As the holidays quickly approach, marketers are scrambling to hone their strategies and maximize their share of wallet, but a new report indicates that email marketers with holiday-focused campaigns might inadvertently be lowering their open rates and hurting their chances at financial success during one of the most critical times of the year.
Tracking more than eight billion emails sent in the fourth quarter of 2017, the data analysis team at Yes Lifecycle Marketing found that holiday-themed emails generated 16.8% lower open rates compared to business-as-usual emails. Despite having lower engagement, holiday-themed emails still drove above-average conversion rates. Specifically, Yes Lifecycle Marketing found that although open rates for Cyber Monday emails were almost two percentage points behind those of standard messages, those emails were almost twice as effective in converting clickers to purchases.
“Traditional marketing incentives like price and quality are no longer enough to guarantee success because of evolving consumer behaviors and shopping habits,” explains Gurjit Sandhu, senior marketing specialist at Yes Lifecycle Marketing. “This suggests marketers need to rethink their strategy if they want to stand out and capture subscriber attention.”
Although general holiday emails produced lackluster open rates, more targeted promotions saw better results. For example, themed messages promoting free shipping generated an impressive 14.9% open rate and a 14.7% conversion rate. The analysis also found that conversion rates for Cyber Monday were the highest of all holidays. While click and click-to-open rates for Black Friday emails were comparable with standard messages, their conversion rate was 33% higher.
“Executing the right combination of email content, offers, and timing can significantly impact conversion rates, especially when subscribers are ready to buy—which is typically the case during the holiday season,” Sandhu says. “Oftentimes, themed emails with weaker conversion rates do not have persuasive call-to-actions that drive customers to make purchases. In this instance, it is likely that a spike in email volume during the holiday season means that subscribers are opening less of the emails they receive. However, the data suggests subscribers are still keeping an eye out for sales and offers, and a strong CTA in the subject lines will drive them to click and purchase.”
Analysts predict a 15% increase in e-commerce this holiday season, as consumers continue to make the switch from shopping in store to shopping online. This movement is opening up even more opportunity for brands to elevate their e-commerce experiences and sharpen their digital marketing strategies while still marketing their physical locations based on personal in-store experiences that can’t be simulated online. Sandhu says the brands that deliver relevant content and offers at the right time are the ones that will stand out to consumers when they’re ready to make holiday purchases. Messaging cadence and the right combination of email content and offers can also significantly impact engagement and conversion rates.
For example, Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s analysis found that click rates were highest for Thanksgiving emails sent on Wednesdays, and that many of the emails that contributed to the higher click rates were from brands that sent themed emails on Thanksgiving Eve with last-minute holiday prep tips or previews for upcoming Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales.
Brands should consider their subscribers’ needs and preferences if they want their marketing tactics to drive actionable results, especially during the holidays, explains Sandhu.
“Considering only 37% of consumers say that the communications they receive from retailers are adequately personalized, marketers need to rethink their standard holiday plans in order to stay competitive in a crowded retail landscape,” he says. “Brands can use elements like unique themes, reverse show-rooming and thoughtful packaging to deliver stand-out experiences that encourage customer loyalty.”
Stephanie Miles is a senior editor at Street Fight.