The holiday season is upon us! That means, competition among brands to secure the precious attention of their target audience is going to hit a fever pitch. Amidst this race, how do you ensure then, that the chequered flag unfurls its waves just for you? Well, we’ve got you covered. To understand the pulse of the holiday season, we decided to pick the brains of some of the brightest minds in the email community. Eager to see what golden nuggets of advice they had to share with us? Read on!
With the growing popularity of short video content on Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, I anticipate that short, engaging, and visual content is going to win this year’s holiday season. If you’ve not tried this approach yet, try implementing it in your emails, pages, social media posts, and gift guides. It doesn’t have to constitute 100% of what you do, but the more visual and easier to consume the content you can produce, the more likely your audience will engage with it.
Even though more than half of all online sales come now through mobile, it doesn’t mean desktop can be ignored. When designing your email communication, make sure that your content looks great on all devices and that your offer can be readily understood
Before you increase your mailing frequency for the holiday sales, be sure to start re-engaging your less active contacts first. Set up a simple drip campaign, sharing your best products or highlighting your brand’s story to prepare your audience for increased traffic. And don’t be afraid of removing the inactive contacts who’ve never even clicked on any of your links. Just make sure that you do it at least several weeks before your main campaign launch.
Everyone knows about the importance of segmentation, but when the sales season comes, they often ignore the best practices and go with the tried-and-tested email blast approach. Even if it worked for you in the past, challenge yourself and start your campaign with your most engaged recipients or your best customers. The high engagement they’ll generate can have a positive impact on your overall deliverability and help you decide which offers might need tweaking.
Don’t resend your campaigns to non-openers automatically. While putting your email campaigns on autopilot is often the way to go, you don’t want to overdo it. Especially with the imperfect open rate tracking that we’re facing these days, thanks to recent Apple iOS changes. If you were to automatically resend your emails to those who don’t show up as openers, you’d risk that some people will be flooded with unwanted communication. And unwanted communication leads to lower engagement, higher complaint rates, and lower deliverability – all the things you don’t want to see in the most important part of the year.
Tailor content to your audience! Draw inspiration from others in your industry, and always build on insights from historical data. Every audience is different, so avoid “one size fits all” thinking. Learn what your audience responds best to, and, when in doubt, always keep it short & sweet!
For many, the holiday season means gift-giving. Encourage subscribers to think about shopping for gifts by incorporating holiday imagery. But keep close tabs on your file sizes - images over 1MB can lead to slow load times and diminished engagement rates.
The holidays are all about connecting with loved ones, so make your subscribers a part of the family! Use customer data to personalize the To: field and avoid overly “salesy” language. Subscribers will appreciate your attention to their individuality, and your emails will be less likely to hit the spam folder.
Start planning early! Planning and executing a successful holiday campaign takes a lot more than typing up an email and hitting “send.” Give yourself the time to build a strategy and perfect the details. Early fall is a great time to begin conceptualizing your campaign.
Prioritize inventory & fulfillment planning! Before you open the door to customers with a stellar email campaign, make sure you’re ready for the orders to start coming in. Give clear information about order processing and shipping deadlines to keep your customers happy - even the last-minute shoppers.
It’s important to remember that during the holiday season your subscribers are buying for family and friends, not necessarily themselves (like they do the rest of the year). So you need to be sure your product recommendations are not based solely on what that subscriber purchase from you earlier in the year. Pay closer attention to what they are browsing, and less attention to what they purchase previously.
It’s always a good idea to make the layout of your emails predictable. I know that will offend every designer out there, but it helps if your subscribers know exactly where to look on your emails to find what they need.
Check with your ESP. Does your platform have the ability to breakdown a campaign list into segments by propensity to open, prioritizing those most likely to open, and to throttle speeds to lower propensity openers? If so, you should definitely leverage this feature during holiday season (and maybe all year around!).
Having the right ESP partner can make the difference between a great holiday season and one that is simply OK. Obviously, it’s too late to do anything about the 2022 holiday season, but if you aren’t happy with your current ESP, you can make 2023 better by starting the search for a new one now.
Brands often try to boost their subscriber lists by large volumes during the holiday through special offers and promotions. However, many of the people who provide an email address for offers/promotions are “one and done” subscribers. If too many of them land on your list during the holidays, your engagement will suffer and the ISPs might notice. Be judicious in mailing to these new subscribers.
In terms of content think about WHO you’re sending to – use segmentation to uncover subscribers who only purchase from you during this period, use browse behaviour to deliver content to follow up email/website interaction. Provide helpful content to inspire, support and make purchasing for themselves or as gifts, as easy as possible.
If you have a large number of subscribers viewing your emails using Gmail (and your ESP supports it), consider using AMP to offer more information within your email in an interactive way and create a mini website experience. Alternatively, consider clever uses of GIFs and design layout to bring your content to life and make it easy to engage with.
During the holiday season email send volumes ramp up significantly. Ensure you’ve properly prepared and warmed up your dedicated IPs to cope with this additional volume. Also consider who you’re sending your campaigns to – if you suddenly start resending to older inactive data for example, this will have a negative impact on your deliverability.
Review your segmentation - shoppers don’t behave the same way during the holidays as at other times of the year, mainly because they’re buying a range of gifts rather than for themselves. Brands need to recognise this, pause (some of) their current segmentation strategies, update automated campaign rules and ensure that content, targeting and data collection, adapt to what customers need at this time specifically.
Don’t send all your emails to everyone in your list unless the content is personalised to them (using dynamic content , for example). Subscribers are likely to get more email fatigue during this period as brands ramp up their sends and views for consumer purchases, so make sure that your content brings in behavioural, purchase (during the holiday period particularly) and other data to adjust your content and campaign timing based on the subscriber need.
Incorporate social proof in both campaigns and automated emails. This includes featuring best-sellers, top-rated products, product testimonials, and company-centric testimonials (like great customer service) in your emails. Social proof helps build consumer confidence, something especially important during heavy gifting periods.
Focus on the simple things with your emails. Use nice product imagery, make any sales or incentives easy to see and digest, and make sure your emails are mobile-friendly.
When sending SMS, look for opportunities to use MMS (an image) to capture attention. It won’t be necessary with every send, but if a visual can help give the message a little oomph, go ahead and use it.
Just like every year, be sure to clean your lists prior to the holidays and remove unengaged contacts. Landing in the bulk folder during the holidays can be catastrophic.
And remember, email engagement matters. Use repetitive emojis in the subject line and preheader text. This tactic can draw readers’ eyes to your email—especially on mobile—and increase overall opens and engagement.
Lean heavily on SMS. Collect mobile numbers on your sign-up form, add them to your automated workflows (especially welcome and cart abandonment), and use them to drive people toward your emails on days you have more to offer (e.g., Black Friday).
Last year, ecommerce merchants sent 21% more SMS during BFCM than the year prior. If you’re looking for an advantage, in 2021 Small Business Saturday had the highest SMS send volume, sending more than three times as many messages than on the second-most popular day, Black Friday.
Avoid lots of text in your emails. People will be moving quickly through their emails especially if they are on their phones. Make them aesthetically pleasing.
Also, look for current automated emails that include large chunks of text, like a welcome message. Optimize these messages with images to cater to the intent of the subscriber (which is to purchase) and less on telling a brand story.
Know your audience. If you don’t, test it (and test again!). Make sure the copy is concise and that your overall layout & visuals, etc. are used strategically to complement the copy and keep readers engaged. Is it a new product or podcast that will jumpstart their holidays? If you work in hospitality or travel, is it a good (or last-minute) deal to get away? Whatever your industry and audience - always keep it relevant and to the point.
Design and technology are ever evolving together. Lean in to accessibility and dark mode to be inclusive with a large audience. ALWAYS test in rendering tools to show how emails will display on various devices and platforms. This keeps messaging consistent for your entire audience. Design is one thing in concept and getting it through development requires planning in advance.
The holidays are notorious for high send volumes across all brands. Before then, make sure you have the proper digital infrastructure setup on the backend. Clean and segment your lists throughout the year for proper data hygiene. Keep your sending consistency fairly similar and to active audiences.
Nothing comes before the subject line (except deliverability). If the user doesn’t open, anything else that comes after doesn’t matter. Not personalization tactics, amazing visuals or the greatest copy. Throughout the year you should be testing what type(s) of subject lines are most effective. Is it short? Longer? Emojis? Is it best to be funny or take a serious tone? Find the voice that garners the most opens to ensure the campaign is seen and hopefully generates engagement from there.
Each list/company is so unique yet there are best practices to guide us. Ensure responsive design. If a person opens an email and rendering is off, it will make them delete or even worse, hit the unsubscribe or complaint button. Make subject lines appealing, ensure there is a call to action and always make sure if someone wants to hit “reply” it actually goes to a monitored mailbox rather than bouncing back.
I believe that everyone will attempt to capitalize on the emotion of scarcity, trying to convince you that it's now or never. We have all seen those emails and headlines in the past. In my opinion, holiday emails are the cherry on the cake when it comes to cashing in on your subscriber's relationship that you have built up till now.
Everyone's inboxes will be swamped with messages from many, many brands. Every brand will probably try to catch your attention by using too many emojis in the headlines, compelling photos, etc. Try to use a relatively new technology called: AMP for email. If your platform supports this, that is. I encourage you to learn more about that technology in advance.
Well, deliverability is my sweet spot so I can talk on the subject all day. In a nutshell, clean your list before sending, and ensure not to include risky and invalid emails that will probably bounce. If you intend to send in a much larger volume than usual, make sure to ramp up your volume in advance since the mailbox providers would like to see a similar volume as normal.
Make sure your domains are fully authenticated (SPF, DKIM). If you are not authenticating and using your ESP's shared domain, act now and warm up your domain at least two months before the holiday season. Implement DMARC with an external tool (there are many). Start with "p=none", and after making sure that DMARC implementation is correct, move the lever to "quarantine" and finally to "reject". Deliverability has many nuts and bolts that need adjusting, so consult with a trusted deliverability advisor on the subject.
For me, the "X Factor" is deliverability. I see many brands out there not having a complete understanding of how email works, having half-baked notions on deliverability basics, and thereby missing out on the opportunity to get more emails to their consumer inboxes.
One more "X-Factor" is your campaign subject lines. Ask yourself how much time you spent on the campaign compared to the time you spent curating the most important thing on the email campaign: the subject line. Several online tools can help you find the best headlines for your email campaigns.
For many brands, the holiday season means firing on all cylinders while using all the ammunition. Don't attempt gathering all your old email lists (ammunition). Emailing an ancient email subscriber base that hasn’t received emails from you for a long time may hurt your deliverability. In any case, use a good email hygiene tool to scrub your list before sending.
Segment and personalize. How well you know your subscribers, how well you segment them based on their preferences and behavior, and how well you use all the data you have to create personalized copies- that’s what will set you apart from the rest. Also, target early and last-minute shoppers separately. And most essential of all, write impressive subject lines; you get that right and your goal is half achieved.
Make sure to spruce up your emails with themes associated with various holidays and that the design and coding abides by accessibility best practices to a T. During the holiday season, all marketers aspire for their campaigns to reach as many people as possible. You won’t be able to achieve that by overlooking accessibility.
You could consider setting up a new subdomain exclusively for the holiday season. Send volumes during this time are going to be quite high, so it is wise to devote a new subdomain for your holiday email marketing activities instead of subjecting your existing domains to the scrutiny of ESPs and ISPs.
I think good design and flawless coding will help you make the cut with your holiday emails. Whether you choose to go for simple HTML emails or for interactivity like gamification, your design must be unique and coding pixel-perfect. Focus on the all best practices because a good email experience during this time can go a long way in adding value to your brand.
Don’t try to oversell yourself. Businesses go out of their way to promote their services during this time and that’s something that instantly puts off audiences. Rather than tooting your own horn, tell your readers what they might be potentially missing out on by not participating in your holiday season offers. That way you will have a better shot at grabbing their curiosity and attention.
Your content needs to address your customers' pain points during the holiday season. Remind them of how your business solves their problems. For example, mention your shipping/returns policy. Or it could be as simple as letting shoppers know right away that you offer gift wrapping.
Harness user-generated content to show how other customers use and love your products. Even if it’s images from social media that aren’t the highest quality, that’s OK. Authenticity is more important. It’s proof that your product is a good choice.
Now is not the time to dig out that old email list from years ago to ‘see what happens.’ Instead, double down on those who are engaged with your brand. Send targeted emails with special offers or unique content to those segments. Remember to collect emails at your brick-and-mortar stores!
Differentiate yourself from the pack by talking about your brand story and why your products have unique value. Lean into your niche with language and images that resonate. Put yourself in your target audience’s shoes with everything you do, and they’ll take notice.
Don’t blast the same messaging, with the same copy and creative, over and over again. We see this with the big box stores and it’s why people roll their eyes at email and ignore it.
Your content must be customer-centric, make sure you offer what your audience is interested in on the holiday they celebrate. Include well-placed links for customers wanting to discover more. And last, but not least, welcome new users, and thank the old ones.
Develop a relevant and real-time content plan by employing a calendar and following the trend. Holidays pack sentiment, use colors and symbols related to the holiday. And while designing your email, keep simplicity in mind, represent your offers through easy-reading texts and eye-catching visuals.
Each email campaign is a lesson, take heed of all metrics and statistics to adapt and improve your email deliverability. Mailtrap, an email delivery platform, offers all the must-have tools you can need to achieve that.
Build an effective and relevant email design with outstanding (but not overwhelming) graphics, texts and animations. All that with a priority of customer interest. Your email will stand out in the inbox of your customer during a competitive time of holiday email campaigns if these points are met. What would you have liked to see in your holiday email?
Avoid sounding or presenting as money-hungry; holidays are for giving, make sure you give what your audience wants. And do not rely on manual sending, automate your email campaign according to the calendar and do not restrict yourself to your content plan, develop in accordance with the data.
Demanding the spotlight during the holiday season is no mean feat, of course. But our experts here have provided you with a rock-solid blueprint for the same, surely? Now that they have disclosed the magic spells, all that remains for you is to wave your wand-put their tips into action and make the juiciest piece of the holiday season pie your own. We are excited to see what you come up with!