The holiday season officially kicked off this week, and experts are expecting healthy retail sales gains this year. According to the National Retail Federation (NRF), 2010 holiday sales should rise 2.3% to $447.1 billion, which is good news for retailers after the last two disappointing years.
Some retailers make 25% to 40% of annual sales during the holidays, so the stakes are high to make sure the marketing machine is primed and ready. This goes for email marketing too, which is a catalyst for many online sales.
Consumer shopping patterns are changing, and email marketers can play an important role in helping their company benefit from this shift. Below are a number of trends that will impact online marketers.
1. Shoppers are starting early. Many shoppers started their holiday shopping and researching months ago. According to a Google/OTX survey, 35% of holiday shoppers started their shopping in August and 42% of women started by the end of October. To take advantage of early-birds, make sure your website is updated with plenty of email sign-up opportunities, so shoppers can sign up for promos all through the holiday season.
2. Monday is the new "Black Friday." Traditionally the highest online shopping day, the Monday after "Black Friday" is being usurped by each subsequent Monday in the holiday season. To take advantage of this trend, email marketers should turn on "purchase tracking," which allows them to track purchases from email campaigns to website and then create specific campaigns that make recommendations to customers for other products they may want to purchase. If your email service provider (ESP) doesn't offer this capability, third-party companies can offer solutions that provide product recommendations.
3. The deal is king. The NRF's 2010 Holiday Consumer Intentions and Actions Survey shows that 40.6% of shoppers plan to use more coupons this year. The same survey shows that 53% of shoppers think sales, discounts and everyday low prices are the most important factor in their buying decision. Email marketers who include coupons in campaigns will have a greater chance of conversion. Some ESPs offer the ability to include barcoded coupons within your email. If your ESP doesn't include barcode coupons, offer promo codes or link to landing pages containing barcoded coupons.
4. Mobile phones are ringing up sales. Mobile commerce sales reached 1.2 billion in 2009 and are expected to double this year, according to Coda Research Consultancy. To profit from this trend, email marketers need to design campaigns that are easily readable from a mobile phone. Think "up and to the left." Keep content at the top and left and make sure the call to action is as high in the email as possible. Make sure marketing emails are sent in both text and HTML to ensure that they can be read on a mobile device.
5. There will always be shoppers who wait until the last minute. Email marketers will benefit from keeping potential customers engaged. To do this, email marketers need to perfect their triggered and sequential email campaigns. By looking at open and click-through information, you can build sequential mailings offering increasingly attractive incentives. If a cart is abandoned, you can trigger emails to offer free shipping. Our own research shows that if you have relevant information and the audience is engaged, you can keep them engaged three times longer with a series of emails.