Understanding the Seasonality of Email Marketing

We are officially entering the holiday season. Black Friday will be followed by Cyber Monday, followed by 12 days of Christmas, followed by last chance for shipping, followed by gift cards, followed by redemptions.

Before you can blink, it will be January 15. Planning for holiday 2011 is done; it’s now time to execute on the plan.

When all is said and done, and you’ve had time to catch your breath, it’s important to carefully evaluate how it went – including how your tactics affected your results, whether positively or negatively.

To that end, here are five questions you’ll want to reflect on as you look back…and most importantly look forward.

5 Questions to Ask Yourself About Your 2011 Holiday Email Programs

  1. Did I follow through with the best practices that I applied throughout the year? Were you staffed enough to make sure that all of your email campaigns were thoroughly QA’d? Did you test subject lines and offers to maximize open rates and conversions? Did you remarket to the unopened population? Did you turn off your lifecycle campaigns to avoid them being seen as a distraction?
  2. Did I set the right expectation for email volume with my customers? The majority of e-commerce mailers ratchet up their mail frequency during the holidays, with some mailing daily (or multiple times a day). Did you set the expectation for the email you will be sending and give people an opportunity to downgrade the volume – or even up some messaging on hiatus until the holidays pass? If your customers are going to start receiving a lot of email from you, it’s best to let them know up front.
  3. Did my message stand out from the clutter? Did you invest enough in the planning season (February to October) to be able to send dynamic and personalized communications? Did you institutionalize learning from all the subject line and content tests during the planning season? Did you use rendering and inbox tools to find out where your messages landed in the inbox, and what they looked like when they got there? Were you on top of promptly removing unsubscribes and bad addresses from your email file to improve deliverability and safeguard your sender reputation?
  4. Was my email service provider (ESP) a good fit for my business? Were you able to get your messages out to your customers at the time you wanted them delivered? Were your ESP services folks available during your time of need? Did you have access to real-time reporting to properly evaluate and optimize messages? Did your ESP’s email marketing platform have the necessary functionality to keep your messages relevant?
  5. Did I balance revenue goals with respect for the customer experience? Did you meet your organization’s short-term revenue goals without compromising your long-term promise of an exceptional customer experience? Yes, it’s more important to make your revenue numbers. But it’s also important to treat your customers with respect so that they will refer your brand and buy again during the next holiday season.

Hopefully, you asked yourself all of these questions last year and were able to apply your learnings to this year’s batch of holiday campaigns. While this can be an extremely stressful time of year for marketers, the immense scale of your efforts also represents the best opportunity to learn what tactics best resonate with your customers. Make sure to take the time to find out what worked and what didn’t, and you will continue to see your programs improve.

Did I leave any questions out? Feel free to add your own in the comments.

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