How to make the most of email marketing over the holidays – and best practices for 2021

Sam Holding is head of international at SparkPost.

With such an unpredictable year coming to a close, one thing is certain: this year’s festive season will pose an extremely unique set of challenges for marketers. Depending on where you are in the world retailers are certainly readying themselves for a busy few weeks; however, a large majority of shoppers are still expected to do their Christmas shopping online as opposed to in store, especially in areas that have been deemed as’ higher risk’.

This Christmas, more than ever before, consumers will be reliant on eCommerce shopping and delivery to ensure gifts reach loved ones in good time. For this exact reason, it is business critical that communications between brands and customers is optimal.

Challenge 1: Email volumes

The first challenge marketers need to tackle is creating a bulletproof strategy leading up to the peak of Christmas shopping season. While there’s a seemingly limitless number of variables to consider, one that is often overlooked is email volume and cadence. Since mailboxes like Gmail and Yahoo rely heavily on algorithms, a sudden increase in mailings can cause messages to end up in the spam folder.

Solution: Marketers must slowly ramp up their sending in the weeks leading up to Christmas to indicate to inbox providers that there will be an uptick in messages on their end. Additionally, since many brands have customers that only shop around the festive season, it’s important that brands slowly ramp up messages to seasonal customers. Unwanted messages from brands that consumers may or may not remember shopping with in the past can cause subscribers to mark mailings as spam. Even though the festive season is high time for marketing, email messages should “drip” over time rather than overflowing all at once.

Challenge 2: Creating emails that stand out in the crowd

As many marketers know, getting into the inbox is only half the battle when it comes to a successful email campaign. Once marketers have tackled deliverability concerns, they must begin to think about effective ways to break through the noise of an inbox cluttered with Christmas-related marketing messages.

Solution: A tried and true way of combating this issue is through personalisation. Using a customer’s first name in the subject line is always a great way to grab attention. But, marketers should also consider more dynamic personalisation options like tailoring the products listed in the email to fit the customer’s interests or better yet, by featuring items that are currently in the customer’s cart. In fact, cart abandonment emails are an absolutely integral part of a successful ecommerce email program, particularly during the Christmas shopping season. These types of emails should make it very easy for customers to log back into their accounts using bold and direct calls-to-action so they complete their purchases with zero friction. Between smart personalisation tactics and well-timed cart abandonment reminders, marketers can really make a splash in the inbox this season.

Challenge 3: Monitoring the competition

To really go above and beyond this festive season, marketers will need to keep a close eye on what their competitors are up to. Since marketing messages around this time of year all tend to center on common themes it’s easy to accidentally create a campaign that feels derivative or uninspired.

Solution: Make competitor analysis a key part of your marketing activity. Marketers should keep close tabs on how other brands position their holiday offerings either with research on the internet for topical findings or by investing in competitive intelligence to dig deeper. SparkPost’s competitive intelligence platform, for instance, allows users to see other brands’ sending patterns, inboxing rates, as well as their marketing messages. Keeping a pulse on the marketplace is key when building effective marketing campaigns during the busy season.

With an upcoming festive season like never before, retail marketers will need to double down on proven email strategies. By focusing on deliverability and email marketing best practices, eCommerce brands can build a holiday email program that will fit the needs of this unprecedented shopping season. While family holiday traditions may shift this year, the tradition marketers have set for exceptional shopping season campaigns in years past will be more critical than ever before.

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Find out more about Digital Marketing World Forum (#DMWF) Europe, London, North America, and Singapore.  

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