It goes without question that the holiday season is the most important season of the year for retailers, and this year is no exception. The National Retail Federation (NRF) predicts holiday retail sales in November and December will increase between 3.6 and 4 percent for a total of $678.75 billion to $682 billion, up from $655.8 billion last year. And, to start off the holiday season this year, NRF also reported that from Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday, more than 174 million Americans shopped in stores and online during the five-day span.
While retailers can be sure shoppers will be spending money this holiday season, it’s their responsibility to capture the most market share possible. As such, a strong email strategy cannot be stressed enough. Although specific holiday strategies should be developed, it would do retailers good to remember some of the key tactics that should be translated into their holiday campaigns.
Timing Is More Important Than Ever
Throughout the holiday season consumers’ inboxes are inundated with what seems like endless amounts of emails for holiday sales and promotions. In fact, according to Yes Lifecycle Marketing, during last year’s holiday season, retail emails increased 15 percent compared with the rest of the year, but shoppers opened 15 percent fewer of them.
While increasing the frequency of emails is necessary to capture market share over the holidays, retailers need to keep the idea of “quality over quantity” in mind. Just because it’s the holiday rush, doesn’t mean that tactics marketers use the rest of the year should be thrown out the window. Retailers should maintain their timing cadence based on their testing over the past year, and sending emails when they know customers are most likely to check it.
Create Mobile-Optimized Emails
Mobile optimization needs to be a critical component of retailers’ marketing strategies, and the time to start is now. Every year, research shows that mobile has continued an upward trend in popularity and preference for today’s shoppers. In fact, Adobe Analytics reported that mobile set a new record, representing 47.4 percent of visits (39.9 percent smartphones, 7.6 percent tablets) and 33.1 percent of revenue (24.1 percent smartphones, 9.0 percent tablets) for web traffic on Cyber Monday this year. Additionally, it found that mobile transactions are closing at a 12 percent higher rate compared to Cyber Monday 2016. But, even with this upward trend, our recent report with RSR found that across all 138 retailers studied, an average of 24.4 percent of emails were mobile optimized, and 83 retailers sent no mobile optimized emails.
Retailers that aren’t delivering on consumers’ mobile expectations are doing themselves a disservice. As email campaigns are created, marketers should keep some mobile-friendly tips in mind, whether it is composing shorter subject lines, using a single-column template or remembering to test the campaigns on multiple devices. The retailers that prioritize mobile optimization in their email strategy will be setting themselves up to capture the most market share as today’s shoppers pull out their phones for last minute holiday purchases.
Don’t Forget Personalization and Catalog Exposure
Personalization is key to any successful email campaign, and The Wall Street Journal recently reported that analysts say retailers can improve open rates by including targeted offers, based on data collected from purchasing and web-browsing behavior. But sending products similar to what the shopper has already purchased or relying on rudimentary ‘you may also like’ recommendations is not enough when it comes to exposing your customer to new and different parts of the product catalog – especially at a time when they’re shopping for people other than themselves.
The bulk of personalization systems, remarketing solutions and recommendation engines are built around some variation of the following logic: “people who bought/looked at this also bought/looked at this.” The flaw with this logic is that it tends to restrict product recommendations to a narrow range of items that estimate a given customer’s tastes and only within a limited timeframe that isn’t representative of the customer’s overall preferences. This results in customers being blasted with product offers that may reflect their previous shopping, rather than informing them and helping them discover new things, ultimately underexposing a product catalog. Email marketers need to make sure they’re one step ahead, predicting what customers will want in the future – not what they’ve already bought.
Consumers’ inboxes are as packed as the malls are during the holiday season, but it’s the retailers that set themselves apart with strategic campaigns that will have the biggest impact on the shopper’s attention they can capture.