November 7, 2018
Email marketing is a critical element of retail holiday success. It was reported that last year 25% of Cyber Monday’s sales were driven by email. For the entire season, 20% of traffic to a retailer’s website was a result of email marketing. And even though retailers meticulously plan for the season, every year I come across emails I shake my head at. To properly prepare your email program for a successful holiday season, let’s have a visit from the ghost of holiday email past. Here are three mail marketing examples from the 2017 holiday season and the lessons that can be learned from each of them:
Subject line: In-Store Only! Exclusive Black Friday Sale!
What Went Wrong: Upon opening the message I was greeted with, “Looks like there’s no XYZ store near you…”
Wow, really? What a letdown. Below this was a main graphic with text that read, “but the biggest event of the year will be happening on xyzbrand.com FIND OUT TOMORROW. Until then…” I am confused. Is the biggest sale happening in-store or online tomorrow?
Lesson Learned: This subject line highlights one of the trends seen last year: in-store exclusives. Creating in-store exclusive offers is a great way to encourage a store visit and generate increased sales. Studies continue to indicate that shoppers who shop in-store have higher AOVs. The majority of those who use buy-online-pickup-in-store (BOPIS) make additional purchases while in-store. But when sending location-based messaging be sure to use segmentation to identify those within a store’s proximity. Also, be sure your message is clear for the user. If the biggest sale is happening tomorrow, why would I go to a store even if I could?
Subject line: BLACK. FRIDAY. STARTS. TOMORROW. Members shop 50% off first!
What Went Wrong: Let’s say I’m interested. Opening the email, I see a nice 50% and free shipping incentive. However, the call to action comes with a set of instructions. First, sign in. Second, add items to my bag. Third, check out tomorrow. WHAT!?!?!
Lesson Learned: Black Friday is no longer a stand-alone day for the majority of retailers. It now encompasses Gray November, let alone Cyber Week. In fact, 32% of the emails I received the Wednesday before mentioned Black Friday in the Subject line. Sending an email telling me the sales start tomorrow is a day late and a dollar short. But let’s look past that here.
The main issue is that they are sending an email to not only get me excited about shopping but to actually shop and add products to my shopping cart. They then ask me to leave, ignore other emails and sales, go to sleep, wake up, ignore the onslaught of additional of emails I am receiving, navigate back to their site, reassess the items in my cart (goodbye impulse purchases), ensure the products are still in stock, and then pay. I don’t know about you, but this seems like a lot of steps to ask a customer to take.
Make it easy for customers to shop and stay focused. Competition is fierce, and sales are everywhere. If someone is shopping on your site, ensure the sale then. One thing this brand could have done if they did want to wait until Black Friday is to either offer a free gift or lesser discount by checking out today. They could have used a sense of urgency and fear of products being sold out as the value-add to purchasing with a lower discount.
Subject line: Holy Cow...The Holidays Are Here!
What Went Wrong: This message is all text, and really, really, really long. I mean, really long. It has been one year, I have looked at this message dozens of time, and I still can’t bring myself to read the whole thing. It is too much.
Lesson Learned: There has been a rise in plain text emails, especially around the holidays. Often, they are made to look like a letter from the CEO about some company value prop. They appear to be more personal. Last holiday season, 46% of website traffic came from smartphones, Black Friday generated nearly $1.9 billion in mobile revenue, and Cyber Monday surpassed the $2 billion mobile-revenue mark. These plain text messages are usually not mobile-friendly and are counter-intuitive to the trend of consumer mobile behavior.
Be sure to optimize your emails for mobile devices. In today’s age, if you are not mobile-optimized, you are not optimized. If you choose to send a text-only message, keep it short and sweet. Make sure people can scan it. Make sure the text scales to allow for easier reading. Make it digestible and allow the consumer to move on. This is especially true during a season where inboxes are flooded with emails.
This year’s holiday season is expected to see online sales grow 15%. With email being a key component of that growth, it is imperative to look at your emails and make sure each one is clear, concise, mobile-friendly and optimized to give you the greatest chance of success. Like anything else, look at missed opportunities and learn from them, even if they are not your misses. Simply thinking through the customer experience and applying strategies to maximize those can work wonders for your email program and the revenue it drives.