Surprises And Non-Surprises During Holiday Season So Far

The email marketing holiday season is constantly evolving. Every year there are things that surprise me, as well as things that, thankfully, don’t. Here are some highlights so far:

NOT SURPRISING: Retail email volume over the five-day Thanksgiving holiday weekend hit a new all-time high. Major online retailers sent each of their subscribers an all-time high of 5.3 promotional emails on average between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday. That was an 18% increase over the same period last year.

With the transition to email, mobile, social and other digital channels and away from print, direct mail and other traditional channels continuing unabated, another year of volume increases during this critical shopping period was not a shock. Because of the strong ROI and consumer acceptance, email is clearly one of the channels on which marketers are focusing their attention.

SURPRISING: Inboxes were busier on Thanksgiving than on Black Friday. More than 83% of major online retailers sent their subscribers at least one promotional email on Thanksgiving versus 79% on Black Friday. It was the first time that more retailers sent email on Thanksgiving than on Black Friday, and it was also the first time that fewer retailers sent email on Black Friday. In 2011, 81% sent email on Black Friday.



I’ve been saying that Thanksgiving is the new Black Friday and even predicted that online sales on Thanksgiving Day would surpass those on Black Friday by 2014, but I didn’t expect the email marketing attention to flip so quickly from Black Friday to Thanksgiving. The crown is clearly being passed.

SURPRISING: Nearly 93% of major online retailers sent at least one email to their subscribers on Cyber Monday, making it the busiest email marketing day ever, and a lock for a sixth straight title of busiest email marketing day of the year.

I had no doubts that Cyber Monday would retain the top spot again this year, but I did think that perhaps the day had topped out, with 88% of major online retailers sending at least one promotional email on Cyber Monday last year. However, retailers didn’t shy away from those crowded inboxes. Not only did more retailers send Cyber Monday emails, but many retailers weren’t content to send just one email. Of those retailers sending email, nearly 43% sent two or more emails to their subscribers.

SURPRISING: Very few retailers used special characters in their subject lines on Cyber Monday. Although less than 1% of retail email subject lines have used special characters this year, it’s clearly the top subject-line trend of the year. Many top retailers have experimented with them and some have seen good results.

Considering that Cyber Monday is the busiest email marketing day of the year, you’d think that marketers would want to use this gimmick to try to stand out in the inbox. Especially considering how many retailers sent more than one email on Cyber Monday, I was surprised so few used this tactic.

NOT SURPRISING: Cyber Monday is blossoming into Cyber Week. Nearly 18% of major online retailers are celebrating Cyber Week. And as a sign of the growing strength of the “Cyber Monday” brand, a higher percentage of retail emails mentioned Cyber Monday on Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday.

Just as Black Friday is overflowing into Thanksgiving, Black Friday week, and into the earlier weeks of November, Cyber Monday has grown beyond a one-day event. With Thanksgiving arriving early this year, we’re likely to see more retailers trumpeting “Cyber Monday” savings on the Mondays in December as well. We’ll have a Cyber December to match Black November.

I’m sure there will be more surprises before the holiday season is done. I’m particularly interested in how the end of guaranteed delivery with express shipping on Last Sleigh Day plays out. Last year when it fell on Dec. 21, Last Sleigh Day was the fourth busiest email marketing day of the year. With Christmas falling on a Tuesday this year, express shipping may be less attractive to shoppers.

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