6 Last-Minute Email Holiday Gifts

November 15, 2018 Jeffrey L. Cohen

As we head into the final stretch of the busy holiday season for retailers, we wanted to share some last-minute gifts to help your emails drive more results in the fourth quarter.

And yes, we know that your plans have been set for months, and your campaigns are nestled all snug in their beds, while visions of open rates dance in their heads. But even this late in the game, we still get questions from our clients, so we figured you might have some too.

This could be a big year at retail, as the National Retail Federation expects US consumers will spend 4% more this holiday season than last year. The right messages can send some of that business to your door.

Most of this insight is from Ashley Lockridge, Associate Principal Marketing Consultant at Cheetah Digital, which she culled from our review of over 3,000 holiday emails sent in 2017.

1. What time should I send my mailings throughout the holiday season?

Only 2% of holiday mailings were sent from 12am to 4am EST, but emails sent in that time slot had transaction rates and revenue per email that were at least 30% over baseline. Test this out with your audience, and consider sending a follow up mailing to non-openers of previous mailings during the wee hours of the morning. You never know who is awake checking their email in the middle of the night.

2. Do I have to compete with other retailers by using deep discounts?

Nearly half of discounts were 50% off or deeper, but that had little discernible impact on anything but clicks. If you haven't already, analyze historical performance for your discounted campaigns – both throughout the year, as well as during the holiday season – to see if there is value in delivering extremely deep discounts from both a gross revenue and margin perspective.

3. What is one type of offer I should consider if I want pull in the more revenue?

Holiday flash sales were rare, but were wildly successful. They had transaction rates 50% over baseline of other holiday emails.

4. What offers should I avoid this holiday season?

Dollar-off discounts may work other times of year, but they consistently under-performed engagement and transaction rates in holiday emails.

Don't expect free shipping to produce higher conversions. Over 62% of offers included free shipping, most with no qualifications, but didn't present a lift for opens, clicks, or transactions. And free shipping will be even more widely available online this year than last year.

5. How do I make my creative stand out in the inbox?

A lot of effort goes into developing compelling creative for branded emails. It is not always easy to review the impact, but there were a couple of things that stood out last holiday season. It may seem counter-intuitive, but holiday-themed messages reaped strong transaction rates and revenue per email. This likely worked because only 1 in 5 emails were trimmed for the holidays. The hustle and bustle of the holidays also had an impact when that movement was added to emails. Animation appeared in 15% of all campaigns and significantly boosted engagement and conversion. Imagine what could happen if you animate a holiday message.

6. How do I know how my email is performing and if I should make changes?

Email campaigns are not set-it and forget-it type programs. You have planned your strategies and creative based on what you know, but you should be comparing your primary results on a weekly basis to last year's holiday performance. If you don’t have detailed numbers from your own program, you can use our Email Benchmarks from Q4 2017. The unique open rate was 16.9% and the unique click-through rate was 1.7%. The average revenue per email was 8 cents. This will give you some guidance to know what kind of changes to consider over the rest of the quarter.

We wish you a happy and successful holiday emailing season, and let us know if you have other questions about connecting with customers and increasing your revenue this fourth quarter.

About the Author

Jeffrey L. Cohen

Jeffrey L. Cohen is the director of content strategy at Cheetah Digital, where he creates entertaining and educational thought leadership content to grow the brand. He’s an award-winning marketer, strategist, and author (The B2B Social Media Book) with a 25-plus year marketing career.

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