Get The Holiday Clock Ticking Well Before It Gains An Hour

The holiday season is unique in that -- despite occurring at the same time each year -- it routinely catches many by surprise. Marketers are as guilty as anyone of falling victim to this phenomenon, cruising through the year until desk calendars start to shrink and someone in the office inevitably lets out a sigh and says, "I can't believe it's November." 

Translation: "We let it happen again."

Holiday displays are already springing up in department store windows, before the first bite of Halloween candy has even been gulped down, and with good reason -- the sooner consumers (and their children) begin to think about the holidays, the sooner those stores will begin to fill with early birds looking to beat the rush. Email marketers might not have the luxury of window displays or bell-ringing Santa Clauses to get subscribers in the consumer spirit, but taking a strategic approach to the holiday season can still pay big dividends.



As you've read in recent Email Insider columns, messages that strike a human chord -- through the use of personality, engaging content, targeted offers, etc. -- offer a much greater chance for success than generic communications. If ever there was a time for personalization and segmentation to be put to good use, it's the holidays. Competition for subscribers' attention is at its most fierce, and what are you doing to stand out from the pack -- addressing recipients by their first name? Take a look at the data at your disposal, and think strategically about how to put it to good use.   


1.       Individualize timing as much as possible. Saving your best offers for the season's stretch run might help net the procrastinators, but you're missing a big chunk of the peak buying season. Christmas lists are already being emailed, so it only makes sense to get your messages into those same inboxes before items start being checked off. If you have recipients' purchase history at your disposal, time messages accordingly to coincide with past behaviors. Your Black Friday and Cyber Monday shoppers could be creatures of habit, and the folks who waited until Dec. 23 to have a gift shipped might appreciate a friendly reminder earlier in the season about the perils of waiting too long.

2.      Go green. Starting the season off with a great offer doesn't have to shorten its lifespan. Recycle and test those same offers (or slight variations) on recipients who didn't take action previously. Those subscribers who weren't ready to think about holiday shopping before Thanksgiving will be ready to act in mid-December.

3.      Don't forget about stockings. If you've ever bought a video game system, you've likely experienced the power of the up-sell, as many systems are virtually useless without purchasing a variety of accessories. Through the use of triggered campaigns, you can remind customers of the many additional products that not only complement their recent purchase, but also make perfect stocking stuffers.

4.      Think geographically. Use recipients' geographic location to tailor your offers. Swimwear savings are like salt in the wound to cold-weather subscribers, while heavy parkas are of no use to those in warmer areas. A Zip-code radius filter can be handy for marketers whose brick and mortar location falls in areas that typically receive snowfall -- those who reside farther away will require a sweeter offer to make the trek than those who are close by.

This coming weekend marks the end of daylight saving time, and, for many, the beginning of the holiday push. Planning ahead can make this a time for enthusiasm and anticipation as campaigns begin to take shape, rather than a series of marathon brainstorming sessions. If your holiday email strategy is already in place, congratulations on getting ahead of the game this year.

You might gain one hour this weekend, but it's not enough if you're already behind your competition. If you "let it happen again" this year, today is the day to begin holiday planning. And while you're at it, it wouldn't hurt to set a reminder on your 2010 calendar for late Q3.

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