The holidays are coming—do you have your email marketing strategy and supporting programs ready? During the dog days of summer, November and December may still seem like a long way off, but many ecommerce brands are starting their preparations now if they haven’t already.
It is a good thing to prepare sooner than later because there’s much on the line. Early projections indicate the 2021 U.S. holiday season’s ecommerce sales will rise 11.3% to $206.88 billion. Ecommerce is expected to make up a record-breaking 18.9% of total retail holiday sales.
While effective email marketing depends a lot on the subject line, copy, images, and offer, there are other practical considerations for ensuring consumer engagement, loyalty, and sales:
- Optimize deliverability: A brand’s emails won’t engage the consumer if they never make it into the inbox. Putting into place good data collection practices, setting up email authentication, and keeping domains “clean” so they stay off blacklists (and emails stay out of spam folders) comprise the foundation of any effective email marketing program, regardless of the time of year. But when a brand’s all-important holiday sales revenue depends on email deliverability, such practices are critical.
- Exercise cross-border sensitivity: Many ecommerce brands sell in countries outside of their own, so it’s essential to be aware of differences in holiday observations and practices. An excellent example of this is thanksgiving in the United States and the black Friday sales shopping period that begins the day after. In Canada, however, thanksgiving is celebrated in October, not November, and Black Friday promotions have only recently started to catch on. Ecommerce retailers that sell across borders should segment their subscriber database to send the right holiday promotion to the right consumers at the right time.
- Build interactivity into the email: Implement AMP for email to enable a more interactive experience for consumers. For instance, shoppers can place a promoted item directly into the website shopping cart from inside the email, then jump to the website for final payment. Embedded images that rotate to show different views of the product and embedded video are other ways to keep online shoppers engaged while reducing the steps to purchase.
- Allow sign-ups for notifications: One way to increase engagement (as well as expand your subscriber database) is to allow consumers to sign up to receive notifications when a specific item will be available or back in stock. Such notifications are like how Ticketmaster emails subscribers to let them know when tickets to a particular concert they’re interested in attending will be on sale. This also builds customer loyalty since consumers feel they’re getting let in on a deal before the public.
- Communicate potential issues: Due to the pandemic, more consumers are shopping online than ever, placing a strain on package delivery providers—especially during the holidays. Combined with the supply chain hiccups that are still occurring, getting consumers products they want on time during the busy holiday season may be challenging. No one likes surprises around product availability or delayed shipping, especially when it comes to gifts, so include any quantity limitations or ship-by deadlines in email promotions to avoid an influx of dissatisfied customers.
- Don’t quadruple volume overnight: If a brand is planning to increase its email volume for the holidays significantly, it’s a good idea to bring its email vendor or service provider into the loop so they can plan for the increase. Keep in mind that just as your brand’s email volume is increasing exponentially, so are the email volumes of other brands. Deliverability, transmission speeds, and inbox placements can suffer when every retailer hits the send button at once. Service providers are often aware of who’s sending what and when, so they may also help the brand identify an optimal send time. For instance, if the provider knows multiple clients are sending mass emails out at 9:00 a.m. on Monday, perhaps they’ll suggest you send yours at 8:45 a.m. to avoid congestion.
- Align marketing channels: Multichannel marketing is big these days, so it’s essential to make sure that you hit all channels seamlessly—at the same time, with the same offer. If a brand emails all subscribers about a holiday promotion but doesn’t follow through with posts on social media until a few days later, new shoppers may not get the opportunity to purchase (since some items will by then be out of stock), meaning that the brand has lost a chance to gain a new shopper instead of just selling to the same ones. However, make sure your brand uses every channel it can since consumers are especially busy during the holiday season and the more ways to gain their attention, the better.
Many brands begin their holiday promotions in early November, so the good news is that there’s still time to refine your email marketing strategy and practices. With the pandemic still lingering, it’s a safe bet that holiday ecommerce sales will be as strong as predicted.
Brands should start working to optimize how they plan to reach and engage with consumers throughout the holiday shopping season.
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