If you own a business, the holiday season is most likely your favorite time of the year: due to bonuses and festivities resulting in increased budgets, businesses can count on consumers being prepared to make significantly bigger and more purchases than on average days. The National Retail Federation projects the retail sales for 2017, which don’t include automobiles, gasoline, and restaurants, to increase around 4%, leading to a total of $682 billion in revenue, up from $655.8 billion last year. What people define as their disposable income during that time overshadows the rest of the year by far.
For physical stores, the best ways to attract consumers would be using appropriate decoration as well as sales and discounts. But what about e-businesses? What does the holiday season mean to them, and how can they make sure they will get the interest and attention from potential buyers and clients in the moment demand is an all-time high?
Let’s talk about some numbers in order to understand the scenario. Currently, over 3.8 billion people use the internet, comprising 51% of the world population. That same figure, 51%, is the percentage of Americans who prefer to shop online over going down to a local shop to find a specific product. At this point in history, approximately 96% of Americans with internet access makes purchases online. The days from Black Friday till Christmas generate from 50 to 100% more revenue than other shopping days during the rest of the year, and November till the end of December drive 30% more e-commerce than non-holiday months.
It’s kind of a big deal.
According to a report by Custora, e-mail marketing was largely responsible for over a fifth of e-commerce sales worldwide in 2013, and the largest margin of success was on mobile phones, accounting for 26.7% of the sales on the platform. In comparison, social media drove 0.6% of the sales. By 2015, the sales of mobile devices jumped up to a very impressive 36.7%. Another thing to have in mind is that about 76% of the Black Friday and 63% of Cyber Monday e-mails of that year were opened on mobiles, which implies people are not only doing their holiday season shopping exclusively at work or at home anymore but anywhere they can.
So now that we know half of the world is online, and that they don’t need to be going anywhere near a brick-and-mortar store to make purchases because they can get what they need from their phones wherever they are; with those clear advantages, targeting a number of potential clients much greater than any physical, local business could is easier than ever. In fact, not working with these tools would put a business at a severe disadvantage in comparison to others doing so.
There are multiple ways to improve engagement with your user base by making use of tried and true methods.
- For example, call to action buttons on e-mail bodies are largely responsible for the overwhelmingly large clickthrough rate of well done e-mail marketing, due to the sense of urgency to act they evoke (Buy Now!) as well as the ease of access to content they promise, which is very important at a time of the year everyone is extremely busy juggling between work, family and friends; for the consumer, a chance at a good deal that would also save them precious time has tremendous appeal. As a result, the estimate of businesses placing them on their e-mails is currently sitting at 41%.
- On holiday season, it is extremely important to use e-mails to create awareness about events, discounts, and sales; using e-mail marketing for campaign support is a great way to engage clients about the exciting deals businesses have to offer, and is probably the most common brand of e-mail sent at this time of the year for a good reason: it works. For example, shipping costs tend to be one of the biggest reasons why people give up on sales online and is considered by 74% of the consumers who do finish sales, to be the most important aspect. As a result, many businesses decide to cover them during the holiday season because they know the sheer volume of sales will bring them enough profit that they can afford to do so to give a client worrying about it the extra nudge they need in finalizing a purchase. What better way to let many people know about it than an e-mail with several offers?
- Direct sales and campaign support are not the only way to take advantage of this tool; you can take this opportunity to win back a client with re-engagement strategies, making sure people who were not opening up your latest messages come back by offering an incentive in the form of a bonus or a freebie. Letting clients know they’re missed may make the whole difference when dealing with the undecided, who no longer read the e-mails but also did not unsubscribe yet.
- With the holiday season, comes festive spirit: another way to stand out and garner good karma on top of engaging clients in a more personal manner is with informative messages. With so much going on everywhere, many clients may feel overwhelmed in trying to organize and giving out holiday tips, such as guides on seasonal shopping, decoration tutorials and printable trinkets, delicious recipes, guides on party planning and general unique content tend to be very welcome, as well as help them keep brands in mind as part of their lives as opposed to faceless entities.
All of the aforementioned methods may seem very straightforward, but finding out what will work best for your campaign requires one special thing to be truly effective: knowing your client.
Product recommendation is a core concept of not just e-commerce, but business in general: anyone walking into a supermarket or store to get one thing may remember or realize they need or want more products as they go through the many aisles, and that weighs heavily on how those aisles are organized. Being able to get everything they need in one place is something clients find convenient, and your e-mails should not feel any different from that.
It shouldn’t come across as a surprise that people prefer messages that cater to them, but in hard numbers, if an e-mail has a personalized opening line, such as the client’s first name, the chances of it being opened are 26% higher; one single line can give you that big of a push. While knowing everything about a client on a personal level might be difficult in any capacity of an online business, marketing automation may make the task of targeting e-mail content to them significantly easier.
It’s not unusual for online businesses to run analytics on their consumers’ spending habits and recurring purchases, all of which can be converted into more effective e-mails; instead of sending out the exact same e-mail to all clients on a mailing list, this deeper understanding of what specific consumers need can give your business an edge in closing deals if the first part of customer experience, the customer journey is taken into account by targeting offers and customizing the e-mail’s layout to highlight things that may interest them more, or fit their budget better.
For example, selling the whole stock of a high-end beauty product can be made simpler if the people who spend more on the site offering that product get small discounts as tokens of appreciation on it as the spotlight of the e-mail, as opposed to sending them the exact same e-mail targeting people who spend far smaller amounts and are not included in the same demographic target (unlikely to purchase it in the first place). That way you raise chances of selling the product, as well as reward loyal shoppers. This strategy also benefits the people spending less by freeing up space for other products that they might be interested in or find more affordable by comparison.
While showing them targeted products is a great way to get their personal interest, it is not always an option as businesses can have a good number of people subscribe to them without completing a purchase immediately. As such, there isn’t a way to tell which products they would be interested in yet, and having something to fall back on as a default is essential.
Besides knowing your clients, it’s important to keep in mind something crucial about the holiday season: they will probably not be shopping only for themselves. In this season, clients are more likely to make purchases for children, loved ones, family, and friends, which makes it very worth it to include in the e-mails holiday gift guides.
A department store, for example, would certainly benefit from including general best-selling items, such as watches, toys, t-shirts, and sportswear (for those going on vacations) in theirs; your client might find them to be the perfect gift for someone important to them.
There are alternative ways to approach gift guides, such as dividing lists by budget: people with large social circles or big families have to divide their spending and time searching for gifts well, which results in a big headache unless they can find a lot of what they need in one place, which hopefully could be your business.
Besides having the usual “Gifts under $10” category, it is also advisable to have categories that may give aid to the shoppers who can’t think of anything to give specific roles for the holidays: “Gifts for Dad”, “For Mom” and “For Kids” are excellent examples of ways to engage people in this situation. You can go one step further and do other categories, such as product type and hobbies.
Having these lists is generally considered good practice, but there is no denying personalized e-mails are by far more successful. A good way to get new subscribers to make the first purchase, and secure data for future e-mails in the campaign by consequence, is by having the welcome e-mail come with a discount coupon. A well done welcome e-mail is the key to establishing a good relationship with someone new to your brand, they are 5 times as likely to be open over bulk e-mails and on average the ones with coupons tend to lead to sales 2.5 times as often as the ones without.
Another common way of generating engagement is making use of holiday contests or giveaways; everybody loves winning prizes and even something simple and small as a gift basket can put your customers into a festive mood and, something on a larger scale such as a car or a trip overseas can be used as an effective tool for getting referrals. It doesn’t mean that the only way to get referrals is through big gestures, either: offering a sample pack of products to your recurring client over gift subscriptions also works.
Another big source of engagement for businesses would be surveyed with an incentive given upon completion, such as a special offer or a discount on a category. While not everyone has the time to follow through with them, people tend to appreciate having their feedback listened to and it might give you ideas on how to improve your current relationship with your customer base, killing two birds with one stone.
You can also remind your user base of causes that matter to your business that they might care for deeply: encouraging and showing support for charity comes across as heartfelt and might make a major difference not only to many as costumes but as people. People are more likely to support businesses that share values with themselves.
In spite of all festive spirit, there are a few things that can go wrong with the holiday season shopping; all the amazing possibilities that arrive with the season bring along problems unique to it; avoiding or accounting for them is possible but requires awareness and active effort.
While people are very interested in buying new products and under a time limit, clients are being bombarded with information and trying to manage many things at once; as a result, the number of abandoned shopping carts on online shopping becomes 5 times higher at this time of the year. The most effective way to handle it is sending e-mails with reminders, one after the first abandoned cart and if not checked up on, one a few hours later.
It’s extremely important to get in touch with subscribers early, so the chances of getting lost in a sea of e-mails once every business starts sending them their own offers is significantly smaller: this will give you an edge in getting people excited about sales and have your open rates at the very least a little higher than if you waited until very close to the holidays. Without a proper strategy, the days will pass your business by and take with them the potential sales your competitors did capitalize on.
A similar issue already happens with the customers: while many people try to get a jump start on holiday shopping lists, the National Retail Federation estimated that in 2015, two weeks before Christmas, 90% of the consumers were not done with theirs. Last minute deal shoppers are a huge driving force and as such it’s important to keep them in mind during your e-mail campaign. A surefire way to get their interest is to guarantee delivery by December 24th, so that whatever the reason they did not or could not finish their order before, their Christmas Eve is not spoiled by it.
Gift cards are also very popular presents during the holiday season, but that often results in them not being used during that time. In order to encourage clients to make use of them, as well as clearing out any leftover stock, many stores welcome in the new year with post-holiday sales.
It is always possible to make a mistake, due to the human factor and the crunch period the business will be going through; having a proper response mechanism in place and PR ready to work their magic as soon as a flaw is identified (hopefully long before most readers get to the e-mail containing typos, bad formatting, a wrongly placed discount or lack thereof) with an apology can save your brand from facing a crisis at the time your main worry should be selling your inventory.
Sales may go too well, which sounds like bragging, but consumers get very upset when the availability of an item doesn’t meet the demand, as it happened with Motorola in 2013. The company did not expect that a Cyber Monday price drop on their smartphone Moto X would bring in so many interested people, and found that the best way to deal with the response of the public was by offering the same deal at a later date so those who missed out had another chance to secure their phone at 30% off.
Having all of these in mind, there is still enough time to make a good holiday season marketing campaign happen; with careful planning and a lot of hard work, you too can make this season feel magical for your business and clients alike.