How 3 Brands Drove Category-Leading Engagement for Mother's Day

  |  May 29, 2013   |  Comments

What email marketers can learn from some of the tactics these gift brands used to drive engagement with their campaigns.

This year, consumers were expected to spend $20.7 billion dollars for Mother's Day with an average spend of $168.94 per person, at a projected increase of 11 percent over 2012, as reported by the National Retail Federation. While the final numbers for 2013 are still being tallied, no one can deny that retailers rely heavily on Mother's Day to hit their annual numbers and drive earnings. According to Forbes, it's the second biggest consumer-spending holiday in the U.S.

Online gift sites are particularly well positioned to reap the rewards of the nation's collective generosity toward its mothers, and email marketing can and should play a central role in any gift brand's strategy. So while Mother's Day has come and gone, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what tactics worked well for three popular online gift sites: UncommonGoods, RedEnvelope, and its sister brand, Personal Creations.

I reviewed 30 days' worth of email marketing campaign data for each brand from April 14 to May 11 and focused on engagement metrics, specifically the read rate (messages that were flagged as "marked as read" by the subscriber's email client).

UncommonGoods' email campaigns had the best overall average read rate, topping the shopping category average by 14 percent and edging RedEnvelope and Personal Creations by a few percentage points. UncommonGoods also sent the fewest campaigns (11) over the 30-day period, while RedEnvelope sent the most (26). Interestingly, UncommonGoods was also the only brand of the three not to include any percentage discounts or references to shipping/delivery times in its subject lines.

While UncommonGoods performed best overall, both RedEnvelope and Personal Creations drove higher-than-average read rates. With Father's Day fast approaching and numerous holidays coming up in the second half of the year, what can email marketers learn from some of the tactics these gift brands used to drive engagement with their campaigns? Here are a few ideas:

  • Subject lines with "Mother" and "Mother's Day" outperformed subject lines with "Mom" when compared with the average read rates across all Mother's Day campaigns. Consider testing "Father" vs. "Dad" for your Father's Day campaigns to learn what works best.
  • RedEnvelope sent three campaigns using special characters (hearts), and each campaign outperformed the overall average read rate of its Mother's Day campaigns by at least 9 percent. While including special characters in every subject line doesn't make sense, getting subscribers familiar with seeing them in their inboxes can pay off - each subsequent campaign using special characters generated a higher read rate than the previous one.
  • Consider using numbers in subject lines, beyond featuring percentage discounts. All three brands used numbers in a slightly different way, including: "1 Day Left for Mother's Day Delivery," "Redbook's Top 10 Gifts for Mom," and "Gifts for #1 Moms." These campaigns had higher average read rates than the overall average for each brand's Mother's Day campaigns. For RedEnvelope, campaigns with numbers in the subject line actually outperformed campaigns using percentage discounts by 16 percent.
  • While Personal Creations specializes in customization, that's only one category of gift offered by UncommonGoods and RedEnvelope; however, campaigns that featured some element of personalization or customization generated higher-than-average read rates for these brands. Some of the campaigns included references to "one of a kind" gifts or birthstones in the subject lines, while others focused on an area of interest, like fashion and gardening, or a life stage, such as women who are new moms or grandmothers.
  • Other campaigns that drove high read rates were those that referenced brand activity in another marketing channel, like RedEnvelope's campaign promoting its new Mother's Day catalog, which drove a read rate that beat the category average by 14 percent, and a campaign referencing a Pinterest hashtag ("#mamasays"). The Pinterest campaign included creative with a call-to-action to view its Pinterest board, as well as prominent Twitter and Facebook links. The catalog campaign included links to view the online version in case the hard copy had been "lost in the mail."
  • UncommonGoods and RedEnvelope sent the most campaigns during the third week of the 30-day period (a week before Mother's Day); however, the campaigns that drove the highest average read rates for these two brands were sent during the second week. Personal Creations sent the most campaigns during the third week and also drove the highest average read rates during that week, likely because four of the five campaigns sent that week focused on delivery and shipping promotions, which would have been timely and relevant for subscribers leaving their gift-buying to the last minute.

Be sure to test when implementing new tactics to see what resonates with your active and inactive segments, especially during important holidays where your campaigns are expected to drive even higher revenue and ROI. These three brands got creative to make the most of this once-a-year opportunity.

Image on home page via Shutterstock.

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Margaret Farmakis

As vice president of professional services at email intelligence company Return Path, Margaret Farmakis oversees teams of specialists helping global brands improve the deliverability, response, revenue, and ROI of their email marketing programs. Prior to her six years at Return Path, Margaret spent 10 years producing and managing multi-channel integrated direct marketing programs for Fortune 100 companies, focusing on the financial services and technology sectors.

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