Summer is Heating Up – It’s Time to Plan for the Holidays

By Jim Davidson

Special to the eTail Blog

School’s out and summer has just started, but for retailers the holiday planning season has already begun. If you haven’t started your 2012 holiday planning, there’s no time better than now to grab a candy cane and review your 2011 holiday season. Gear up for making the winners even better this year, understanding and refining the moderate successes, cutting loose the failed campaigns and lining up new and creative ideas for 2012. Starting with last year’s data is a great way to motivate yourself and your team to begin planning now and avoid last minute madness.

Next, you can focus on refining your email strategies and tactics to get the most out of your campaigns, and even try something new.

Email Volume Awareness
Email volume significantly increases during the holiday season and knowing when to send, what promotion will work best and which segment of your list should receive your message is vital. Remember, during the holidays your customers are saturated with marketing messages and dealing with overstuffed inboxes. Increasing email volume without carefully thinking through your contact strategy can result in increased spam complaints, higher unsubscription rates and potentially blocks from ISP.

Having a defined communication plan for segmenting your subscribers by various levels of engagement is one of the best ways to ensure you’re reaching the right people at the right time throughout the buying cycle. With this approach you can target your most valuable and engaged customers who may need just a nudge to complete a purchase. For disengaged subscribers, you can test subject lines that may be more promotional or playful to gain an open.

Launch a Countdown Promotion
In 2011, only 7% of brands implemented a daily deal email promotion. When starting a daily deal campaign you may want to ask your subscribers to opt-in to this separate promotion. By doing this an expectation is set that a subscriber will receive this additional email each day. This can help keep your complaints and spam alerts down.

Before starting this type of program make sure you have enough inventory to fulfill the demands that can come from running daily deals. A great way to raise awareness and get more participants in your daily deal promotion is to make “Share with Your Network” links very prominent.

Send Shipping-Focused Messages
Make sure you plan to include a series of shipping-focused messaging that clearly explains shipping options, special shipping rates and specific deadlines as the holiday season progresses. Clear and detailed shipping information is crucial to closing holiday sales, whether it’s early in the season or the count down to the final week. In 2011, 27% of brands consistently dedicated a section of their email footer to reminding subscribers about shipping deadlines. Later in the season, many brands sent emails solely featuring the remaining shipping options.

The holiday season can be a stressful time for retailers. Make the season merry for yourself, your team, and your customers by starting your holiday marketing planning today.

Jim Davidson is the Manager of Marketing Research at Bronto, a provider of email and cross-channel marketing solutions for commerce-focused companies.