Big box retail stores start decorating for the winter holidays as soon as Halloween is over, and sometimes earlier. While this overly enthusiastic decor may put off some people, the truth is, it’s never too soon to start thinking about your holiday email campaigns, and the rest of your holiday marketing efforts.
Many small businesses post the bulk of their revenue during the holidays. But it pays to get a head start on your holiday marketing because your customers are beginning their holiday shopping earlier than you think. Research by the National Retail Federation shows that a good percentage of consumers start holiday shopping well in advance of the holidays, with an uptick in activity starting in October.
Facts & Statistics
41% of consumers begin holiday shopping before Halloween.
Source: National Retail Federation
As for the droves of last-minute shoppers everyone expects to see, they’re more of a rarity than you might think.
Forty-one percent of consumers begin holiday shopping around the same time they’re carving jack-o’-lanterns and picking out Halloween costumes, while 80 percent begin in November.
With consumers starting their holiday spending earlier, small businesses that are ready with early holiday email marketing campaigns will have more time to maximize the impact of their efforts.
Looking back, planning ahead
Despite a rocky end of year, with bad weather and tough competition, 2015 retail holiday sales grew by 3 percent, topping out at just over $626 billion.
Non-store holiday sales did even better, growing by 9 percent to $105 billion. Brick and mortar sales weren’t the only area that did well in 2015, either. Digital research group eMarketer says ecommerce sales grew more than 13 percent in 2015, and e-commerce’s share of the overall retail market jumped to 9.3 percent.
Industry watchers predict another solid year in 2016. The National Retail Federation expects retail sales to grow by 3.4% throughout this year, and eMarketer forecasts a strong season for e-commerce.
Moving the needle with email
Of course, every small business owner knows they can still do well during the holidays, even when the overall industry doesn’t, if they employ the right marketing tactics. With widespread and ever expanding consumer acceptance of digital marketing channels, email marketing is a powerful way to ensure your business maximizes holiday sales.
Numerous studies show that email marketing is effective in engaging customers and driving sales, whether through your e-commerce portal or by encouraging them to come into your storefront and complete a purchase. Consumers consistently say email is their preferred communication method when interacting with businesses and brands, beating out social media and direct mail across multiple demographic groups.
Facts & Statistics
72% of people prefer companies reaching them through email than through any other medium.
Email marketing makes even more sense for consumers during the holiday season, when many are feeling rushed and stressed. They may not have time for social media interactions, many view phone sales as intrusive, and often they’ve reached their tolerance level for traditional holiday advertising. But they’ll still open their email.
Ready to launch holidays 2016?
Here are some tips and tricks to help you get a head start on your holiday email marketing — and ensure the season is merry and bright for your small business:
1. Make your email list and check it twice
A good list is the foundation of any successful email marketing campaign. Clean up yours, refine it, and segment to maximize personalization and relevancy for your audience.
Now’s the time to get rid of any subscribers that haven’t interacted with your emails or brand for a while. If an account has been inactive for six months or longer, send out a last-chance email asking the recipient to reaffirm their interest or tell you to move on. Include an unsubscribe link that takes users to a page where they can not only unsubscribe, but leave you a note saying why. That information is helpful in refining future email lists.
2. Set up segmentation
Segmentation helps ensure you reach customers who are most likely to be interested in what you’re selling when you’re selling it. For holiday email marketing campaigns, consider segmenting your list based on customer purchase history or online interactions with your brand.
Customers who purchased from you during the holidays last year — and who let you know via email or social media that they had a good experience — may welcome an email from you letting them know about this year’s products, services, and promotions.
3. Establish targets and goals
It’s easier to keep your email marketing efforts focused and on track if you establish specific targets and goals for each campaign. For example, you may start the season off by sending an email announcing a schedule of in-store promotions or a special sale.
Before you segment your list and send off that email, think about what you want it to achieve. Will you use that email as a way to help winnow inactive accounts from your subscriber list? Is your objective to entice customers to subscribe to a holiday-specific newsletter? Do you want to drive in-store or e-commerce sales for a specific date or time-period?
4. Keep a watch on the calendar
The holiday season is full of important dates for marketing opportunities. You’re certainly aware of Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Black Friday, and Cyber Monday. But don’t overlook Veterans Day in November, which presents an opportunity to salute veterans; the end of Daylight Savings, also in November, when everyone joyfully reclaims an hour of sleep; Small Business Saturday; Green Monday (the second Monday in December), the perfect time to market your eco-friendly products and services; Hanukkah and Kwanzaa; Free Shipping Day, which is Friday, Dec. 16 this year; and Giving Tuesday, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving when you can encourage your customers to participate in volunteerism and charitable works.
5. Set up your subject lines
Great subject lines are essential for successful email marketing, especially during the holidays when your material is competing with a host of others for consumers’ attention and dollars. The best subject lines not only grab the reader’s attention, but also give an idea of what’s waiting inside the email.
Feeling uninspired? One of the best ways to juice up your subject line creativity is to read great subject lines. You can find roundups of great holiday subject lines on this blog. Plan out subject lines in advance so you can be sure to give customers something new and useful with every email you send.
Check out our holiday Subject Line Generator to create an infinite number of subject lines that will work for you this season.
6. Incorporate imagery
Research shows that most consumers prefer marketing emails with great visuals and minimal text — just enough to get your message across. Let your message, brand identity, and target audience guide your visuals.
Some audiences and messages may call out for traditional imagery, while others need something different to evoke a response. Whatever imagery you choose, be sure your visuals are always crisp, high quality, and engaging.
7. Capture the spirit of the season
Finally, keep the spirit of the season in mind. Regardless of which end-of-year holiday your customers celebrate, goodwill is at the heart of the season. Keep your holiday marketing emails positive, inspiring, and simple. Fill them with useful content, presented in a format that’s as brief and visually appealing as possible.
Remember, you don’t just want your customers to thank you for the great discount, you also want to nurture their sense of goodwill toward your company!
Looking for more?
For more Everything Holiday marketing tips, guides, and festive fun, check back between now and October 28. We’ll have a new post daily!