…Everywhere you go. Seriously, everywhere you go Christmas has arrived like an overnight blizzard. Shiny, sparkling, and inescapable. It seems like we are saying, “Tis the season” earlier each year and 2012 is no exception. As we all march toward Santa’s big day, which email marketing tactics are trending and how does this year compare to the Ghost of Christmas Past…I mean the 2011 holiday season?
RSR Research along with my company surveyed online marketers to learn more about the ways they will market to their customers and to find out how they plan to drive sales during this year’s holiday season. We found that nearly 70 percent of brands will have kicked off the season before the week of Thanksgiving. According to the survey results, the first major holiday push begins the first week of October.
If we look at holiday-themed email volume for the season so far, we see that the holiday rumble begins shortly after Labor Day. The beginning of the 2012 season is only slightly earlier than 2011, but the volume of holiday-themed messages is steadier this year with fewer flatlines. The first major spike in holiday messages came right after Halloween.
So, why is this important? Google and Ipsos OTX’s “Pre-Holiday Consumer Intentions” report found that 80 percent of consumers plan to use multiple devices simultaneously while shopping this season. I want that to sink in. That’s multiple devices simultaneously…not just during the steps between shopping and actually purchasing. This device mix includes smartphones, tablets, and old-fashioned computers. As much as marketers are trying to get their messages read, consumers are seeking out the best deals across platforms and shopping channels. You need to ensure you are reaching the consumer, speaking her language, and making it easy for her to shop.
Customers aren’t just sitting on their sofas clicking away to finish off their shopping lists; they are planning to combine the online and in-store channels before making a purchase decision. According to the Google/Ipsos OTX report, 51 percent plan to start their shopping on their computer, visit a store, and then make the purchase online. Nearly as many (44 percent) will start the shopping process in a store and finish online. Responders were able to select multiple options so there is some overlap. Marketers need to anticipate this intentional, channel-hopping behavior.
Email can link information between these devices and channels. Email is portable. It’s in consumers’ pockets. It’s with them on the sofa, when they are in the store, and every step in between. The concept of “being relevant” has to extend beyond “right product and right price” to include the right location and the right device.
In our “Loading the Sleigh: Marketers’ Plans & Expectations for the Holiday Season” research, we wanted to find out how marketers plan to bridge that shopping crossroads. We found that 59 percent of marketers plan to increase their email volume this year, but what is also interesting is that 34 percent plan to send the same amount. A year-over-year increase in email volume can be a sign of a healthy and growing email program, but it is important to not take the “send more/make more” approach. This can occasionally work, but the risks of bombarding your subscribers during the holidays can have a negative impact on sales. Increased unsubscription rates can be a concern, but running into a spike in spam complaints and blocking from ISPs will stop your holiday sales in their snow-covered tracks.
For those who plan to send the same amount this year, I would like to think that they are sending smarter. Our report found that 43 percent of marketers invested in automating messages in the past year. These triggered messages will help drive sales during the holidays while giving the marketing team more time to plan their strategy and make adjustments during the peak season instead of building segments, QAing emails, and other production-related tasks.
Automated abandoned shopping cart reminder emails can help recover a potentially lost sale by bringing the overwhelmed, multi-device, multichannel customer back to items she had carried down the path toward purchasing. When asked how they plan to modify abandoned cart emails for the holidays, 43 percent of marketers plan to introduce a free shipping offer and 35 percent plan to introduce a percent- or dollar-off incentive. A friendly customer service-themed abandoned cart reminder may be enough to land the sale throughout the year, but layering in a special offer during the holidays could make this triggered message a strong sales drive, especially for shoppers who are new to your site, buying a gift that they are not familiar with, or who just need a discount to make the purchase seem like a deal.
The holiday season is our Super Bowl. We all bring out our best offers, clever designs, and leverage our data to the fullest. It is important to keep your customers’ experience in mind during this time of year. Make your messages stand out by not just adding to the noise. Make the season less chaotic and shopping easier by anticipating your customers’ shopping behavior and how email can be used to complement the browsing and buying experience. Help make the season not only look a lot like Christmas, but feel a lot like Christmas, too.
Holiday Email image on home page via Shutterstock.
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