Surviving the Season: 11 Ways to Prepare for the Festive Email Blitz

By David Fowler, Head of Compliance and Deliverability at Act-On Software

Christmas is nearly upon us, and we marketers have our work cut out for us.

We’ve already seen US trends in e-commerce – Black Friday, Cyber Monday – make their way to the UK; on Black Friday alone, businesses across the UK saw an 150% increase in on-site visits in comparison to the average four day period, and huge returns via email and cost-per-clicks (CPCs) – up by 9% and 5% respectively, and both highly lucrative channels for vendors.

We’ve also witnessed a broader transformation take place in the retail space. It’s no secret more consumers these days prefer to handle their shopping online, rather than in-store. According to  The Guardian, £2 of every £5 spent online during November and December will be spent online. This makes it even more important for marketers to ensure that their messages are loud enough to cut through the commotion in an already noisy digital space, and show consumers why their product or service are better than the rest.

Digital marketers therefore should start preparing themselves today, rather than waiting any longer, especially with just days to go until the holidays. Here are 11 ways how:

  1. Maintain good list hygiene. Your customers are bound to have multiple accounts (1.70 is the average per person) – some dormant, unused and expired – so it’s critical you check your lists regularly and ensure every email address you send to is active and engaged. Chances are, over a third of email lists go bad every year as accounts are continually created. In 2015, there were 4.4 billion email addresses worldwide – up substantially from previous years (2.9 billion in 2010, 3 billion in 2012).
    Marketers need to determine an appropriate period since the last engagement for a specific account to be removed or targeted to a re-engagement effort. Actively removing bounce backs will assure the highest possible percentage of successful deliveries.
  2. Start reactivation and re-engagement campaigns now. Identify opportunities to engage with accounts at risk of becoming dormant. Create offers and build personalised onboarding experiences for individual users.
  3. Complete customer profiles. The more data marketers have on individual customers, the better they can personalise 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.
  4. Kick off nurturing campaigns. Advancing relationships with customers today will make them more receptive to holiday campaigns when released in November.
  5. Don’t just focus on the Christmas period. The holiday season is longer than just a day or two. Start engaging as soon as possible and continue throughout the holiday season. Analyse clicks and offer additional incentives if sales aren’t made on the first attempt.
  6. Review current levels of engagement. Analyse this information to identify patterns related to active versus inactive accounts. This also helps with deliverability as receivers can determine delivery placement based on user engagement.
  7. Avoid data fatigue. How much email is too much email is a tricky question. Inevitably, some email accounts will go dormant or asked to be removed. Dormant email address can get “converted” into spam traps that will affect your deliverability. If email lists have increasing numbers of dormant accounts, marketers can set policies to remove email address if reactivation plans aren’t successful. This can be reduced with structured onboarding strategies setting your clients expectations for volume and frequency.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.
  10. Ensure networks can handle increases in email traffic. Evaluate last year’s activity and plan for a 10 to 20 percent increase in volume, and be prepared to add more sending capacity if needed.
  11. 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.

We’re already now well into the holiday season, which seems to start earlier and earlier each year, but it’s clear that the opportunity remains. With the right planning, email campaigns can still deliver great results for marketers during this festive crunch time, when they matter most.

Many of these best practices will also help prepare you for the upcoming implementation of the GDPR, as data subject management and their rights for accessing, managing and withdrawing consent is a big requirement effective next May, so it’s a good time to start.

As a final top tip, remember to document best practices as well as what didn’t work and incorporate findings in future campaigns.

David Fowler serves as Act-On Software‘s Head of Compliance and Deliverability. He has over 20 years of experience in the marketing industry, including the last fourteen years strictly focused on the issues associated with the digital channel including, email marketing, deliverability, social media, mobile, integrated marketing, marketing automation and digital privacy compliance.

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