The holiday season is upon us! By the end of this month, more than 65% of major online retailers will have started their holiday email marketing campaigns, and more than 20% of promotional emails will refer to Christmas. Campaign planning for the holiday season will get serious over the coming weeks.
The 2012 Holiday Guide that I wrote discusses many issues and trends you’ll want to consider when making your plans, but I wanted to follow up on the release of the guide by elaborating on some of the predictions in it and making some additional ones:
1. More retailers will send emails designed for tablets and smartphones, particularly on the day before Thanksgiving, which is the busiest travel day of the year; Thanksgiving Day, which has many folks spending time with family but increasingly out shopping as well; Black Friday, which is a huge store shopping day; and Christmas Day, which has most people visiting family. This year a number of retailers -- including Lowe’s, JCPenney, REI, Toys “R” Us, Urban Outfitters and Walgreens -- have made their emails more tablet- and smartphone-friendly, but I expect many more retailers to experiment with mobile-friendly email designs on these high-mobility days.
2. Retailers will experiment with Pinterest holiday contests and content. More than 55% of major retailers have promoted their activity on Pinterest in their promotional emails since mid-February, with 53% linking to their pinboards, 17% promoting a Pinterest contest, and 6% using “pin it” sharing links in their emails, as of Oct. 1. This is retailers’ first holiday season with Pinterest and I expect to see some interesting experimentation, most notably with wish list-type pinboard sweepstakes.
3. Thanksgiving Day is the new Black Friday. While I don’t expect Thanksgiving Day to dethrone Black Friday as the No. 2 email marketing day of the year, I do expect the gap between these two days to narrow. The “Black Friday” brand is super strong, but Thanksgiving Day is now big enough sales-wise that it’s really the unofficial kickoff of the holiday season going forward. And with many retailers training shoppers to look for the release of Black Friday deals on Thanksgiving, online sales on Turkey Day could very well eclipse those on Black Friday in a couple of years.
4. Nearly two-thirds of major retailers will offer free shipping for most of the holiday season. During the holiday season, free shipping with a minimum has become an expectation, not an incentive. The new shipping incentives are free shipping with no minimum, especially on Free Shipping Day; free or discounted express shipping, especially on Last Sleigh Day, when guaranteed Christmas delivery with express shipping ends; and free return shipping.
5. Retailers will do more to thwart showrooming. While I think the concern about showrooming is overblown and that smartphones just made existing shopping behaviors easier to observe, I do expect retailers to make some adjustments in response. For instance, I expect retailers to promote exclusive merchandise more vigorously on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. We may also see some retailers follow the lead of Sports Authority, which last year allowed customers to buy Black Friday items ahead of time and then pick them up in store on Black Friday, thereby avoiding price comparisons on the day itself. And Target just announced it will be adding QR codes to popular holiday toys that will allow the shopper to buy the item from Target.com, since some showrooming is motivated by the shopper not wanting to carry the merchandise home.
6. E-gift card messaging will be strongest on Dec. 24, not on eGift Card Day. The processing and delivery of e-gift cards has gotten faster in recent years, to the degree that last year there were almost as many emails about e-gift cards on Dec. 24 as there was on Dec. 23, which is eGift Card Day. Since e-gift cards are billed as “the perfect last-minute gift” and urgency is greater the closer you get to Christmas, this shift in messaging one day closer to Dec. 25 should result in higher e-gift card sales. Because e-gift card programs vary significantly, it’s important for retailers to clearly state how quickly they can deliver them and what other options are available.
Do you have any predictions of your own? If so, please share them by commenting. Happy holiday sales, everyone!