Your Email Planning Guide for the 2014 Holiday Season

email planning guide

For many online stores, the holiday season is the most important time of year. The three-month stretch from November-January is a critical season that requires a lot of planning, coordination, and strategy. If it’s all executed the right way, the results can be magnificent. This is especially true when it comes to email marketing.

Email volume goes way up during the holidays. However, open rates during this time period trend up along with email volume.

email planning guide (2)

So, these efforts by retailers are actually quite well-placed. Shoppers are watching emails for new products and upcoming sales, so they are more receptive to what you send.

But, with a flurry of trends to keep up with, as well as your company’s own financial goals to meet by year’s end, it can be confusing where to start with your holiday email strategy.

With this in mind, here is what you need to do to get your 2014 holiday email marketing campaign planning on track.

1) Review These Industry Lessons From 2013

2013 was the year that gave us Blurred Lines and ombre hair, but it also gave us these marketing lessons from the holiday season. Let’s start by reviewing what we learned last year.

Black Friday is declining but Cyber Monday is growing.  Analysts have been saying for years that the importance of traditional, in-person Black Friday shopping is on the decline. According to the IBM Digital Analytics Benchmark, more consumers shopped online yesterday than on Black Friday and online receipts rose 20.6% compared to 2012.

Mobile is still growing. According to Adobe’s Digital Index, last year’s Cyber Monday sales totaled $2.29 billion, up 16% from 2012. Plus, IBM research says that more than 17% of shoppers placed their online orders from their mobile phones, which was a 55.4% year-over-year increase.

70% off is the new 40% off. The idea of paying full price now seems dumb to most consumers. A sale is not a sale anymore. It’s become the norm. Research from America’s Research Group reveals that early half of all shoppers said they were wait until the 70% off sales before they buy.

Shipping fails for days. Remember this? 2013 was the year of shipping delays, particularly via UPS due to a surge in purchases, bad weather, and a laundry list of other factors. This meant that many online purchases that were guaranteed to arrive by Christmas didn’t make it on time. Retailers like Amazon and Kohl’s, whose customers were affected, coughed up gift cards and shipping cost refunds to try and remedy the situation. However, many but shoppers were pretty upset. This could impact shopper behavior this year.

Gift cards! A survey from Nielsen reveals that gift cards were the number 1 gift on consumers’ wish lists for the 2013 holiday. Interestingly, many of them go unspent or half spent, but retailers are still predicting that busy shoppers will turn to this gift choice for years to come.

What does all of this mean?

Practical eCommerce predicts these main changes for the 2014 holiday season:

Mobile commerce, free shipping offers, in-store pickup promotions, and eCommerce videos will all be important trends for the 2014 Christmas shopping season, as small and mid-sized online retailers look forward to, perhaps, a 9-percent growth in sales.

Keep these lessons learned and predictions in mind throughout your planning.

2) Analyze and Plan Around These Key Dates

As a first step toward developing your holiday email plan, focus on email performance and sale trends from specific holiday promotional periods from last year.

These are the key 2013 holiday promotional periods to analyze and plan for:

  • Thanksgiving Mon 11/25 – Thu 11/28
  • Black Friday Fri 11/01 – Sun 12/01
  • Cyber Week Fri 11/29 – Sun 12/08
  • Cyber Monday Sun 12/01 – Tue 12/03
  • Christmas Mon 12/09 – Wed 12/25
  • New Year’s Thu 12/26 – Sun 01/05

Take a look at what you sent last year. Identify which emails worked best and determine which variables led to success. It’s also a good time to review the email tests you’ve run so far this year and identify winning tactics. Use this past data to establish benchmarks for open rate, click-through rate, and sales benchmarks that you will strive to beat this year.

3) Clean Your Lists

It is important to make sure you are sending your emails to people who want to get them. Be on the look out for subscribers who have been on the list for a while and have not opened or clicked these emails. From now until these holidays, you need to either re-engage these subscribers or get them off your lists. Try offering a small incentive to get them to open, click, and convert. If they don’t engage, you have a decision to make regarding whether or not you keep them on your holiday promotion lists.

4) Build Your Email Plan

  • Send date
  • Campaign
  • UTM parameters
  • Day of week
  • Time of day
  • Several subject line options. Do at least 3. Read more here.
  • List to be emailed
  • Description of creative needed
  • Metrics – goals, actual numbers, and % difference for open rate, click-through rate, conversion rate, and revenue

Use this planning spreadsheet to guide your internal strategy sessions and coordinate with vendors or internal copywriters and designers.

What email marketing tips do you have for the 2014 holiday season? Let us know in the comments.


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