The holidays are stressful for retailers, it’s where the majority of revenue is generated, so ensuring you’ve set yourself up for success is imperative. I’ve experienced my share of holiday season fires and wins, trust me. Now, I’m spreading my form of cheer with a list of 10 things that can help you stay ahead of the pack this year. Take a breath, I’m here to help.
For even more help to get you prepared for the holidays this year, I put together an ebook with all you need to get email-ready! Download your free copy by filling in the copy below:
10 Tips to Get Your Email Marketing Holiday Ready
1. Clean Your Lists
Do a clean sweep of your database and validate email addresses. There is a lot of software or online services you can purchase (for a reasonable price) that will make cleaning your database easy and quick. The majority of invalid email addresses are due to syntax errors (too many @ symbols, missing a “.”, etc), these tools will help you identify those syntax errors and correct them. Make sure you remove any invalid email addresses returned by the cleanup from your database.
Some of these email validating tools allow you to validate new emails collected after the initial cleanup in real-time. Once a subscriber provides you their email address online, these tools ping their email address to ensure it’s valid and active before adding it to your database.
2. Do Some Research
Do you know how many subscribers are opening your emails up on their mobile device? Or what your top email clients are? These are extremely important throughout the year, but use the holiday season as the time to knock this task off your to-do list. Find out where your emails should look amazing and how creative you can get with your emails. If the majority of your database is using anything Apple to open your emails, you can have so much fun with your email design – get animated. If everyone is still using Outlook 2007 (these people still exist), your creativity may be limited.
3. Review Your Flows
Take a look at the automations you’ve currently got running, maybe the creative needs a refresh for the holiday season? For example, if you’ve got your big Black Friday or Cyber Monday campaigns running, your cart recovery flow should reflect that. Swap out the messaging on that to create further urgency for Black Friday.
Additionally, if you’ve got an incentive included in your cart recovery campaign, I’d suggest pausing it during the holiday season. It’s a highly promotional time, so combining offers isn’t necessary and sometimes not possible for some eCommerce platforms.
Ensure you’ve got a holistic approach to all of your campaigns, they’re all staying on brand, offers are consistent and not silo-ed.
4. Target Subscribers On Facebook
If you haven’t done it yet, set up Facebook Custom Audiences using your database, it’ll be far easier to see conversion on Facebook if you’re marketing to current customers and subscribers. Some ESPs have the functionality built in directly into the platform, but you can also check out Facebook’s how to here.
5. Set A Schedule
Every holiday season, I get my clients to fill me in on what their email marketing schedule is. I put together a schedule for my internal team at Demac Media. The purpose being to notify our Infrastructure team of campaigns that are going out, when they can expect to see a spike in traffic to the site and can monitor it and maintain site stability. In addition to that, we also have each campaign automatically sent to a special slack channel, so we can test all links to ensure every URL is sent to a cached page, which helps with site speed. Below is an example of (read: content I made up) the schedule I’ve set:
6. Get Creative
Truth be told, I never stop thinking about the holiday season. Last year, I wrote a post about the best Black Friday/Cyber Monday email designs. Take a look at some of my favourites and see how you can make them your own. Pinterest is also a fabulous resource when looking for email design inspiration. Stand-out in the inbox this holiday season by downloading my free eBook on Black Friday and Cyber Monday emails by clicking the button below.
7. Throttle Sends
It’s generally good practice to spread out your sends across your database (specifically when you’re sending to large groups of subscribers), because it could be what saves your deliverability. Aside from that there are a few reasons why you should throttle your campaign sends.
Major ISPs batch and postpone delivery as a means of preventing spam (limits are not publicized). The limits applied by major ISPs can also change if suspicious behaviour is detected. When an ISP sees five bounces within a certain timeframe, they may send a throttling message that tells the sending server to slow down or stop sending for a certain period of time. If that message is ignored, the ISP could escalate to blocking mail from that IP address altogether.
Handling Site Traffic
Limiting the amount of emails being delivered every hour can also help maintain the speed and stability of your site. If your site can only handle 10,000 people visiting at once and the average click rate of your email campaigns bring more than 10,000 subscribers to your site, there’s a high chance that you can take down your site with one email. Meaning, NO MONEY FOR YOU. Play safe, friends.
Delivering Campaigns at the Right Time
One of my favourite ways to segment large campaigns is by time zone. It really does optimize your campaign. I find a lot of clients used to send campaigns out at 6AM EST, but for our friends on the west coast, that’s getting to their inbox at 3AM PST, you’re now at the bottom of their inbox. An easy fix that optimizes your results. You’re welcome.
8. Don’t Stalk
Since you’re taken the time to clean up your database to safeguard yourself from blacklists, don’t think you’re off the hook yet. There are still so many things that can lead to a block, like being a stage 5 clinger and hitting the panic button on your Black Friday campaign. Plan your schedules out in advance and consider all exclusions so you don’t force subscribers to mark you as spam. For example, if you’re sending out a reminder email, exclude anyone who has already purchased, or maybe only focus on people who have already expressed an interest in your offer and just need a little bit of a push).
It’s far more difficult to reach your revenue targets when ISPs are blocking messages from getting to your subscribers. Scrutinize every campaign you send, don’t annoy people with multiple reminder campaigns and always keep in mind that spam filters are extra sensitive during the holiday season – YOU ARE NOT IMMUNE TO THEM.
Additionally, during the holiday season, I urge clients to consistently monitor bounce rate and to frequently remove (or unsubscribe) any addresses that have hard bounces. Most email marketing platforms will help you manage inactive email addresses, removing them from your active list after a certain number of unsuccessful email send attempts.
9. Communicate Shipping Deadlines
Having a dynamic content block in your campaigns in December calling out shipping deadlines for subscribers based on their location will help create a sense of urgency, manage expectations and show subscribers you’re going that extra step to make sure they get their gifts delivered on time. Once those deadline dates pass, I’d suggest changing that dynamic content block to the nearest retail location and store hours.
10. Be Thankful & Spread Cheer
Not every campaign needs to be an offer. Make space in your schedule to be nice, thankful, merry and fun. Let your subscribers know you appreciate them and their loyalty in a fun way. In my past email life, I worked for the Toronto Maple Leafs and we would send out a fun (ok, maybe not so fun for the ears) message to fans, here’s one of their past holiday messages.
Important things to keep in mind:
- Canadians celebrate Thanksgiving in October, so if you’re an American retailer, we’re working while you’re getting your fill of turkey and football.
- Not everyone celebrates Christmas, work your schedule around all holidays or focus on inclusive messaging.