Good grief Alice Fay! The holiday emails are already starting and we’re not even done eating the Halloween candy.
Word on the street is that the big online retailers are pulling out all the stops to woo in the holiday shoppers. Target recently announced that they are going to match online prices from Amazon.com, Walmart.com, BestBuy.com, and ToysRUs.com. Not to be outdone, Toys R Us and Best Buy will price match online prices from Amazon.com, Walmart.com and Sears.com.
While the National Retail Federation is predicting holiday sales will rise 4.1%, it’s lower than last year’s 5.6% increase which means all of us retailers will have to try harder to earn the customer’s business.
One of the most cost effective means of advertising to your customers and building loyalty with them is through email marketing. Providing them with timely information on new products, specials and the occasional “email only offer” keeps your store name up front and encourages them to purchase from you rather than search out another store.
If you haven’t started to plan your email marketing strategy for the holiday season yet, you should start today. Like I said in sentence one…. I’m already getting holiday emails – emails that may be from YOUR competitor.
On average you should connect with your customers via email at least two times per month. Now some of you may be reaching out to your customers more frequently and are having great success at a higher frequency rate, but for those who haven’t been using this form of marketing, two per month is a great starting place. As time goes on, you can increase the frequency of your sends while monitoring your open rates and unsubscribes to find an ideal number of sends that doesn’t turn away your subscribers.
Your email should contain what customers are looking for. The most effective emails you can send are blasts that offer special online-only promotions. After all, people are looking for deals all the time – so give them to them! Make your email subscribers feel special by offering them a special coupon code branded as a “subscriber only special.”
The second most effective type of email you can send is one that is based on what the customer has purchased before. If you’re tracking order data and segmenting your email list, this is something that can be very effective. For example, if you have a candy store and you just received a truckload of sugar-free Christmas candy, mine your email database and send out a special blast to all those customers who have purchase sugar-free candy in the past and tell them about this hot deal you have going on for a limited time only. Targeted emails can be very successful if done right even if they do take a little more time and effort to put together.
The third most effective type of email is the new product announcement. Lets face it, everyone wants to have the new iPad or the latest Charlie Sheen Limited Edition Animatronic Figurine. If you’re expecting new items to arrive, get that email queued up and ready to send the moment the inventory gets checked into your warehouse.
When it comes to holiday email blasts, everyone is going to be receiving a ton of email. You need to make sure yours stands out from the rest! Here are some things that I’ve found to work for me in the past when it comes to holiday email marketing:
- Free Shipping – More and more online retailers are offering free shipping deals year-round. If you’re already offering it, promote the heck out of it! If you’re not offering it, come up with some type of promotion that works within your margins and try to offer a free shipping deal.
- Loss Leaders – Find a few items that are popular and price them low. Promote them in your email blast to generate buzz and a visit to your store. The goal is to lure the customer in with a low price on a hot item and up-sell and cross-sell them so they buy more than just the item they came in for. The key here is up-selling and cross-selling – you need to be doing that effectively on the loss leader pages!
- Coupon Codes – Offering your customer a percentage off their order is OK. I prefer to work that discount into special holiday sale prices and free shipping where a code isn’t needed. However, coupon codes still bring in traffic if the discount is high enough, but I prefer to provide discounts and promotions in other ways.
- 12 Days of Savings – Old and trite but it works! Create your own 12 Days of Savings and offer your email subscribers one heck of a deal on ONE item each one of those 12 days. Don’t promote what the item will be ahead of time, let the excitement build as your subscribers head to their in-box each morning to see what’s on sale for that day.
- Personal Shopper – Now, this can be HUGE if done right. During the holidays I always promoted the fact that we have “Personal Shoppers” ready to help them select the right gift for everyone on their list. Provide the personal shopper telephone number (your customer service number) in the email, offer a special discount on all personal shopper orders placed and get your customer service department pumped up and ready to talk to shoppers, up-sell them and make them happy. Of course your customer service department needs to be at the top of their game for this to work properly – be sure to reward them for a job well done.
Finally, since this is long winded and you’re probably in need of a bathroom break, one more thing. I hate hearing store owners tell me, “Mary Smith from XYZ shop told me I was crazy for sending out an email on a Wednesday and that I should send them out on Tuesdays.”
Please remember, what works for one store may not work for yours. You’re going to need to experiment with different send days and times to determine which days/times give you the most opens and best response. I can say with certainty that over the years, there has not been one store that I have owned that had the same “best day” to send an email. One store may have stellar performance with an 8am send on a Monday while Fridays at 3pm worked great for another. You have to test and analyze results on a continual basis to determine what schedule works best for your customer demographic.