Getting festive email marketing right

Paul Ford, VP of product and marketing at SendGrid, gives advice to retailers planning their email marketing campaigns for Christmas.

For any retailer looking to attract new customers and increase sales over the festive period, email marketing campaigns can be very effective. Through email marketing, retailers can showcase new products, introduce new promotions and re-engage customers that haven’t shopped in a while, all of which will ultimately help to increase revenue over Christmas. According to a McKinsey & Company study, email remains a significantly more effective way to acquire new customers than social media – nearly 40 times that of Facebook and Twitter combined.

Retailers planning Christmas marketing may be surprised to learn that a staggering 20% of legitimate marketing email never reaches the customer’s inbox.

So, in the run-up to the festive period, businesses should consider following some essential steps to ensure that their Christmas marketing campaigns reach the inbox.

In order to avoid the spam box, retailers should firstly pay attention to the format of their email. A very basic, but fundamentally important, practice is to include a plain text version in an HTML email. Also, in an age where an increasing proportion of recipients open their email on smartphones and tablets as well as desktops, it’s important to make sure that email is optimised for different devices by using responsive design templates.

Secondly, retailers should aim to send an email that contains a sensible balance between text and images. Where possible, it’s better to send image-free emails, as images risk being classified as spam. Where using images is unavoidable, be sure to include at least two lines of text per image.

It’s also important to include an “unsubscribe” button in all marketing emails. While this may seem counter-intuitive, it’s actually preferable to make it easy for customers to remove themselves from marketing lists. Otherwise, people who don’t want to receive the emails won’t be able to take themselves off your lists and will just flag your email as spam. This is bad for your sending reputation and will infringe on your email deliverability.

Retailers should make their customers feel loved and valued by personalising any content they send out. During the sign-up process, most sites will have asked for a first name and last name, so use them! According to a report by Adestra, businesses can see as much as a 20% uplift from personalising messages.

Finally, subject lines can make a real difference to your Christmas marketing campaign. The best approach is to think ‘less is more’ – according to a study by Retention Science, subject lines with six to ten words yielded the highest open rates at 21%. Five or fewer words yielded an open rate of 16%, while 11 to 15 words had open rates of 14%.  So, keep it short and, if possible, personalise it. Good examples would be “David, your next mulled wine is on us” or “Lucy, 20% off onesies tomorrow.”

Retailers should also bear in mind that the festive period is a good opportunity to acquire new customers as well as to sell to existing ones. Create multiple opportunities for customers to sign up to your mailing list on your website or mobile app. Additionally, sign up messages should be short, and each time someone new signs up for a marketing email, send a stellar welcome email that’s personalised and makes a good first impression.

The overarching strategy of any email campaign should be to send the right email to the right person at the right time. Bearing this in mind when following these festive email marketing guidelines will make for a bumper Christmas and happy customers.

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