By Drew Barton
Email marketing is one of the most effective facets of digital marketing, and yet it often remains overlooked. While it may not be very flashy or technologically impressive compared to other features of the internet, when leveraged correctly, email marketing can accomplish more than nearly any other online marketing technique.
This is especially true as the holiday season approaches. According to RJMetrics, 50% to 100% more e-commerce revenue is pulled in between Black Friday and Christmas when compared to shopping days throughout the rest of the year.
More people than ever are buying their gifts online, and the most powerful tool for reaching these customers is — you guessed it! — email. Not only is an email address a direct line of communication with a potential customer, it’s also more instant than a physical “snail mail” address. And as the holiday shopping season creeps earlier and earlier with each passing year, companies are taking advantage of this by planning their email marketing campaigns sooner.
Here are some tips and advice for building an effective email marketing strategy for the holiday season:
Cultivating a strong qualified list should be a year-round goal.
When it comes to email marketing, it’s truly quality over quantity. Whether you have a couple hundred or several thousand subscriber emails on your email list, the most important thing is that there are engaged, motivated customers behind those addresses.
That’s why it’s crucial to fill your email list with high-quality subscribers who have willingly opted in to receive your communications. Anyone who consents to share an email address with your company is essentially inviting you to use it. And since the odds of converting an email subscriber into a customer are far greater than someone who simply stumbles upon your company website, you should definitely be putting those email addresses to use.
Of course, Rome wasn’t built in a day. It takes time to create a strong qualified list, which is why you should be actively working on this throughout the year.
Keep an eye on your metrics.
One of the best things about email marketing is that you can see what people do with the emails when you send them. You can see who opened your email (and who didn’t), what links they clicked on within the email, and how many times they opened the email, among other things.
These metrics are incredibly important for refining a seasonal email campaign. With metrics, you can do some A/B testing, or see how changing different aspects of your email impacts the metrics. For example, if your initial open rate is low, some email newsletter software will allow you to experiment with different catchy subject lines to see if they improve your open rates; or you can see if sending a biweekly email gets you more results than sending one monthly.
By monitoring your metrics over the course of your holiday email marketing campaign, you can evaluate what is doing well and what is not, and then course correct based on those observations.
Never miss out on an opportunity to offer an enticing deal.
These days, big sale announcements and coupon code offerings make up a significant chunk of e-commerce email marketing messages. Why? Because they work. Everyone loves a good discount, which is why online retailers dole them out so frequently.
Sales, coupons, customer loyalty programs, and other “deals” influence consumer purchasing decisions, raise average order totals, discourage shopping cart abandonment, and promote customer loyalty that results in repeat business. One of the most effective ways to disseminate these deals is through email marketing.
Naturally, the deepest discounts present themselves during the holiday season (especially around Black Friday/Cyber Monday), so standing out from the crowd at this time is key.
Set up marketing automation to hone in on specific segments.
Email marketing automation allows you to automate some of your marketing tasks and ultimately provide a tailored experience to your customers based on their demographics or behavior. By setting up marketing automation for your email campaigns, you can send product recommendations, abandoned cart notifications, or even win back inactive subscribers with engaging content or enticing coupon codes. With the flurry of holiday sales activity, automation can help streamline your seasonal email marketing campaigns.
Consider outsourcing your email marketing efforts.
Not every business has the resources to orchestrate an in-house holiday email marketing campaign, and that’s okay. If you don’t have a marketing team that can create and send regularly scheduled emails, you need to employ the services of an agency or another third party who can. Generally, with this kind of setup, you’ll be able to review and approve everything in your newsletters before they go out, so you can be sure it conforms with your company’s voice.
If you’re not doing much with your business’ email marketing strategy, now is the time to change that. Whether you’re trying to galvanize online sales or boost year-end engagement, email marketing can help you hit this holiday shopping season out of the ball park.
Drew Barton is the former webmaster for CNN.com and the founder and president of Southern Web, an award-winning digital agency specializing in web development and digital marketing solutions. He is the author of The Buyer’s Guide to Websites: What You Need to Know to Get the Website of Your Dreams. For more information, please visit, www.southernweb.com.