Commentary

Last-Minute Tips for Your Holiday Email Planning

With the fourth business quarter just over the horizon, your holiday email plan is probably pretty close to being set. But as we know, email marketing is not a set-and-forget operation.

While most retailers and companies with a major focus on the holiday selling season are probably close to locking down email marketing plans and calendars, here are some tactics you can use to build on what you have already created, fill in a revenue gap or repair the damage if something goes wrong (and it always does) during this high-pressure season.

Anticipate and Welcome New Subscribers

Be visible wherever they encounter you, and start them off right.

1. Add a holiday theme to your Web site opt-in invitation such as "Get exclusive holiday deals and offers via email."

2. Revise your regular welcome/onboarding program to add special holiday-focused content, including shipping schedules, return and gift-card policies, and customer-support contact information.

4. Test all of your opt-in forms, preference centers, and key links in your emails, such as the unsubscribe process, to make sure every key process is working correctly.

Manage Holiday Frequency and Delivery

Most retailers will significantly increase their email cadence during the holiday season, so it is important to minimize additional list churn.

1. Add a service email inviting subscribers to update their preferences so they receive only the most relevant emails during the holidays.

2.  Have a plan to deploy higher frequency on different segments, such as your most responsive or active customers.

3. Send an email to subscribers before you ramp up frequency, explaining the increased frequency, what kind of promotions they can expect, shipping and return policies. Include prominent language about frequency options and link to your preference center.

4. Revise your preference-center language and options to encourage unsubscribers to opt down or snooze emails instead of simply opting out.

Make It Easy for Subscribers to Act

1. If you send single email process-abandonment reminders to customers for abandoned carts, browse sessions or incomplete account registrations, add a second or third reminder to encourage the customer to come back and finish up.

2. Add a table to your emails listing shipping options and deadlines, and update it throughout the season.

3. Leverage learnings and tests from previous years and implement new tests early in the season so you can minimize testing during the height of holidays.

4. Do the discount math for your customers: Show them how much money they will actually save with a 20% discount on your featured products or the percent savings on that $10 off promotion.

6. Add shopper tips on buying products (such as the right size or model), where to find coupons and other incentives, how to find local stores and other information.

7. With mobile email readership exploding, increase font and button size for readability and to avoid "fat finger syndrome." 

8. Make your calls to action clear, bold and easy to understand and act on. Simplify your messages and offers to increase conversion among mobile and tablet users.

Expect the Unexpected

Be flexible and prepared to switch gears quickly.

1. Nail down your production and approval processes for swift turnaround if necessary, including team responsibilities for content creation, testing and proofing.

2. Stay in close contact with fulfillment, inventory, customer support and related departments to anticipate or head off problems that could affect scheduled emails.

3. Have a back-up plan if key emails fall short of expectations. Keep your email team on alert to adjust email content on the fly, such as adding or changing copy, images, CTAs, sending to different segments, etc.

4. Meet with IT to share your email calendar and projected site traffic volume following key email sends to ensure your Web site can handle dramatic traffic increases during critical times.

5. Review/update your corrections procedure in case of copy errors or back-end glitches (some ideas here: Saying 'I'm Sorry': Keys To An Effective Email Correction Process).

Which tactics do you use to avoid the usual holiday-season panic and ensure the best experience possible for your subscribers and comments? Let me know in the comments.

Until next time, take it up a notch!

2 comments about "Last-Minute Tips for Your Holiday Email Planning".
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  1. Al DiGuido from Optimus Publishing, September 22, 2013 at 7:31 a.m.

    How about this one...The holidays come around EVERY year. Go back and study the performance of the campaigns that you ran during the last holiday season. Create segments of your DB that responded and transacted to your message last year and provide them an incentive to engage again this year! You should know what they responded to and what they purchased. Use that data to be more relevant to them. As for the email addresses that didn't respond last year..create a seperate segment and testing regimen to engage them in a new and enticing way...to get them to act. Three big segments and efforts...1. Last year's openers, responders and transactors....2. Last year's openers and no transaction and 3. Last years non openers. Seperate efforts and messaging targeted to each of these segments

  2. Loren McDonald from IBM Marketing Cloud, September 23, 2013 at 1:35 p.m.

    Thanks AL! Great suggestion. I actually had something very similar to your suggestion, but I was about 200+ words too long and had to cut several things ... and looking at last year's data and campaigns got dust. Thanks for adding in! :-)

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