discounts to different customers as latency increases.  This can either be done using RFM profiling attributes or increasing the offers over time.

Design For Mobile Devices And Tablets. There is no denying the impact smartphones and tablets had on the holiday season.  The Gilt Groupe reported that 20% of all sales in November and December stemmed from mobile devices, an increase well over 100% from 2010.  Recent stats showed that 9.29% of all emails now are opened on mobile devices, which means it is more important than ever to get the design right.  While there are no standards for mobile emails, some best practices include using a single column design; large call-to-action buttons that are easily pressed with thumbs; large fonts; short, clear messaging and subject lines; and links to mobile optimized web sites. 

Follow Up. The most successful and innovative retailers know the importance of post purchase campaigns. When you purchase something at Gap, the clerk asks if you’d like your receipt to be emailed to you, which is a great acquisition tactic and an easy way to upsell related products.  Post purchase campaigns aren’t limited to requesting product reviews, although that is another easy entry point.  Post purchase campaigns should cross-promote merchandise and upsell, be used for customer loyalty programs and even re-engage customers who haven’t shopped in a while.  The more interaction you have with your customers, the more likely they’ll be to buy again.

After the holidays, it is easy to abandon the creative tactics and extra care you put into your email strategy.  But carrying these tactics forward throughout the year will ensure your email campaigns remain one of your strongest revenue generating channels. 

Ross Kramer is a co-founder and CEO of Listrak. He has 15 years of executive leadership, successfully launching and directing three technology start-ups. Kramer is a thought-leader within the online marketing community, lending his expertise to conferences, seminars, articles, blogs and webcasts.

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