A few weeks ago I hosted a webinar with email marketing guru, Michelle Johnson, for our Solid Cactus customers. The topic? Getting your email marketing in-check for the holidays. After all, this is the biggest selling season of the year for most eCommerce merchants.
This time of year everyone’s inbox get full of coupons, special sales, limited time offers, and whatever kind of “once in a lifetime” sale marketers dream up. As an eCommerce store owner, you need to make your email stand out from the rest so the recipient doesn’t just click the delete button when the “You’ve got mail” sounder goes off.
Top help your message rise to the top, here are 12 tips courtesy of Michelle that can help your open and conversion rates:
- Set Goals. What is the goal of your email marketing campaign? Is it to get new customers, increase revenue, increase order size? Don’t just throw an email out there because you think you should. Define your goal, create a path as to how you’re going to achieve it, then act on it.
- Look Back to 2010. You may have had a great idea for an email campaign last year and the open and click through rates were horrible. However, one email that you sent out saved your fourth quarter. Take a look at all your holiday email marketing efforts from last year and don’t be afraid to resurrect one that worked really well. To quote Michelle, “Don’t be afraid to recycle an offer as ‘Back by Popular Demand.’”
- Create a Timeline. Set goals as to how often and when you want to send out your emails and don’t forget special dates like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, holiday shipping cut-offs, etc. Michelle and I both agree that the best frequency for sending out an email is one every two weeks.
- Black November -vs- Black Friday. With the economy the way it is, many stores are not going to wait till Black Friday to push out the best deals of the season. Look at your competition and see what they’re doing. Don’t lose sales because you don’t want to start deals until Black Friday. If your competition is doing it, consider going along for the ride.
- Cyber Monday. What Black Friday is for bricks-and-mortars, Cyber Monday is for eCommerce merchants. In 2010, $1 billion was spent on this stay-at-home and shop from the computer holiday. One interesting stat Michelle brought up was that 77% of all online merchants plan to send at least one promotional email to their subscribers on Cyber Monday. So, start thinking about what you’re going to be doing for the big day and get that email ready.
- Free Shipping Day. If you’re an eCommerce store that offers free shipping every day, you already know the benefits that provides. But for those that don’t, here’s an opportunity for you to give it a shot and see how well it does for you. Free Shipping Day is December 16th and right now more than 2,000 merchants have signed up for this promotion. A quick scan of the participating stores shows that size doesn’t matter. You’ll find big-box stores as well as small online retailers participating. If your profit margins allow for such a promotion and you want to take advantage of the PR opportunities surrounding Free Shipping Day, sign up at https://www.freeshippingday.com.
- Choose What You Want to Offer. Lets face it, you may not be able to offer the kind of deals the big boys are doing, but that shouldn’t preclude you from putting a killer offer together for your customers. Look at your numbers and see what you can afford to do. Can you do a site-wide discount? How about a free product with any order? What about a discount on ground shipping? Your customers are pretty much going to expect “some” type of offer, come up with one that fits your budget and is enticing enough to get the sale.
- Create A Sense of Urgency. Christmas is still two months away, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t start promoting holiday sales and offers. Most bricks-and-mortar stores offer pre-holiday sales, early bird discounts and other incentives to get people to shop before the big holiday rush. Create limited time discounts and sales before the final countdown begins to get shoppers to start buying early. If you’re a little light on staff, these early deals may also help by giving your warehouse staff a little breathing room too.
- Keep Mobile in Mind. When preparing email messages to go out to your customers, make sure you provide an alternate version that can be viewed on mobile phones. These emails should be no more than 640 pixels wide, be less graphic intensive and less text heavy. Most email providers allow you to create alternate versions or a text-only version for mobile users. And if you haven’t gotten a mobile version of your website yet, what are you waiting for!
- Use Social Media to Your Advantage. Facebook and Twitter were the first places shoppers turned to last holiday to see what kind of deals were being offered by their favorite stores. If you don’t have a social media strategy in place now, where have you been? Create special deals and promotions for your Facebook and Twitter followers and encourage your customers to visit your Facebook page and follow you on Twitter for those offers. And most importantly, don’t just use these venues to push out coupons and deals… use them to engage your followers by holding contests, encouraging photo sharing, reviews, etc.
- Segment Your List. List segmentation is key to a successful email marketing campaign. By segmenting your list you can tailor your message and increase conversions. If sell supplements and a new prostate supplement arrived in stock today that you want to promote to your base, if your list is segmented properly you can send that email out to men over 40 rather than your whole list. List segmentation allows you to know your customer better and provide them with a better email experience which in turn increases your open and click-thru rates.
- Provide Value. Value can be found in other areas besides sales and coupons. By giving your customers tips and advice in emails along with the occasional sale, your chances of keeping them subscribed and coming to you to order increases. If all you do is send out sale emails, chances are your customers are just going to trash it if they’re not in the need of what you sell. Informational emails go a long way into building a strong list and strong customer relationships.
Finally, one question I’m always asked is, “What is the best day to send an email?” The only one, clear answer to that question is – the day that works best for you.
While a Tuesday send may result in great numbers for one merchant, a Friday send may send sales through the roof for another. The only way to properly determine which day of the week is best is to test. You may be surprised at what you will find.
So there it is, 12 tips for putting your best email forward this holiday season.