This Year's Email Marketing Twists: Holiday Predictions

Behind the sounds of witches cackling and batwings flapping, I can already hear the faint jingling of Christmas bells. Honestly, it’s not all that faint. The holiday season is already showing up in aisles at stores like Costco and in inboxes from brands like Toys “R” Us, Ikea, Sony, Hanna Andersson, Sephora, and The Shopping Channel.

Every holiday season is a little different. Here are my thoughts on how the email marketing holiday season will be different this year.

Mobile email design. I’ve been predicting since last year that by early December, 70% of major retailers will be using a mobile-friendly design for their emails. I’m sticking to that. The majority of retailers are already using a mobile-friendly design and I expect a significant jump in adoption as we approach Black Friday.

My initial prediction was that we’d see 35% of retailers using responsive design, 35% using mobile-aware design, and the remaining 30% stuck back with desktop-centric design. Based on current trends, it’s now clear that more than 40% of retailers will be using responsive design this holiday season, with mobile-aware design attracting fewer users than initially expected.



Free gift card with purchase. While still powerful, free shipping is getting a little tired, and more than a little expected. It’s still very effective because consumers value it at a level far exceeding what it costs retailers to provide it.

Gift cards are similarly magical. They cost less than face value to provide because of profit margins, plus they drive repeat purchases, can get passed along to new customers, and generally create basket values that significantly exceed a card’s amount.

I’ve noticed more brands using this incentive this year, and expect this tactic to be used much more this holiday season than last — especially in November as a tactic to drive a second purchase in December.

Black Friday Week. While the “Black November” trend was clearly an overreach and has since abated, the “Black Friday” brand is still extremely strong. When more stores began opening their doors on Thanksgiving, Black Friday deals and sales debuted a day earlier. And now with the ubiquity of smartphones and WiFi on airplanes, Black Friday has expanded further into Thanksgiving Eve, which is one of the busiest travel days of the year.

This year I expect more retailers to court on-the-go “transumers” with mobile-friendly emails and incentives tied to downloading apps and making first-time app purchases.

Cyber Week. Just as Black Friday has been expanding into the days that precede it, Cyber Monday has been creeping into the days that follow it. “Cyber Tuesday” promotions are becoming more common, but the bigger trend will be “Cyber Week” deals that stretch all the way to Thursday.

Green Monday. Green Monday has the feel of Cyber Monday circa 2005. Green Monday, which is typically the second Monday in December, is already a huge online shopping day that’s well positioned in the heart of the holiday season. A more concerted effort at branding and promoting this occasion could easily turn it into another Cyber Monday-like day in a few years.

Last year there was a noticeable uptick in retailers mentioning Green Monday by name, although one retailer humorously (perhaps creatively?) used it to promote eco-friendly products. This holiday season I expect an even bigger rise and sharper messaging around Green Monday. Walmart has already set up a permanent webpage for its Green Monday deals, just as the company has done for its Cyber Monday deals.

Last Sleigh Day. The end of guaranteed Christmas delivery via express shipping for most retailers, Last Sleigh Day will be a big deal this year. Because Christmas is on a Thursday, Last Sleigh Day is optimally positioned on the preceding Monday. I expect a lot of discounted and free express shipping offers to make the most of this trend, for a promotion effort well supported by email messaging.

Wishing everyone very merry email marketing results!

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