The holiday season will be upon us in just a few short months, and it’s no secret that the “most wonderful time of the year” is without a doubt, the biggest sales period around the world. According to the National Retail Federation, last year’s holiday retail sales climbed 4%, which led to $658.3 billion in sales. As sales grow each year, consumers continue to take advantage of these holiday deals. Whether consumers get a head start on their holiday shopping, or wait until the last minute, their ultimate goal is to complete their holiday gift list. The question for you is, how are you taking advantage of the holiday season? If you want your holiday sales to be merry and bright, you’ll need a solid email marketing plan.

Like it or not, all marketers need to dig in to data in order to improve campaigns. By looking at holiday data from the previous year, you can find insights and statistics that can help boost holiday sales and conversions

Our Research:

In order to find insights on holiday email campaigns, I monitored an inbox that was receiving messages from 500 retailers. Through my research, I focused on emails that were received during the 2016 holiday season (October-December). During this time period, I received 12,597 emails. While monitoring the inbox, I searched for specific keywords that were holiday-related; such as Black Friday, Boxing Day, Christmas, Cyber Monday, Free Shipping Day, Green Monday, Hanukkah, Holiday, Kwanzaa, Small Business Saturday, and Super Saturday.

Out of all the emails received during the holiday season, 39% contained a holiday keyword.

October: Get ahead of the Holidays

With the holiday season kicking off earlier and earlier each year, retailers should start sending out their holiday campaigns in October, especially considering that the NRF found 41% of consumers already started holiday shopping by then. Through my research, I found that in my inbox of 500 retailers, only 31% sent holiday related emails in October. With more and more consumers starting their holiday shopping before October, retailers should focus on finding different ways to start building excitement for November and December.

In my inbox, I found that more than half of the holiday related emails received in October were focused on early holiday shopping.

While we received a couple of emails prior to October 1, the majority of the first holiday emails we received was on November 7.

Emphasizing the holidays in advance can ease shoppers in and keep your brand at the top of mind. You may ask, how can I do this? A great example would be creating a gift guide. According to the NRF, 49% of early holiday shoppers want to avoid crowds and stress. A gift guide can create an easy, stress-free shopping experience for the typical early bird or give ideas to shoppers looking to purchase closer to the holidays. By promoting your holiday campaign early, you begin attracting potential customer’s and easing them in weeks beforehand so they’ll be ready with cash in hand when it comes time to shop.

November: ‘Tis the Season for Deals

According to NRF, more than half of consumers already start holiday shopping before the Thanksgiving weekend. While some consumers start shopping in October, the majority focus their main shopping in November, and with a 17% increase in spending Thanksgiving through Cyber Monday (according to ComScore), there are plenty of opportunities to engage customers.

In my inbox, over half of the emails received on Black Friday included a sale. Likewise, for Cyber Monday. Retailers know the holidays drive immense amounts of revenue, and the volume of email sent out goes through the ceiling, but that doesn’t mean success will be easy for your holiday campaign. This is the time you need to stand out from the crowd and be conscious of major shopping days. There are predictable patterns to when purchases will peak during the holiday season, so keep the Thanksgiving weekend and Cyber Monday in mind. A tip you could consider would be sending Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns earlier this year. Consumers will be bombarded with emails, so getting on shopper’s minds when they’re planning their holiday shopping strategy is crucial to capture potential customers. According to my research, I found that more than half of Black Friday related emails we received were sent before Black Friday. On the other hand, less than half of Cyber Monday-related emails  were sent before Cyber Monday.

As the shopping season approaches, your customers will begin to get bombarded with emails. However, that’s no reason you can’t make the most of the holiday season. With key dates in mind, you could see some truly magical results for your efforts in November.

December: Last Chance!

Black Friday and Cyber Monday may be over by now, but December is still a huge month for consumers’ holiday spending. Despite the mayhem in November, many retail categories still saw their biggest numbers in the month of December last year. According to the NRF, on December 16, 90% of people were still holiday shopping. This is a huge opportunity for retailers to emphasize action.

With 9 out of 10 consumers still looking to complete their holiday gift lists, you can imagine they could be in panic mode. An idea to ease the minds of stressed shoppers could be to utilize Super Saturday. For those who haven’t finished holiday shopping yet, this is the perfect time to highlight limited time offers, discounts, and fast free shipping. According to my inbox, over 80% of holiday emails sent in December offered free shipping, but only 10% emphasized when the key shipping dates were to get orders in time for the holidays.

While the focus of most holiday email campaigns are before the holidays, consider post-holiday. At the end of December, encourage subscribers to use gift cards they’ve received, purchase accessories that add extra value to gifts they’ve received, or reassure shoppers to get what they really wanted. (Especially when according to NRF, 58% percent of consumers plan to buy for themselves after the holiday season.)

Q4 provides an opportunity for your company to introduce holiday email marketing campaigns to land some big sales. Holiday data from previous years can be used to improve campaigns and can provide more opportunities to boost sales and conversions. By using this data, you can “unwrap” your potential and have a holiday season full of success.

As you prepare for the upcoming holiday season, we're here to help. If you have any questions, let us know in the comments section.

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