Christmas email marketing


Retailbiz sat down with Theo Noel, APAC regional director at email data solutions provider Return Path, to find out how to create an email campaign that will get the best results as we get closer to the festive season.

It’s important to invest in email as, although it’s not as ‘sexy’ as social media, it is still the backbone of marketing and represents more return on investment than other channels, says Noel.

According to a report from Return Path, 72 per cent of consumers say email is their favoured means of communication from businesses and 66 per cent have made a purchase online as a direct result of an email marketing message.

“It’s easy and straightforward to do, and is the workhorse of digital marketing,” Noel says. “Retailers know email marketing works. Could it be better? Absolutely.” Here’s how.

1. Make it to the inbox

A great email marketing strategy starts with something simple—ensuring you make it into your customers’ inboxes.

Your ability to reach the inbox is called ‘deliverability’ and is measured through your inbox placement rate, or the percentage of emails that actually reached your customers after discounting messages that bounced or were delivered to the spam folder.

A number of things impact your deliverability including customer complaints, and Noel says it is important to monitor who is marking your emails as spam. “From a tech point of view you need to connect to the ‘this is spam’ button,” he says. “It’s important to collect that data and make sure you don’t resend an email to that client.”

2. Keep your list clean

Although most brands want to cultivate a very large email database, sending your messages to more people does not necessarily translate into more engagement and sales. “It is a mistake to build your organisation with the wrong people in your database,” explains Noel.

“That’s the first mistake—it doesn’t create a successful foundation. You’re better off with a small number of very active, engaged clients than a big database.”

You need to keep track of inactive subscribers—those who have not taken any action on your emails within a certain timeframe—and segment them. “You should do a re-engagement program, which enables you to talk to them differently.

“For example, an email subject line that says ‘We haven’t seen you for 3 months, here’s $20 off your next order’. If you don’t engage these people it’s going to affect your ability to make it to the inbox, and your sender reputation.”

You need to proactively manage your list, which can be difficult if staff members are collecting emails at the counter as the potential for error is quite high. List hygiene services can help you manage this.

3. Testing, testing

Once you’ve made it to the inbox, standing out is complex but there are a few things you can do, including testing. “Each consumer receives hundreds of emails and he or she needs to make a choice about what is important to them,” says Noel.

Your subject line is what will entice customers to read your email and so you need to ensure it’s the best it can be. “The subject line is beautiful—you can test it. For example, at 9am you send your campaign to 1,000 people and you divide this into five different subject lines. By 9.10am you know which subject line is better.”

You should also ensure your ‘from’ email is an address customers recognise and trust. This should be consistent.

4. Target market

Email is a useful marketing tool as it can be extremely targeted, whereas with social media you are posting to a group of people. “Inside your group you would have different types of customers, so you can’t really target your message,” says Noel. “With email marketing, you can have 10,000 different permutations of the same email because you can segment it to the nth degree. This generates better revenue.”

Noel recommends segmenting your list based on the customer’s level of involvement with your brand. “Any retailer should be in a position to say here are my platinum clients, the ones that really love everything we do,” he says. “Then you go all the way down through gold, silver and bronze to the clients who are less engaged but still like the brand.

“Marketers need to find out how they can move people who are in bronze to silver and silver to gold and gold to platinum. How can you engage them? How can you entice them to become better customers?” Sending emails specifically targeted to them will help.

5. Welcome! Bienvenue! Willkommen!

Beginning an email relationship is just like meeting someone for the first time, and so you need to develop a welcome program that explains what it means for a customer to be in a relationship with your brand.

“When you meet someone for the first time, there are a lot of protocols you need to follow in real life, you don’t meet someone and just talk about everything and anything,” Noel says. “You have to build on the relationship.”

The easiest time to build a relationship is at the beginning when your customer first signs up.

You should:
• Send a confirmation email—this will help spark engagement and also maintain a clean list by verifying your subscribers.
• Develop welcome messages—these come in many forms (from a simple ‘Thanks for subscribing’ email to a multi-part series) but the purpose is to showcase the value of your email program.

6. It’s all in the timing

Your optimum sending frequency is a fine line between over- and under-mailing. Send too many emails and you risk subscribers ignoring you, unsubscribing and an increase in spam complaints. Send too few and you risk getting overlooked and forgotten.

Noel says it is all about treating each subscriber individually. “With some email programs, if you are a top member, you might be able to receive five emails a week whereas if you are in a lower tier you might only receive one a week,” he says. “It’s all about the targeted communication.”

The best way to find your frequency is through testing on small segments of your list, monitoring changes in unsubscribes, complaint rates, open rates, click rates and conversions. “There’s no magic number, you need to work hard,” says Noel.

7. Build to Christmas

Maintaining an engaged email list is important, and it becomes even more so in the lead up to Christmas. If you are sending emails with low engagement, Noel says that the following email you send will have even less. If you’re not keeping on top of this you could end up going all through the silly season with very few of your emails reaching the inbox.

“Building to Christmas is about increasing volume but making sure it gets to the inbox,” says Noel. “If a brand usually sends one million emails a month to their registered subscribers, suddenly from November 1, instead of one million they might move to five million a month. This represents a risk to their reputation.

“What’s going to happen is less and less emails will make it to the inbox, the marketer will think ‘What’s going on? Let’s send more email’, and they get into a vicious circle of sending more and more.

“It has a flown on effect that can be quite dramatic. In retail, Christmas is the pass or fail season—either you make enough revenue at this time or it will damage your whole financial year.”

The takeaway is to monitor your email marketing strategy throughout the year and keep your list clean to increase the likelihood of your emails making it to the inbox. Don’t wait until December to find out that you’ve been sending junk mail.