The holidays are for last-minute shopping not last-minute marketing. The season can be a minefield for make-or-break decisions that can significantly impact revenue…and the happiness of your boss. One vital component of any successful holiday marketing program is a streamlined and adaptable data environment. Let’s look at three ways to prepare now so the holidays are more successful and less stressful.
The capability to send mail to strategically-defined segments can help make calculated last-minute decisions. Whether you currently segment subscribers or send every mailing to your master list, having these plug-and-play segments at your fingertips can help bring focus to remailing opportunities, throttling messages should you encounter a block, and adding incentives to promotions that fall flat.
Analyzing your subscriber population based on acquisition source, purchase behavior, and inactivity will help you build segments that maximize messaging opportunities, decrease delivery issues, and help turn prospects into first-time customers. Here’s how:
- Acquisition source. All acquisition sources are not created equally. Point-of-sale data and/or other sources that involved a human element in data capture will result in lower quality data. When mailed, these addresses may bounce and have a higher abuse complaint rate. Defining a population, such as “New POS Subscribers (30 Days),” will help you to remove them and decrease risks should other delivery issues arise.
- Purchase activity. A customer who has purchased multiple times over the course of the year may exhibit different behavior compared to a one-time buyer. Analyze your purchase data and define thresholds spanning from a one-time buyer to your most frequent purchasers. This audience may be more likely to purchase during the holidays and spread the word about your offers on social networks.
- Activity, inactivity, and disengagement. This group represents subscribers who have not purchased. Efforts to convert them into first-time buyers haven’t worked in the past and a different promotion or messaging strategy may be needed for them to purchase. Avoid a macro view of your non-purchasers by building segments for the following groups and trying these campaign recommendations:
- Non-purchasing clickers. Calls-to-action testing, reminder emails
- Non-clicking openers. Creative testing, animation
- Disengaged. Subject line testing, frequency/time-of-day testing, cross-channel offers
- Inactive. Let’s explore this group in greater detail in the next section
Reengagement and List Cleaning
A disengaged subscriber has interacted in an email in the past but has become unresponsive in the 60 to 90 days since the last interaction. Inactive subscribers include disengaged subscribers who pass, in this example, the 90-day mark, or have never opened, clicked, or converted in an email. This population can become dead weight and muddy the view of actual email performance metrics.
During the holidays, deliverability issues and blocking from Internet service providers (ISPs) can be a major setback. If your subscribers do not receive your messages in their inbox or if your messages are not received at all, sales will be lost and you will have to adjust your communication plan to account for the time needed to remedy the issue. To decrease delivery issues during the annual email volume spike, launch a reengagement and list hygiene initiative before the season begins. These efforts will help you better understand your active subscribers and ensure you have a cleaner list going into the holidays.
- What to send. A common reengagement program consists of three messages. The first asks the recipient to open or click to show that they want to continue to receive the emails or to unsubscribe. The second message includes an incentive; “Free Shipping” and “10% off” are the most commonly used promotions. The third and final message uses a more service-related tone by informing the subscriber that they will no longer receive messages unless a link is clicked. These messages are usually sent over a few weeks and subscribers are given a few weeks to click in the last message before they are removed.
- Timing. The rumble of holiday-themed emails kicks off in late September and gains serious traction during the first week of November. Completing your reengagement initiative before November will ensure you have a streamlined list and can focus on the true prospects on your list.
Holiday email volume continues to increase each year. Many brands consistently send more than one message per day. Last year 23 percent of brands sent more than one email on Black Friday and 29 percent on Cyber Monday. It’s important to consider the subscriber experience of receiving multiple messages in one day from one brand when they are also receiving more marketing messages in general compared to the rest of the year. Plan for certain messages to be remailed. For example, if you are launching a flash sale, plan to remail subscribers when there are “hours left.” You may need to introduce additional remailings during the season when a message underperforms and a remail could result in additional sales. In this case, leverage the segments outlined in this column to specifically target populations, such as non-clicking openers or non-purchasing clickers, to avoid sending an additional email to a subscriber who isn’t interested.
Preparing a streamlined data environment, having pre-defined segments at your disposal, and possessing the ability to strategically remail subscribers will help decrease the pressure of the last-minute decisions the holidays can bring.
Holiday Email image on home page via Shutterstock.
This column was originally published on July 3, 2012.