As we inch closer to the active holiday promotions season, I am continuing the theme of what email marketers can accomplish now to prepare for the holiday season. This October it’s all about setting a foundation and kicking off the season with your first holiday-specific email campaign. 

This article is section 2 of a 4 part series. Read section 1 here

Here are five recommendations on where you should be focusing your time and energy this month: 

1. Backup Emergency Plan

Despite best efforts to project and achieve steep goals every holiday season, sometimes email marketers miss the mark. To combat this, get executive and legal buy-in now on a special promotion in the event that you cannot meet goals before critical shipping cutoff dates in December.  Although you may not end up using this campaign, by planning, developing and securing approval this month, you can hit send at a moment’s notice in December, and be a hero who saves the season.


2. Holiday Template Design

Don’t wait until the last minute to tackle your holiday email template design.  While typically a subtle change, the design can make an impression on your customers as they scroll through the inbox and compare offers.  Some ways to add a bit of pizzazz would be to incorporate a simple animated gif, showing twinkling lights or falling snow. Another idea is to have a countdown clock showing shipping deadlines at the top of your emails to incite urgency. The overall goal is to keep the template simple, while simultaneously, catching the eye of the consumer.


3. Develop a Gift Guide

Understandably, it can be overwhelming for you customers to know what to purchase, especially for those who are difficult to shop for. Make it easy by curating gifts by interest, price, gender or age. Then, gather key analytics such as click information from your emails to target subsequent emails.  For example, if your customer clicks on the gift category of “Gifts for Young Girls,” but doesn’t convert into a sale, you can follow-up by targeting that customer with appropriate products from that category. This is essentially another way of executing an abandoned browse program, if you don’t currently have a program set up for this.


4. Develop Holiday-Specific Segmentation

While it may be tempting to stick to your usual segmentation during the holiday season, I challenge you to consider testing a different segmentation strategy for the holidays. Buying habits are drastically different this time of year, and your current segmentation might be missing the mark. For example, if you have a lapsed segment based on 6 months of no email or purchase activity, you might not plan to email these customers. But what if these customers only buy from you during the holidays?  You could be missing valuable revenue from what is actually a seasonally active set of customers. These customers may only purchase your products in November and December, and ignore your brand for the rest of the year.


5. Campaigns for This Month

There are a couple campaigns that you should consider by the end of the month:

  • Preference Update – This should be a holiday specific, preference selection that allows customers to tell you who they plan to shop for, and if they want to participate in any campaigns with high frequency.  i.e. 12 Days of Christmas, daily flash sales.
  • Prepare Your Home for the Holidays – If you are a retailer that offers products in the home category, now is the time to promote products that will help your customers prepare their homes for holiday guests to make everyone happy.  Often, retailers have a limited inventory of special holiday products. Encouraging your customers to purchase these items before they go out of stock will ensure that they get exactly what they want.


By building a solid foundation this month, you will save yourself the added stress of an already chaotic season. Give thanks to your customers

If there are additional strategies and tactics you plan to challenge this month outside of what I suggested, please share in the comments below. 


This post was originally shared on MediaPost on October 8, 2015.

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