4 Email Marketing Tips for a Stress-Free Holiday

The busiest time of year for many marketers is just around the corner, and with it comes not only excitement for the holidays, but also pressure to capitalize on Q4 opportunities and meet end-of-year projections.

The fourth quarter has a well-earned reputation as a marketing gold mine; the holiday season can account for 20% to 40% of a retailer’s total annual sales and packs in more holiday communication triggers than any other time of year. And with online sales expected to increase by 11% this holiday season, the stakes are especially high. 

But fear not; this guide will give you four quick tips to ensure email marketing success over the holidays. 

1) Get it on the Calendar
The first step is to know your dates.  With so many holidays to remember and programs to plan, it’s easy to let a communication opportunity slip by.  That’s why it’s imperative to develop a calendar that includes all holidays relevant to your brand and industry. In addition, this calendar should feature a communication schedule specific to each holiday, complete with mailing frequency and targeting criteria. Having a print-out of it at your desk is a great way to keep those upcoming dates top-of-mind and avoid any last-minute rush. 

Below, we’ve included a print-ready calendar that outlines major November and December holidays as well as additional notable days your brand may choose to participate in.

In addition, to help you determine what holidays may be most relevant to your brand, consider the following questions:

  • Which holiday-themed emails achieved the highest conversion rates last year?  The results of this analysis will help you determine which holidays are most meaningful to your customers and where to focus your efforts.
  • How did email conversion rates compare to PPC, SEO, or Social campaigns for each holiday?  Certain holidays such as Cyber Monday or Black Friday may benefit from a communication strategy that leans more on a combination of Facebook and email while others may get better results from display ads or Twitter in combination with email.  Your data will help determine the best channel mix for each holiday.
  • What copy, themes, and imagery had the highest open and click-through rates?  Use creative that resonates with your audience.  By evaluating how content has performed in the past, you can use proven creative while testing new ideas.
  • Which customers had the highest engagement?  For which holidays?  Segment these customers out and target them with special offers and higher volume of communication based on their past behavior.

2) Send at the Right Time and Frequency
Not all holidays are created equal in terms of their ability to engage customers.  For instance, Thanksgiving and Black Friday generate the highest engagement from emails deployed in the days leading up to the holiday.  In contrast, Cyber Monday and Christmas-themed email campaigns benefit from an earlier deployment and consistent reminders through the holiday period.

But it isn’t always so cut and dry.  Christmas-themed emails sent after the holiday saw 15.7% open rate compared to 14.9% for all other communications.  A full breakdown of best deployment dates per holiday can be found here.

Conventional wisdom has been that as you increase email volume, engagement decreases.  In other words the more emails you send, the lower open rates you are going to see.  However, this Yesmail report found that even as the average email volume increased by 46% in Q4 2014, open rates remained largely unchanged. 

So how could this be?  It’s likely that marketers are becoming savvier with their communications by implementing detailed segmentation and personalization strategies.  So even though customers are receiving more emails, they are still finding them relevant and intriguing enough to open.  This is why it is crucial to leverage your data in order to send the right message, to the right customer, at the right time.

3) Mobile Leads the Way
If you regularly read email marketing blogs, you’re probably getting sick of hearing about the importance of mobile and responsive design.  Well, unfortunately I’m here to tell you how important mobile and responsive design will be this holiday season.  

The 2015 holiday season is predicted to be the first one where mobile drives the majority of online shopping.  That goes for Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Christmas.  The easiest way to ensure that all of your communications are mobile-actionable as opposed to just mobile-friendly is to design with a mobile-first email strategy.  This means going beyond simply implementing responsive design and, in addition, craft subject lines, calls-to-action, and messaging that considers on-the-go consumers and caters to mobile functionality.

4) Develop Holiday-Specific Sticky Content 
While obviously the main objective of a holiday email is to drive sales, it’s important to give something of value up front that’s not product related.  Put yourselves in the customer’s shoes.  Why are they excited to open this email?  What makes it interesting, fun, or sharable?  Working sticky content into your marketing communications adds value to your email and trains your audience to continue opening your communications.

As luck would have it, holidays offer the perfect theme for creating sticky content - the options are practically endless.  You could have curated recipes, cocktail ideas, trivia, holiday tips, photo galleries, “what we love” section, etc.  The important thing is that it is created with your specific audience in mind.

So there you have it - some quick tips to knock it out of the park this holiday season.  Now grab a turkey leg, light a yule log and start filling out that holiday calendar. 

And if you have a few extra minutes, make sure to check out our holiday toolkit to really kick your holiday marketing into an extra gear.

Author Bio

Dan Speers

As a Marketing Strategist, Dan helps our Marketing team identify opportunities and challenges and then develop a plan to meet our objectives. But most importantly, he ensures we let data guide our decisions by consistently measuring and analyzing results. Dan loves implementing new ideas, especially with the talented and creative teams here at Yesmail!