Spooky costumes, turkeys, Black Friday sales, Christmas trees, and holiday music. Once Halloween hits, it's holiday madness in the marketing world. It's overwhelming when stores start advertising for Christmas shopping when Thanksgiving hasn't even happened yet! Let's take our holidays one holiday at a time, please. Marketing is an art of strategy, and brands shouldn't wildly throw holiday-themed emails at their customers and see what sticks.
The most festive time of the year is also the season where inboxes everywhere are being bombarded with holiday marketing emails. According to recent research from Yesmail that used data from the 2013 and 2014 holiday seasons more customers opened promotional emails. Even though the volume of emails sent increased by 46%, average open rates remained steady through the holidays. Email marketing still delivers the greatest return of any marketing tactic, reaping average returns of $44.25 for every $1 spent. This promising data shows that customers are more interested and engaged during this part of the year, and is an important marketing opportunity to capitalize on.
Here is how to do email marketing right for the holidays, and stand out from the pack.
Become a "Known Sender"
Gmail has recently updated its spam filters, which is great news for everyone because we all deal with those annoying emails that seem to come out of thin air. However, it is now easier than ever for emails that you signed up for and want to receive to end up in your spam folder. Spam filters can be overeager and disrupt legitimate communication when the sender and receiver don't understand how they function.
Companies combat this problem by explicitly asking their customers to take action to ensure that they'll continue to receive emails. A company can ask a subscriber to add the email address to their address book and briefly explain why. Companies can also enable a double opt-in process, which encourages a subscriber to confirm via email that they signed up to receive emails. This should also include a request to add the email address to their address book. Again, briefly explain why.
2. Have Clear and Familiar Messaging
Be mindful of other ways that your emails could be marked as spam. This includes using links that have been blacklisted, low engagement (use more effective targeting practices), using the same IP address for messages that were marked, etc. Make your "unsubscribe" button clear, obvious, and easier to find. It is much better to get unsubscribed than have your subscribers mark your emails as spam because they had trouble locating the "unsubscribe" button.
Select a great email address to send out your emails. Many options are better than "[email protected]." You can use the name of your company mascot, support team, or "hello." It's best to provide the option for a two-way conversation rather than one-way messaging. This may also provide you with valuable customer feedback, and reduce being flagged as spam since people can request to be removed from the list instead of clicking "spam" instead of "unsubscribe." Your subscribers should be able to recognize your business or organization in a flash, so use the appropriate email address for increased legitimacy and recognition.
3. Focus on Mobile
Marketers have been talking about the rise of mobile for years now. If your website is not mobile-optimized by now... it's overdue. Mobiles now make up the majority of email opens at 51%, and many recent studies tout even higher numbers. Mobile friendly email marketing shouldn't stop at delivering emails that render properly on mobile devices. A company's entire online strategy should be optimized for mobile. A mobile optimized email that sends traffic to a non-responsive website is a missed opportunity.
To take it a step further, you may have a mobile app in addition to a mobile-optimized website. Getting a customer to download your app can open up doors for more frequent interactions with your brand, as well as more repeat purchases. Push notifications are an amazing tool- the focused attention that it gets is a huge opportunity to drive even more brand interactions like visiting the app, exploring, and purchasing. These notifications are key for driving already interested users to your special holiday specials, deals, and offers. Mobile notifications work very much like an email- you want to use the same best practices to make your users click after seeing the subject line or notification.
4. Stay True to Your Brand and Company's Personality
Not all companies are known to be quirky, kitschy, or even fun. That's not a bad thing! It's not appropriate for every company to deck out their emails with cartoon Santas and smiling snowmen. Don't do it if it will cheapen your brand or not fit with your image. Do it if it furthers your brand messaging and would make your users smile, but remember that consistency is key. The emails that your company sends are direct communications with users, the lifeblood of the brand. Make sure that the fit is there.
There are creative ways that you can incorporate holiday themes into your company. if you're a photography business, you can feature beautiful images of Christmas trees, snow covered homes, fireplaces featuring decorated mantles and Christmas stocking, and more. It's an appropriate time to display your holiday themed merchandise, as well as seasonal goods that can be spruced up with holiday imagery. This time of year is optimal for displaying gift ideas, and special holiday deals. "Last sleigh day" is December 22, which is the last day that products can be expected to arrive by Christmas. This is your chance to give a final push for holiday purchases, and offering free express shipping can seal the deal. Framing the deal within the constructs of your company's voice and personality, make the message clear yet not aggressively promotional.
5. Encourage Sharing
People are more likely to share Christmas offers and email content with their friends and family over this period. Capitalize on this window! Encourage people to share your message, whether that be via email or across social media. Give your customers an incentive to share. Freebies are always popular, and customers can be entered in a giveaway by sharing. Groupon has a great model for getting users to share their deals- when a specified number of people purchase from a referral link, the referrer gets a discount.
Because the holidays are a time for gift-giving and thinking about others, it would also be a nice gesture for your company to do something charitable to end the year. The company can make a donation to an organization, and maybe match donations from customers, or at least let them know how much you're contributing and make it easy for them to donate as well. For example, detergent company Dawn could make a generous donation of their product to a wildlife group, since they have a history of helping these organizations use the soap to clean animals affected by oil spills. Corporate giving also brings awareness to the organizations that they support.