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The all-important holiday marketing season is just about to kick off. Are you ready?

Whether your holiday goals and plans are locked down or still a work in progress, check out our list of 10-holiday marketing tips to help you have a more successful season.

Holiday spending predicted to rise in 2019

First up are numbers from holiday/Christmas 2018 and 2019 projections.

Was 2018 a great year for retail, or did it disappoint?

It depends on whom you ask. Although analysts agreed that holiday spending went up in 2018, the percentage increases and dollar values varied widely, thanks to differences in spending categories and time periods.

  • The National Retail Federation, which tracks spending on major holidays and selling seasons, said spending increased 2.9% to a total $707.5 billion.
  • eMarketer reported that 2018 holiday spending grew 5.4%, hitting $998 billion but falling short of its $1 trillion projection. Physical stores still claimed the largest share of spending – $874.4  billion – but e-commerce grew faster (16.7%).
  • Mastercard said spending hit a six-year high 5.1% on sales of $850 billion from Nov. 1 through Dec. 24. Ecommerce recorded a robust 19.1% increase over 2017.

What’s the 2019 outlook?

  • In February 2019, eMarketer predicted holiday sales would grow 3.7% to $1.035 trillion and blamed economic uncertainties for the slower rate of growth.

10 tips for holiday email marketing

You’re probably chasing an ambitious goal to hit this holiday marketing season. These tips can help you close the gap.

You aren’t off the hook If the weeks leading up to Christmas and the New Year aren’t your big money-making season. You still face an uphill battle for inbox attention in the holiday season. Keep reading to find out how to make sure your emails don’t get overlooked in the frenzy.

As you scan the list below, don’t feel as if you must do all of these things to be successful. One or two of these tips might be all you need to help you meet your holiday marketing goals.

Make sure you get mobile right

This goes beyond making sure your emails look and function right on small screens. That’s table stakes these days! The entire shopping experience is moving online, and your emails are the gateway to a good experience.

Optimize not just for the email experience but for web browsing and buying, too. Your emails can highlight alternative payment services such as PayPal or Venmo, Apple Pay/Google Pay or Afterpay.  Consider adding click-to-call to put browsers immediately in touch with your customer support team.

Sync your landing pages with your email messages, search ads, and social media

Customers hate it when they click through from your email but get dropped on a product or category page or – worst of all – your homepage. This can happen if you don’t coordinate work between the email and web teams. At the most basic level, check all links to be sure they go to the landing page tied to your email offer.

While you’re at it, check that your email offers are included – where appropriate – in search ads and social media content to give your offers the widest possible reach.

One last step: Make sure each landing page, especially those linked to search and social media, includes an email opt-in invitation. A lot of non-subscribers and other first-time visitors will find those pages through search and social in the coming months. They might not be ready to buy on their first visit but could be intrigued enough to want to sign up for emails.

Rethink your segmentation plan

Changing how you segment your customer or subscriber database can help you uncover some lucrative groups that your current segmentation model overlooks. Here are two to experiment with now before your holiday traffic ramps up:

  • New non-purchasers:

When you send the same message to everybody every time, you’re overlooking the people who have yet to buy and not rewarding your best customers. Target your newbies (new subscribers, account-holders and the like) with special content to persuade them to make that all-important first purchase.

This contact point is most relevant in your welcome or onboarding program when interest is highest. Include some educational information about your products and an incentive to send them right back to your website to buy.

  • VIPs:

At the other end of the scale are your very best buyers. They’re the ones who buy most often, buy at full price, buy your premium products or rack up the biggest order values. What are you doing to make them feel valued?

Use a Recency-Frequency-Monetary (RFM) model to identify the people at the top of your customer pyramid. Offer some hefty benefits to fend off the competition.

Review your automation and personalization programs

Welcome Friend

A new report by The Relevancy Group found advanced personalization can drive 17% higher revenue and $20 (or more) of additional revenue on every $1 you invest in it. Is that enough incentive to check out what your email platforms offer for automation and personalization?

Now isn’t the time to try launching an all-new abandoned-cart or repurchase program. Instead,  audit the programs you offer now to be sure they work as expected and to find places where you can boost them up to perform better.

Adding just one more email to an abandoned-cart series could help you persuade more people to convert. This has become a crisis point for many retailers because a new study shows abandonment rates now hover around 84%, up from 75% to 77% in recent years.

(Tip: We work with dozens of email marketing and automation platforms, so we probably know what automations and integrations your platform offers. Let us help you track them down!)

Make promotional emails stand out

Even with all the focus on personalization, segmentation, and targeting, we know you’re probably going to rely on promotional emails to get your messages out and bring customers back to your website to buy. There’s plenty you can do to make these messages look special!

  • Optimize your inbox view

    It should show your brand name or name of your email program in the sender name, a quickly understood subject line and preview text that ties in with your subject line. This will help inbox scanners see right away why you’re there. This is essential when other senders start ramping up frequency as the holidays get closer.

  • Add visuals to your subject lines

    Emoji – colorful little icons – have been around long enough to show that they don’t hurt deliverability and can increase engagement. An experiment in the next few weeks to see what effect they have on your opens.

  • Create a theme for your holiday marketing program

Many brands invest heavily in themed templates, logos, artwork and body content. That’s fine, but if you don’t have the time or budget, come up with a snappy strapline or general theme and convey it in your subject lines, message content and calls to action. Carry it through in your social media and web content, too.

Create a discount/incentive strategy

This will help you avoid panic marketing – the frenzy that erupts when someone finds out how far the team is from making a goal and wants to jack up the frequency and discounting. That can blow up your careful planning, cut into your profit margin and burn out your customers.

Take a few moments now to sketch out a plan for discount offers and incentives. This way, you’ll be ready to suggest a rational move like this:

The closer you get to Christmas, the more important expedited shipping becomes. Instead of tossing another 20% discount email into the rushing flood of similar offers, shift to lower qualifications for faster shipping.

Test a repeat-purchase plan

Yes, it’s important to persuade both new and longtime customers to buy this holiday season. But don’t stop there! Create a plan to bring your new customers back again to buy from you after the holidays.

Ideally, they’d come back to buy at full price. But if your goal is to snag a second purchase, try dangling a juicy offer that they could qualify for with a pre-holiday purchase but would be effective after the holiday. If this pans out, you can expand it by aligning incentive sizes with order values or other variables.

Set up a frequency and cadence plan

Just as you should have a discount/incentive plan, you can map out your frequency (how often you send) and cadence (your sending pattern). This helps you manage last-minute panic and “send another email” requests. It also shows you how to pivot should you need to increase frequency unexpectedly.

Plotting out everything  – your frequency and cadence, campaigns, discount/incentive plans and more – puts you in control and assures your team and boss that you’re on top of the situation.

Test everything

Yes, everything. Your templates. Your automations and integrations. Images. Body copy. Calls to action. Subject lines. Offers. Sending times and days. Triggers. If it’s a part of your email program, you can test it.

Testing can be a hard sell because someone’s going to worry that you’re losing sales by not mailing to a holdout group. Sure, you could lose a couple of sales in the short term. But you’ll lose a lot more if you go too far down the wrong path.

Don’t know how to set up or run a test? You have plenty of help, starting with your ESP or email agency, and the email community at large, which offers you advice like this to help you run better tests.

Track everything, and write it all down

Tracking and analyzing results is essential during this high-stress time of year. Watch open and click rates to detect up or down trends in engagement. Measure conversions and order values. Are people buying less from your emails than you expected? The closer you watch what’s happening, the faster you can change course as needed.

The second part of this is to write everything down. Write down your campaign plans, your testing strategy, and findings, your workflow, and calendar, your results for each campaign. Plot trends. It might feel like a chore when you’re in the thick of things in December, but you’ll be grateful for it when planning rolls around again six months later.

We can help!

InboxArmy can help you close the gaps in your holiday campaign strategy and seek out opportunities to get the most from your email marketing program. We’re just a phone call away!

The abandoned-cart reminder is one of the most successful emails you can send to your customers. But you need to set them up the right way to encourage more shoppers to act on them if you want to get the best results.

First: Why you should try to bring customers back

Consider these statistics:

Cart abandonment happens all the time, especially around holidays when traffic from both first-time shopping and loyal customers increases to your site. Cart abandonment rates range from 58% to 81% overall, although abandonment is higher in some sectors than others.

More than 8 in 10 carts are abandoned on finance, travel and nonprofit websites, while retail and ecommerce cart abandonment is holding steady at around 77%.

Cart-reminder emails can generate some of the best engagement of any triggered or broadcast email you send. Here’s how they stack up:

  • 45% average open rate
  • 21% average click-through rate
  • 7% average conversion rate

They help you recover sales. Some people leave items in carts on purpose and plan to come back later. But, one of the main reasons people abandon carts permanently is because they had problems at checkout. One company estimated that a large ecommerce site could see a 35.3% hike in recovered sales just by redesigning their checkout process.

They give you a competitive advantage. The 2018 Email Marketing Census from the UK Direct Marketing Association shows only 29% of all email marketers send abandonment emails. So, the field is still wide open for marketers who can take that extra step.

How cart reminders can fail

As these statistics show, the decision to send an abandoned-cart reminder is a no-brainer. But just sending an email by itself won’t guarantee that your customers will come back to finish checking out.

This is the point where many marketers shoot themselves in the foot with their reminder emails. How you structure your reminder email is just as important, if not more so, than the decision to set up an abandonment program.

And here’s another key point: You’ll probably need more than one set of rules governing your reminder email’s timing and content to accommodate the different reasons customers come to your site.

Different reminder models, different purposes. While it’s true that sending one reminder email shortly after your customer abandons the site is better than sending none at all, it’s also true that there’s no exact formula for how you should structure your reminders.

The conventional wisdom around reminder emails is that you generally need more than one, that you should send your first email soon after the customer abandons the site and that you should follow up with one or two more emails within 24 to 48 hours after the first reminder email goes out.

Take a look at the series of two cart abandonment emails by ASICS.

That format, which could take as long as three days to a week to deliver all your emails in the abandonment series, works fine in uncomplicated abandonment scenarios.

Now, suppose you’re running a one-day flash sale. That standard three-message email sequence isn’t going to work beyond the first email, assuming you send it out before the sale ends.

In fact, you’ll end up aggravating your customers because they won’t be able to buy their items at the sale price if they return after the sale is over. If you compound that error by including the flash-sale price in the email message instead of the price they’ll encounter when they return, you might as well kiss those customers goodbye forever.

Solution No. 1: Add more rules

Every successful cart-abandonment reminder program is driven by rules that govern when to launch reminder emails and what content to include in them. Here are several popular ones:

  • Send the first email immediately after abandonment. Then, time follow-up emails according to activity, or lack of it, on the first email.
  • Withhold an incentive to encourage returning to the cart until the last email of the series.
  • Vary the incentive according to customer value (higher value to first-time visitors or loyalty-club members).
  • No incentive or lower-value offer for customers who have used an abandoned-cart incentive in the last 30 to 90 days.

Adding rules to your email program can help you create a more flexible program that accounts for abnormalities or anomalies in the abandonment procedure.

Take that flash-sale scenario we mentioned earlier. Let’s say you want to clear out some excess inventory before you head into the fourth-quarter holiday season. Or, you want to get some incremental sales on what normally would be a slow sales day, like a Sunday, and you offer some eye-popping discounts to attract browsing.

Here’s an example by Huckberry in which they have offered a coupon code for free product shipping.

The trade-off for those big discounts is a short shopping window. So, to bring back your abandoners, change up your rules for that campaign to launch your abandonment email sooner, deliver your series in shorter intervals and schedule the last email to go out before the sale ends.

Solution No. 2: Extend redemption time with a post-cart-abandonment program

Use this to retain high-value customers (they buy more often and/or at full price) or customers who rack up higher-priced carts. You can create a rule to trigger this program based on cart value or customer data.

The effect is that you will extend the time your abandonment program runs, giving your customers more time to come back and check. This is especially handy for high-value carts because those customers might need more time to decide whether to go ahead.

Giving them a few extra days to check their finances, talk to a spouse or partner or wait for the next paycheck could mean the difference between a purchase and a lost cause. Your emails continue to arrive at carefully spaced intervals, giving you opportunities to answer questions or head off objections, but you aren’t pestering them constantly.

Use the time to vary your content

That brings up another point about successful emails. It’s not just how you time your messages but what you put in your messages that can bring customers back.

People abandon carts for many reasons, and not just because they wandered away or objected to your shipping fees. Here’s a sample of reasons:

  • They got interrupted and had to break off their sessions.
  • They ran into problems in your checkout process.
  • They need time to think or are shopping your competitors.
  • They’re using their carts like wish lists and will return later to sort through items.

Your email copy should reflect these potential scenarios, too. Adopting a helpful, service-oriented tone and adding links to customer service, FAQs, buying guides or other relevant destinations on your website can overcome objections and add trust.

But you can also use devices like countdown timers to gently prod your customers into acting, especially if their merchandise is part of a flash or limited-time sale. We have used this device in many client abandoned-cart emails, and we always see a measurable uptick in conversions, often when tested against a standard message with no timer.

FARFETCH sends a nice cart abandonment email with a countdown timer that evokes the fear of missing out and entices the user to complete the purchase.

Don’t forget to test!

This is vital, no matter which format you choose to create for your abandonment models. Test everything to see what works for you and your customers! Here’s a quick list:

  • Subject line
  • Number of emails
  • Timing (first email and intervals between emails for a multi-email process)
  • Incentives (what kind of incentive, like a percentage discount, cash discount, free shipping, upgraded shipping and at what point in your series to introduce it)
  • Personalization (name, product info, link to cart, etc.) versus one-size-fits-all

Call on us to help you set up a great program

Whether you want to investigate launching your own abandoned-cart program or need to get better results from your present program, our strategy experts are eager to show you what’s possible.

We’re happy to offer you a free 30-minute consultation call to see whether we’re a good fit to help you recover more sales and revenue by testing the solutions we’ve offered here or whether you might try other tested tactics in our arsenal.

Just call us at 800-ARMY-253 (800-276-9253) or leave a message on our website. We’ve seen the results that well-thought-out abandonment programs can produce, and we’d love to share them with you!

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