One of the most effective marketing tactics to turn Christmas shoppers into buyers is email because it enables brands to send a very focused, personalised message.

Below are the key steps that commerce marketing teams should take with their email strategy to get organised for the most wonderful (and profitable) time of the year. 

Step 1: Looking back helps us look forward

A great starting point is to review your performance and sales trends from last year.

Keeping in mind that the Christmas season starts long before Christmas Day, a recommended starting point would be to look at activities between Black Friday and New Year’s (from 1 November to 4 January).

Map out the messages that didn’t connect with customers and think about what could be changed to rectify that. The analysis should then be used to establish open, click and conversion benchmarks for this year’s campaigns. 

Step 2: Make a top line impression

Having looked back at successful messages from last year, review the email subject headers that were used. What was their length? What was the type of tone; playful, promotional, elusive or a mix of these? Did the use of a special character (from a snow flake to a heart) help performance?

On the back of this, get together a small team to come up with at least five subject headers for each mailing planned for Christmas. All options can then be tested on a small scale to assess which one has the most potential.

Step 3: Meet with partners in good time

Meet with tech partners such as your Email Service Provider (ESP) in the summer/early autumn to discuss development schedules for the Christmas season. This will make sure that any new integrations, modifications to existing data transfers and other backend processes are resourced and sorted out in good time. 

Your ESP will be able to help streamline email production, deployment and data exchanges within the platform to ensure that you can get the best from your email programme.

If you don’t have an abandoned shopping cart email strategy in place already, now is the time to implement a campaign to rescue revenue when Christmas shoppers stray. 

Step 4: Audit forms to boost list growth

The Christmas season will increase your in-store traffic, so making sure to encourage email sign-ups is vital.

Create a centralised list of every form that collects email subscriptions to speed up potential troubleshooting during the most important time of the year. All these forms should be audited.

In addition to checking the preference centre, opt-in form and unsubscribe form functionality, try to objectively consider whether the forms encourage customers to sign up. For example, if there are forms for mobile devices, do they render properly on screens and are they optimised so that data entry is straightforward for the consumer?

It is worth featuring a pop-up email sign-up form on the website and using Facebook and Twitter to call out exclusive email offers that might tempt new subscribers. 

Step 5: Build the 2015 Christmas communication plan

With these steps completed and lessons learnt from last year, a roadmap for holiday success can now be created.

An example of a 2015 Holiday Communication Plan can be found in this downloadable spreadsheet and should include the following information: 

  • Send date
  • Mailing name
  • Day of week
  • Subject line options
  • Promotion information
  • Segment to be mailed
  • Goal, actual and difference for open, click and conversion rate
  • Goal, actual and difference for revenue 

As part of the planning process, it is also worthwhile to prepare contingency approaches in case the Christmas campaign doesn’t yield expected results. This might include small alternatives like changing promotions from percentage off to pound discounts, or bigger alternatives such as different email creative. 

Want to discover steps six to 10 for Christmas email merriment? These will follow shortly, so watch this space…