Practical Ecommerce

Email Marketing for the Holidays, Part 1: Preparation

Editor’s Note: This is “Part 1″ of a two-part series on using email for holiday marketing.  “Part 2: Implementation” we published subsequently.

Ecommerce merchants are increasingly promoting holiday-specific products earlier, to lengthen the selling season. It’s not uncommon to see Halloween-themed products soon after Independence Day. But you don’t necessarily have to beat your competitor by promoting your products early. The key is having a strong plan in place and sticking with it during the Holiday season.

Email marketing is key to many merchants’ holiday success. In this two-part series, I’ll first explain ways to prepare your holiday email program. In “Part 2,” I’ll offer tactics to get recipients to convert.

Don’t Leave Any Email Addresses Behind

It’s amazing how subscribers can get lost over time. Go through past campaigns, lists, and databases to make sure you aren’t missing any subscribers that may have been segmented and forgotten. In the past, I’ve discovered lost opt-in lists that were clean and salvageable and equated to a large increase in our database size. Also, check your automated bounce and opt-out settings at your email service provider. I once discovered an error involving “hard bounces.” We mistakenly dropped subscribers after only one soft bounce. After examining these unsubscribed addresses and sending a test message, we identified about 40 percent were still active and had deliverable email addresses that we were able to recoup.

Always use caution to make sure the addresses you are salvaging are indeed deliverable, and the metrics — opens and clicks — are at least equal with what you see on your master database. Adding unengaged subscribers back into your database won’t help the bottom line, after all. Your program’s success is more of a reflection of the quality of your subscribers.

Look for Co-branding or Acquisition Opportunities Now

Rarely do shoppers visit a site for the first time and make a purchase. Once on your site, however, there is a good chance they will come back. Email plays a crucial role in getting these visitors back. Filling your pipeline now with new visitors and subscribers who have yet to convert will help prep for those last-minute holiday emails to push sales. To get new subscribers, look for co-branding opportunities with sites that are complementary to yours and where your products don’t compete. Consider sending a co-branded email to encourage visitors to subscribe to a partner site.

eVite co-branded email example.

eVite co-branded email example, with Virgin Wines.

Acquisition emails in August and September that are designed to simply get new email subscribers or site visitors can also create success for November and December.

Test all Triggered Emails

An abandoned cart email series that fails to trigger for one reason or another can severely hurt sales during the crucial holiday season. Test all triggered messages now. Make sure everything is firing correctly and the content and copy is up to date. During the busy shopping days, monitor these messages daily to ensure people are receiving them and they are working the way you intended.

Nurture New Customers and Reward Repeat Buyers

During the rush of the holidays it can be easy to lose track of new customers. Don’t let these folks get lost in the shuffle. Make sure your follow-up email communications to them are optimized. A thank-you email or offer for a subsequent purchase can go along way for customer loyalty. Also, reward repeat customers by segmenting and sending offers that are designed to encourage even more purchases.

Set Up your Schedule Now

Getting a promotional email calendar in place — with sales and offers — will help ease the stress of developing these at the last minute. Even if the plan changes to accommodate for inventory or other factors, having a rough game plan will allow you to adjust and add to it as needed.

In the “Part 2: Implementation,” I’ll offer email strategies to convert as many shoppers as possible during the holiday season.

Carolyn Nye
Carolyn Nye
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