American consumers are starting their holiday shopping earlier this year, surveys show. And brands are sending emails to drive that activity, judging from an analysis by SparkPost.
For instance, Clinique promises: “Holiday gifting starts now! NEW skincare sets, BIG values,” in an email subject line. And Ebbets Field Flannels heralds a “25% Off Early Holiday Flannel and Knitwear Offer.”
John Landsman, manager of research and analytics at SparkPost, conducted a sweep of nine of the largest retail sectors, seeking holiday-related keywords in subject lines.
He found 62 qualifying campaigns, “quite limited in relation to the total promotional email activity within these spaces during the same period,” Landsman writes.
“Of the Holiday-related email activity we see, a predictable amount leverages references to ‘early’ Black Friday,” Landsman continues. “But that's not a tremendous stretch, since ‘Black Friday’ has long been ‘genericized’ into describing any large promotional event virtually year-round.
What is he seeing?
A large number of campaigns focus on “distribution of Holiday catalogs and gift guides, which retailers understandably want to get into customer hands well in advance of the peak selling season.”
“Coming soon: Our Holiday 2021 Gift Collection (oribe.com).
“The Holiday Collection is here” (littlesleepies.com).
“The Holiday Catalog - See What’s New!” (hammacher.com)
This is in “the same spirit as hard copy holiday catalogs once (i.e., in the "olden days") began arriving in user mailboxes around this time of year, often themed as "wish books."
Then there are emails to push “early ordering of Holiday greeting cards, including those which could include family photos. Hallmark, Shutterfly and Walmart are all doing this.” For example: "These new holiday designs are snow laughing matter" (myphotos.walmart.com).
Another small category includes messaging to vendors using the mailers as a reseller platform (e.g., Amazon, Etsy).
Here are a couple of subject lines that seem to stand on their own:
“The 5” Animated Holiday Locomotive and More (hammaher.com)
“A Holiday message from our CEO” (hickory.com).
Meanwhile, an NPD Group survey shows that 51% of U.S. consumers plan to start shopping before Thanksgiving Day -- a slight increase over last year. Of those, over 66% plan to start in October.
“Holiday 2021 continues the early shopping trend, with the added layer of inventory concerns motivating many shoppers to grab what they want when they see it, instead of waiting for better deals later in the season,” states Marshal Cohen, chief retail industry advisor for NPD.
But younger people are holding out for deals: 43% of Gen Zers are waiting for a sales event to purchase gifts, versus 35% of millennials and 16% of baby boomers, Iterable reports.
Overall, 42% of shoppers plan to spend more on gifts than they did in 2020, with 51% doing the majority of their buying online, down from 67% last year, Iterable says.