Your 12-Step Plan for Holiday Email Marketing

The leaves are turning, a chill is in the air, and e-commerce sites around the globe are gearing up for the holiday retail season. According to eMarketer, 2014 holiday spending topped over $100 billion in e-commerce alone – and that number is projected to rise in the coming year. Is your business ready?

Email marketing is a huge driver of sales for most e-commerce companies, but too often marketers end up writing Black Friday emails while the turkey’s in the oven on Thanksgiving. If you want to stay ahead of the competition, you need to make this the year you put together a solid holiday email marketing plan.

Ready to get started?

Step 1: Decide which holidays you’ll be participating in

For e-commerce sites – and savvy shoppers – the cornucopia of celebrated holidays has moved beyond the ones that involve family dinners. Now there’s Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and even Green Monday to consider, along with the traditional gift-giving holidays. If you can hit them all, more power to you. But it’s more likely that certain holidays will resonate more with your audience. Do your goods fit well with Christmas or Hanukkah promotions? Or maybe Halloween or New Years Day are more your cup of tea? Maybe Valentines Day makes your sales numbers’ pulse pick up? Put your focus there.

Business 2 Community has a great example of a holiday campaign calendar with all the important dates laid out. See the whole thing here.

Setting up your calendar for 2015 holiday ecommerce marketing

Step 2: Set up your promotional calendar

Now it’s time to map everything out where the whole team can weigh in. Marking all the important holidays and sale dates on your calendar allows you to get a visual on when would be the best time to send out emails. Your calendar can be as simple as a sketch on a whiteboard, but if you start adding many more types of content (like blog posts and social media posts) it may be smart to turn to something more robust, like Divvy HQ or CoSchedule.

Step 3: Plan out your emails

Email marketing requires walking a fine line between catching your list’s attention and annoying them so much that they unsubscribe. Your list’s tolerance may vary, but for a single day’s promotion (say, Cyber Monday), you’ll want to – at minimum – send three emails: a heads-up email, the day-of email, and a last-minute-don’t-miss-it email. For a longer sale, you’ll want to send emails when the sale begins, several reminders throughout, and an email on the last day. (Customers will get surprisingly angry at you for not reminding them that a sale is about to end.)

Schedule all these out on your promotional calendar.

Step 4: Segment your email list

If you haven’t already been segmenting your email list, it’s time to step up your game. Look at factors like:

  • Most active users
  • Geographic location
  • How they got on the list
  • How frequently they purchase from you

To get inspired, check out this oldie-but-goodie post on HubSpot: 27 Ways to Slice & Dice Your Email List for Better Segmentation.

Step 5: Set up personalized campaigns

Now that you’ve segmented your list, it’s time to figure out what you can offer them. Grab your most loyal customers’ attention with store credit on Valentines Day, or entice them to tell their friends by offering a referral bonus. Offer special localized deals based on geographic location. Entice back shoppers who haven’t been on your site for a while with a coupon just for them.

Step 6: Automate what you can

For heaven’s sake, save yourself some time during the holidays! Brainstorm ways to create automated emails based on behavioral triggers, such as unopened emails, site visits, engagement, etc.

Recover abandoned carts with WooCommerce WordPress plugin

One fantastic trigger moment to take advantage of during the holiday season is emailing customers who’ve abandoned carts. Automate this with a WordPress plugin like WooCommerce Recover Abandoned Cart, which lets you automatically send emails to shoppers who’ve somehow dropped out of your shopping cart funnel.

Read more: 3 Triggered Email Strategies You Need To Succeed

Step 7: A/B test *everything*

Many of the most popular email marketing programs have automated A/B testing options that allow you to test subject lines, CTAs, time of day, and more. Now’s the time to experiment with them. What resonates more with your customers: being offered $15 in store credit, or 15% off their purchase? Does “Free Shipping” or “Free Gift With Purchase” earn you more opens? Use everything you learn to inform your next email campaign, and keep track of the data to analyze and implement for next year’s holiday season.

To dive in deeper on email A/B testing, check out this post on KissMetrics.

Step 8: Optimize for mobile

Over 50% of emails are opened on mobile devices, so if your emails aren’t mobile-friendly, you’re in big trouble. When you’re previewing emails, be sure to check them out on your mobile device as well as your computer screen, and make sure the CTAs and links are all easy to spot.

Remember, if someone is heading to your e-commerce site from that email, your site needs to be optimized, as well. We’ve written in the past about making sure your website is responsive. If you need any help leading up to the holiday season, please get in touch today!

Step 9: Dial in those CTAs…

Speaking of CTAs, what exactly do you want your customer to do when she opens your email? It can be tempting to put tons of information in every email, but instead, stick to the point. Your customers don’t have much attention span to give your emails, so draw them in with a great headline and tell them exactly what to do.

Step 10: …and those landing pages

Nothing will frustrate your customer more than clicking on a link that says “shop our Ugly Sweater Sale”, only to be linked to your home page with nary an ugly sweater in sight. That instantly creates a sense of distrust with your customer. As your create your CTAs, walk through the experience in your mind. If you clicked that link, what would you hope to find? Make sure your customer finds it on the perfect landing page.

Step 11: Proof, polish, and hit send

Now it’s time to actually write that content! Remember, your customers are already getting a ton of email this year, so take the time to give each of your emails a good spit shine. Check all those links, make sure all those images are optimized for inboxes, and have a few sets of eyes glance it over for misspellings and grammatical errors.

Step 12: Analyze your results and get ready for next year

Collect all the data you can throughout this holiday campaign, and once the holidays are over, set aside some time to take a look at how you did. Which sales performed better than expected? Which performed worse? What were the results of your A/B tests? Which specific emails had the best click-through rates? (It was the one with the kittens in Santa hats, wasn’t it?) Use this knowledge in your email campaigns for the rest of the year.

Happy Holiday Shopping Season, everybody!

Which holidays do you plan to do your biggest campaigns around? Let us know in the comments.