Have you started your holiday shopping yet? More importantly, have you begun your marketing campaigns for the 2011 holiday season? No matter the answer, here are some statistics, trends, and tips to help you make the most of it.
I probably don't need to tell you that more shopping is happening online every year. Online retail sales grew by 12.6 percent in 2010 and Forrester Research projects 10 percent year-over-year compound annual growth through 2015. But online sales can't happen for your organization unless people visit your website.
In the 2010 holiday season, email was a major force in driving traffic to websites. ForeSee reports that 19 percent of people surveyed reported visiting a website as the result of a promotional email. This compares to 8 percent that cited search engine results and just 5 percent who said they went to a retail website as the result of social media.
This isn't surprising; it supports the fact that, according to the Direct Marketing Association, email continues to be the most productive channel in terms of return on investment. Social media may be sexier, search engine optimization and marketing are effective for people who don't know you, but a strategic marketing program to people that have opted in to receive email from you is the best way to have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Here are some trends from previous years that will continue in 2011, along with some new ideas for making the most of your holiday email marketing.
Continue to Focus on Value in Your Marketing
According to the National Retail Federation, 60 percent of shoppers say they plan to take advantage of retailers' sales and discounts for 2011 holiday purchases. Offering dollars or a percentage off is good, but don't be afraid to get creative. Retailers are also having success with gift-with-purchase offers, coupons good for discounts on future purchases, and other value-based ways to drive sales.
Offer Free Shipping
Earlier this year, Lyris reported that the No. 1 offer used by retailers in email marketing was free shipping. Don't be concerned that using the word "free" in your subject line will cause your email to be filtered as spam - that alone won't cause your email to be diverted from the inbox. Free shipping is so common that most consumers have come to expect it - and many will rethink buying from you online if they have to pay for delivery.
Up Your Email Frequency, but Do It Strategically
This year Experian Marketing Services' CheetahMail is projecting a 20 percent increase in email volume over holiday 2010. If this is your peak selling season, your email frequency should increase. But be careful not to bombard your list and alienate your recipients.
Have an email that did particularly well? Do an "encore" send, letting people know that this promotion is being repeated or extended because it was so popular. Just be sure to keep a close eye on your unsubscribe and spam complaint rates as your frequency increases - lifts in these metrics are symptoms of overmailing, which will do more harm than good.
Use Social Media to Acquire Email Subscribers
It's possible that someone will visit your Facebook page and buy, but it's unlikely. Better to use social media as a way to introduce yourself to prospective customers and entice them to sign up to receive email from you to sell them. Email has the added advantage of allowing you to target messages, which posting on Facebook doesn't give you. Ask for enough information at email signup to do this effectively - during the holiday season, this includes demographics (like gender and age) on who they are buying for.
Use Social Media to Drive In-Store Sales
Newer social media channels, like Foursquare, offer businesses the opportunity to reach potential customers who are shopping near brick-and-mortar locations. Offering an immediate discount on purchases may drive people who would otherwise walk past to walk in your door and buy.
While I'm still recommending that my clients focus on email as their primary online marketing channel this holiday season, mixing in social can be a way to boost sales even further. Give these tactics a try and let me know how they work for you!
Until next time,
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Jeanne Jennings is a 20 year veteran of the online/email marketing industry, having started her career with CompuServe in the late 1980s. As Vice President of Global Strategic Services for Alchemy Worx, Jennings helps organizations become more effective and more profitable online. Previously Jennings ran her own email marketing consultancy with a focus on strategy; clients included AARP, Hasbro, Scholastic, Verizon and Weight Watchers International. Want to learn more? Check out her blog.
December 12, 2013
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