How should retailers approach email frequency at this time of year? Is it more acceptable to up the number of emails sent? 

Parry Malm, Account Director at Adestra:

Retailers who worry about email volume have poor attribution modelling. Last-click may make sense in a paid-search context, but not email.  

People see your from name and subject line in their inbox whether or not it gets opened or clicked. It’s a branding channel, a nudge, and sometimes also a direct response channel.  

Therefore, the answer to the frequency question during the busiest retail period is simple: send out as many emails as you can. And then send out a few more.  

For a bit of fun, keep a control group who get sent no emails whatsoever to correctly attribute both direct and nudged revenue to the email channel (if you dare!)

Philip Storey, Global Head of Strategic Services, Lyris

It is, but only if it must go beyond simply supporting the brand needs to amplify the marketing and advertising efforts around Christmas trading. It must be a relevant ramp-up for individual prospects and customers.

What I mean by that, is instead of increasing frequency for all, be smart with targeting and segmentation. In terms of engagement-based segmentation, look for those prospects that are opening and clicking more often but not converting.

Then look at purchase patterns and which segments might be more lucrative to you there. One of these segments that is often overlooked, is those that bought at a similar time the year before – understanding and developing a proposition for seasonal purchasers can be very effective.

The blend of these two simple tactics can be incredibly powerful.

Lucy Wilsdon, Head of Enterprise Sales at Pure360

I think that the public accept that their frequency of purchase increases this time of year, so there is a great opportunity and, if you are not trying to convert this opportunity, your competitors will.  

I would suggest dedicated campaigns about Christmas, as long as you can add value and have content to share. Remember Christmas is a great time to add value, discuss what differentiates you from your competition, be it customer service, wish lists or return periods.  

If you have a soft sign up and an account page then use this heightened period of engagement to encourage your recipient to sign up for accounts and give you more of the vital customer data that you can use later in the year.

Matthew Kelleher, Chief Commercial Officer at RedEye:  

Yes, it’s OK to up the email frequency as long as the consumers is engaged… and as at all times of the year engagement is key.

Also, the key rules still apply… but it’s like you are getting some time off for good behaviour… you can get away with more at this time of year!

As usual, make sure emails are timely and relevant, don’t just blanket mail all inactive data (identify seasonal purchasers and run targeted campaigns).

Frequency can be increased but you shouldn’t start mailing your inactive data to the same level as your engaged data (Green+ / Green / Yellow / Red A/B).

Suggested mailing frequency:  

  • Green+ – 2x p/week
  • Green – 1x p/week
  • Yellow – 1x fortnight
  • Red A – 1x Month
  • Red B – 1x Month (Key period only)

Remove purchasers from selected campaigns (or all purchasers from the last seven days) if they have already purchased and the next set of campaigns feature a better or more compelling offer than the one they purchased through.

Remember that increased frequency may impact on delivery speeds so plan your campaigns effectively. Make sure you send the engaged data first and remember that everyone else will be increasing volume so be aware of slower delivery speeds 

Run ‘mop up’ Basket Abandonment follow up campaigns that run on the last pay day/delivery day before Christmas to target those who have previously abandoned in the last 30 days but not gone on to purchase.

Make use of campaign management tools to run automated follow up programmes to non-openers and those who have opened but not purchased.

Test and learn by reviewing what you did last year: what worked, what didn’t and how can you improve on it

What are the best tactics for email design? Does a picture of Santa and some snow really work? 

Parry Malm:

Focusing on email design is fun, but if only 15% of your list is opening your emails, shouldn’t you spend your effort and budget on the disengaged 85%, who clearly don’t give a toss about your pretty design?  

Focusing on your subject lines is time better spent than photoshopping a picture of Santa into your images. 

Philip Storey:

There are two ways that I believe you can look at seasonal email creative. The first is the inspirational approach, where we aim to seduce with design in the inbox.

It works for some brands, but has proven time and time again, to be less effective than the second option we have available.

The second option is to stick to your guns and use all of the knowledge and progress you have made with your email marketing creative over the year and make sure all of that best practice, testing learnings and so on, is poured into your Christmas email campaigns. 

Lucy Wilsdon:

Your email design should reflect the cultural currency that is Xmas, why would you not reflect what everyone is thinking about in your emails?  

Yes you can add Santa, but my favourite example is using geo targeting to know where someone is in the country/world and show them a snowy sky line i.e if they are in London then show a snowy Big Ben, etc. and if they are in Brighton show a snowy Pavilion.  

This is easy to achieve and effective in driving home some personalised content.  It’s worth remembering that of all the emails that are sent out over Christmas, few will make investment so to get ahead of the curve is easy and everyone loves an easy win.

Matthew Kelleher:

Create a sense of urgency (last chance for delivery or selling out fast) with the subject lines and make sure the creative, is clear concise (mobile responsive) and directs users through to the right page (ideally dedicated Christmas landing pages).

There are also some key things to remember about Christmas – firstly, keep it fun into Christmas campaigns. Animated gifs, videos, teasers, social interaction: now is the time to use these ideas.

A favourite here is to use Advent campaigns where the recipient expects an offer/ handy hint a day. However, this may have had it’s day, although the concept tying it in with the holiday AND the fact that it lets you drive extra frequency is also a benefit.

Another element of Christmas that can be forgotten in the rush is that you should not just be doing the hard sell at Christmas: bringing brand engagement and service levels back to customers at this time is also key.

How important will mobile-optimised emails be this year? 

Parry Malm:

There’s been very little conclusive research into whether or not responsive design drives response. It’s not gonna hurt, but it may not be the promise land.  

In 2014 it will be important insofar as everyone is going to be doing it and throwing cash at it. But, it may not change your life, so temper your expectations. 

Philip Storey:

Some of our clients see upwards of 60% of their emails opened on mobile devices. That is a staggering number, and therefore mobile optimised emails are absolutely critical for retailers at this time of year.

Eyeballs will be on the mobile inbox more than they ever have been before, and consumers will have less time to interact with marketing messages.

Using responsive design techniques is critical in ensuring that your proposition and content are seen immediately when the email is opened.

Optimising is no longer optional, it is 100% critical.

Lucy Wilsdon:

Mobile is a demographic, and research shows that conversions on devices are greater than desktop.

I talk a lot about engagement and conversion (in that order) and even without a fully optimised mobile site, you want to be able to engage with your customers and sending them emails they can’t engage with, with call to actions right at the bottom of the email with pages and pages of scrolling including left to right well wont help.

The in-box is a cluttered environment so ensure that your competitors are not gaining market share because they allow engagement.

Christmas email marketing

What’s the one tip you would give to retailers to help with their seasonal email marketing this year?

Parry Malm:

Read my subject line report, and test the shit out of your subject lines.  

For Christmas this year, I’m asking Santa for a one-trick pony, because it’s the pony that makes the most money. 

Philip Storey:

Work more closely with your wider marketing teams than you ever have before. Email marketing can sometimes operate as a silo channel, and it is this time of year where that is definitely seen the most.

You can’t afford for that to happen to your email marketing this year. A joined up approach to marketing, advertising, PR, community management and customer services is fundamental in meeting consumer expectations.

Work with people in those teams in your organisation that you may have never spoken with before, it might just be your secret weapon.

Lucy Wilsdon:

List the opportunity that you have i.e. conversion, engagement, driving engagement through channels, referrals, wish lists and ensure that you are using the time of your to gain all of them or as many as you can.

Conversion is king but make sure you pick the rest of the low hanging fruit as well.

Matthew Kelleher:

Customers don’t browse stuff they are not interested in… use this behavioural information and the products that your customers browse in your email campaign.

It will improve performance and make your mailings mega-relavant!