Editor’s note: This article ‘Tis the Season: 11 Best Practices for Holiday Campaigns was originally published on CMO.com in October 2017.
Summer flew by in a blur, as it always seems to, and all of a sudden the beginning of the holiday shopping season is just weeks away. The time for digital marketers to prepare for crunch time is right now.
Digital holiday sales continue to grow in importance. Last year, Cyber Monday generated a record $3.45 billion in sales, just $110 million shy of traditional Black Friday sales in 2016. For the full season, online retailers took in a record $91 billion in sales, while mall traffic sank 12.3% in November and December of 2016.
Competition for the digitally acquired sale keeps increasing, and marketers really need to have their act together. The inbox is crowded real estate during the holiday season. Not only do messages have to pop to compete, they also have to be supported by the right sets of tools and infrastructure.
Keep in mind that in 2016, retailers sent 55% more emails on Black Friday, and 42% more on Cyber Monday than they did in 2015. Preparations need to be made for similar increases in growth this holiday season.
This means marketing automation and email providers have a lot to do to prepare for Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the entire holiday shopping season.
Because email lists and the infrastructure to process digital campaigns are the backbones of successful digital holiday campaigns, think of your No. 1 priority as checking email lists, and checking them twice.
Our 11 tips for better holiday campaigns
Here are some tips for things you can start doing today to help assure success this holiday season.
- Email list hygiene: Up to 17% of Americans create a new email address every six months, and 30% of subscribers change email addresses annually. Chances are, one-third of email lists go bad every year. Determine an appropriate period since the last engagement for a specific account to be removed. Consider tests to clean lists of bounce-backs, assuring the highest possible percentage of successful deliveries.
- Start reactivation campaigns now: Identify opportunities to engage with accounts at risk of becoming dormant. Create offers and build personalized onboarding experiences for individual users.
- Complete customer profiles: The more data you have on individual customers, the better you can personalize offerings. Offering an incentive to customers to finish customer profiles, which may have been originally started some time ago, can lead to better data collection.
- Kick off nurturing campaigns: Advancing relationships with customers today will make them more receptive to holiday campaigns when released in November.
- Don’t just focus on Black Friday or Cyber Monday: The holiday season is longer than just a day or two. Start engaging as soon as possible and continue throughout the holiday season. Analyze clicks and offer additional incentives if sales aren’t made on the first attempt.
- Review current levels of engagement: Analyze this information to identify patterns related to active versus non-active accounts.
- Avoid data fatigue: How much email is too much email is a tricky question. Inevitably, some email accounts will go dormant or will ask to be removed. If email lists that you created have increasing numbers of dormant accounts, set policies to remove email addresses if reactivation plans aren’t successful.
- Create urgency: Uninteresting emails won’t be opened. Instill urgency in subject lines by offering a special discount that must be used within a certain period.
- Link email campaigns with other digital marketing activities: All digital marketing activities should be tracked and reinforced through each other. Banner ads, Adwords, and SEO strategies can support email campaigns and close additional sales.
- Ensure networks can handle increases in email traffic: Evaluate last year’s activity and plan for a 10% to 20% increase in volume, and be prepared to add more sending capacity if needed.
- Set realistic expectations and goals: Look at past performance and current resources to set realistic digital sales goals. If sales aren’t living up to initial projections early in the season, avoid the temptation to increase the volume of emails, which will lead to list fatigue.
Time is running out. But with the right planning, email campaigns can still deliver great results during the holiday crunch time when they matter most.
Remember to document best practices as well as what didn’t work and incorporate findings in future campaigns. Good luck!