Thanksgiving's Over, Christmas Is Next: Email Tips For Retailers

Cyber Monday broke all sales records this year, generating $7.9 billion. And the holiday shopping season is far from over.

But it’s no time for brands using email marketing to be complacent. SendGrid, which handled 2.9 billion emails on Cyber Monday, has some takeaways from this November activity about what to do next.

Take subject lines. Those featuring terms such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday performed significantly worse than other lines.  

“One of most prevalent things is not saying the obvious,” says Len Shneyder, VP of industry relations at SendGrid.

“There’s a 12-year-old in all of us that doesn’t like to be told what to do. Everything from ads for pumpkin spice lattes to every commercial I see on TV screams at the consumer.”

Brands must be following this advice because only 13% of emails featured holiday references -- down from 18% in 2017. 

The best practice is to highlight specific interests of the recipients. 

Then there’s discounting. Use of discounts in subject lines fell to 6% this year compared with 15% in 2017, mostly because of a drop in engagement.

“We saw subject lines offering 15% discounts do better,” Shneyder observes. “Generally broadcasting discounts in subject lines are not a massive driver of engagement.”

Some engagement falloff may be due to high frequency. Firms that increased from one to two emails in a week pulled 25% more engagement, but those that rose from two to three had only a 9% increase. 

“The idea that sending infinitely more email will deliver infinitely more value is wrong,” Shneyder comments. 

In particular, don’t hammer segments that have not interacted in a long time. Getting over-enthusiastic with these folks “damages your ability to send email to recipients more likely to buy and by extension improves engagement,” he adds. 

Overall, volume is a matter of “balancing the nuances of email deliverability with the frequency and cadence of marketing campaigns,” Shneyder notes.

The study also found that of those who click on a link during Black Friday or Cyber Monday, 26% will click more than once on links in the same email. And open rates on Black Friday occurred much more quickly than usual, decreasing from the normal Friday delay time of 4.5 hours by 42 minutes.

Here are a couple of creative tips: 

First, ”Don’t use emojis as if they’re a hieroglyphic that everybody understands,” Shneyder counsels. 

Next, watch those exclamation points. Their use in subject lines fell by 12%, although it rose slightly during the year. Why? Probably lower engagement rates. 

The best course is to test these devices, Shneyder advises.

What happens after holidays? It’s "an opportunity for a retailer to use the massive amount of data generated from the holidays to determine which offers and products could and should continue to be marketed into the new year, and the segments most likely to respond to the continued holiday effort." Shneyder concludes. 

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