Five Email Holiday Marketing Predictions

The 2010 Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season includes a lot of predictions based on activity in previous years, but those predictions are all relatively safe. I want to go out on a bit more of a limb with a few additional predictions. Here are my top five:

1. Social and rich-media campaigns won't get much traction after mid-November. Once we get into late November and December, folks are just too busy running around and fighting traffic and the weather to spend much time with social campaigns. Same goes for rich media like video. A couple of years ago when video was all the rage, email campaigns anchored by video content evaporated once we got into the core of the holiday season. Not only are folks too busy, but during the holidays consumers turn to email for discounts and gift ideas more than anything else. Play to the channel's strength.

2. Discount codes will become more prominent in preheader messages and subject lines. Discount codes are highly relevant to shoppers during the holiday season. Activity last year certainly proved that. So if you're promoting a discount code, make it super-easy to find. Instead of burying it at the bottom of the primary message, elevate it up into a preview pane banner, into your preheader message, or into your subject line. I've been seeing a fair number of retailers promoting discount codes in their preheaders this year -- and the next step up is the subject line. Especially during the Black Friday to Cyber Monday time span when inboxes are deluged, discount codes in your subject line could attract subscribers to your email over a competitor's.

3. "Share with your network" (SWYN) functionality will be used more strategically. Right now SWYN links are found in the headers, share bars and footers of many emails, which is fine in general. But during the holiday season -- and especially on Black Friday and Cyber Monday, when you're likely promoting your best deals of the year -- consider giving your deal a viral boost by adding another SWYN call-to-action right next to the "Buy Now" button. Make SWYN a strong secondary call-to-action, not an afterthought relegated to the margins of your email design.

4. Designing mobile-friendly emails is more important than ever. With the rapid adoption of Android-powered phones and the continued adoption of iPhones -- both of which render HTML email pretty well -- the distinction between email and mobile email is falling away. Soon mobile email will just be email. Couple that with the fact that email is the No. 1 activity on smartphones, according to a recent study, and this market segment is becoming impossible to ignore. Make your emails more mobile-friendly by (1) using an informative preheader message and putting it ahead of "view with images" links and other preheader elements, (2) narrowing the width of your email template to 650 pixels or less, and (3) using larger font sizes to counteract the effect of your emails being scaled down for mobile's small screens.

5. At least 50% of retailers will send an email on Thanksgiving Day and at least 70% will on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. With email volume per subscriber continuing to rise, Black Friday and Cyber Monday are pretty much at the saturation point. Last year, many retailers began their Cyber Monday campaigns on the afternoon of the day before, giving rise to Cyber Sunday. I expect that phenomenon to repeat this year, plus I expect Black Friday emails to spill over into what I'll call Black Thursday (a.k.a. Thanksgiving Day). Similar to activity on Cyber Sunday, retailers will increasingly make their Black Friday offers valid on Thursday afternoon, looking to lock in sales before the crush of email on Black Friday.

What do you think of these predictions? Have any of your own?

Tags: email, retail
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4 comments about "Five Email Holiday Marketing Predictions".
  1. Rita Allenrallen@freshaddress.com from FreshAddress, Inc. , September 14, 2010 at 10:23 a.m.

    Your predictions match the economy and email is certainly proving to be a cost effective means of screening where the best deals are without spending gas and fighting the weather for the holidays. Good reminders!

  2. Marc Meltzer from Marc Meltzer , September 14, 2010 at 10:50 a.m.

    Your points all make sense.

    I would add one prediction. We're likely to see an increase by almost 100% from last years email and social media offers.

  3. Jon Parks from Dijital Farm , September 14, 2010 at 11:40 a.m.

    Best quote from this article: "Soon mobile email will just be email." With the rapid emergence of Android powered phones (the iPhone was already there), the only question left is whether or not BlackBerry will be able to keep pace.

  4. Dj Waldow from Blue Sky Factory , September 15, 2010 at 4:31 p.m.

    Chad - I really like #3 with the SWYN stuff. I still think folks are way underutilizing the power of social sharing. Most include it as an afterthought. I'd like to see entire campaigns dedicated to SWYN. Fingers crossed. Great article. Great predictions. As always...