Holiday Content Inspiration From Beyond The Inbox

It’s the end of July, and for those of us in email marketing, the time to start thinking about the holiday season is while the summer sun is still blazing. There’s been quite a few resources already published to kick-start our holiday plans because now is our chance to take stock of what we know and what we need to develop in order to implement standout campaigns this winter. 

While many holiday trimmings are the same each year -- the same white lights twinkling on tree branches downtown, the same Christmas carols playing at coffee shops, the same Salvation Army bells ringing outside the mall -- the world of email marketing leaves little room for recycling our holiday “traditions.”  Sure, we might add gift services footers and touches of holiday flair to our headers each year, but much of our strategy must respond to the demands of the season while keeping our eyes on the opportunities developing beyond the inbox.

So what’s different in 2012, and how will it affect holiday email campaigns? Here’s some of what we’re seeing:

  • Pinterest drives serious sales. The power of Pinterest has skyrocketed over the past year, and it would be foolish to neglect it in holiday campaign planning. A recent study from Shop.org, comScore and the Partnering Group shows that U.S. online consumers follow an average of 9.3 companies on Pinterest, and that 59% of Pinterest users have purchased an item they saw on the site (almost twice the number of Facebook users who have purchased an item seen on Facebook). The implications are clear: (1) Make sure your brand has a healthy presence on Pinterest before the holiday season begins, and leverage email to encourage subscribers to follow you, and (2) do what you can to use compelling imagery and Pinterest functionality in your email campaigns this seasons. Many subscribers will build out holiday pinboards, and you want to make sure your products have a place on them.
  • Shoppers rely on their mobile devices while shopping in-store.  As of March, more than half of adults in the United States had smartphones (Nielsen), and your email subscribers use their devices to read your messages while shopping, traveling and going about their lives during the holiday season. Keep this behavior in mind when designing your creative and planning your sends. Consider including segmented driving directions to subscribers’ local stores and promotions of in-store sales. Think about sending email coupons that can be shown at a register on a smartphone screen. Test email sends at peak daytime shopping mall hours.
  • New in-store services can make online shopping more efficient. A recent New York Times article discusses the ways that big-name retailers (including Macy’s, the Container Store and Best Buy) are ramping up efforts in brick-and-mortar stores to support online shopping. If your brand isn’t doing that yet, consider starting a dialogue across teams to discuss ways that in-store services such as Web return centers, pickup locations, free shipping outlets, payment booths or drive-through customer service centers might be implemented and then promoted through your email campaigns this holiday.
  • Your team has new info and capabilities. While looking at industry developments, don’t forget to consider ways your team has changed, and what you’ve learned over the past year. What new data do you have about your customers and how they interact with email? Can you segment campaigns by device? Do you have data on subscribers’ shopping patterns last holiday season, and can you send targeted messages? Analyze your unsubscribe rates from last holiday season: Do they help inform your plans about how often to send email this year? Keeping on the edge of industry best practices will move your email program forward, but true relevance comes from what you know about your unique subscriber base and how your campaigns leverage that information.

What are we missing?  What else has changed or developed in 2012, and how might it affect holiday email campaigns? We’d love to see your thoughts in the comments.

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