Halloween is in the rear-view mirror, and Thanksgiving is just ahead. It's official: The holiday season, for brands both online and off, is off and running. It's a high-risk, high-reward period, and standing out from the competition may be the difference between financial success and failure for the year.
For many organizations, that means getting a lot of messages out to a lot of recipients—fast and often. However, doing so—especially over email, risks overwhelming and annoying potential customers.
Getting holiday season email delivered and opened without irking your recipients is a challenge; fortunately, we've compiled eight tips, tricks, and learnings from 2016's holiday season that should help you refine your emails to bring your organization more cheer.
Let's take a look.
1. Look to the prior year
Year to year, holiday marketing campaigns should be distinct, but each campaign should take into account what has worked before. Look at previous holiday campaigns to identify what email copy worked and what didn't. Look into where customers are coming from when they clicked a link and what time of day they did so. Those are elements that can help inform a winning holiday email strategy.
2. Don't flood consumers with your emails
Consumers are bombarded with advertisements each holiday season. Yours will be among them. Avoid annoying your recipients and maintain a good reputation by moderating your email cadence during the holiday season. How? Easy: Ask your recipients—before and during the holidays—whether they'd prefer to opt in or out of holiday-related emails and how often they'd like to receive them.
3. Don't worry over personalization (too much)
For email marketing, the typical mantra is "personalization, personalization, personalization." Though that approach is valid for the vast majority of the year, it takes something of a backseat during the holiday season.
According to SendGrid data, the unique open rate for personalized emails during the holiday season is 15%, compared with 17% for un-personalized emails. The most important element in holiday emails, we found, is the value that the message provides to the consumer.
If you think your organization should send personalized emails during the holiday season, then prioritize your most engaged subscribers with special offers, previews of shopping holiday deals, and the like. Doing so ensures your most engaging offers reach your highest-value subscribers, who can also act as an early testbed for holiday messaging.
4. Avoid emoticons and symbols in the subject line
Emoticons are a popular medium to connect with consumers, but they don't belong in the subject line of your marketing emails. In fact, according to our numbers, using emoticons in the subject line could drop engagement by up to 5%. Moreover, symbols, such as "%," "#," and "!" increase the likelihood your message will be sent to the spam folder.
5. Less is more
In 2016, the most popular email subject lines were only seven words long. But don't be afraid of going even shorter! We've found that shorter subject lines, even down to two words, tend to correlate with higher engagement.
6. Separate your streams
If your organization is running an email campaign this holiday season, then it'll be running at least two different email types: transactional and marketing. Construnct the two with separate IP addresses and domains in order to monitor the reputation of each and prevent any cross-contamination if issues arise in your transactional or marketing emails.
7. Drop the deadweight
If an email address doesn't click or engage with your content within 12 months, then delete it from your lists. Cleaning your email lists may sound counterintuitive during such a high-traffic period, but sending email to unresponsive recipients risks capturing the ire of ISPs.
That's because old addresses can filter your messages into spam folders, which signal an unwanted email to ISPs. If enough such signals are sent, your messages could be filtered, blocked, or blacklisted by an ISP. That is not something an organization should deal with during the holiday season.
8. 'Black Friday' gets the black mark
Quick: how many times will a consumer encounter the terms "Black Friday," "Super Saturday," or "Cyber Monday" during the holiday season? The answer: too many times. It's easy to overload readers and recipients with these terms because they're used too often in messaging material during the holiday season.
In fact, we've found that subject lines mentioning a shopping holiday, such as Black Friday, tended to perform worse than those that do not. Avoiding these terms in your emails can help your message stand out from the noise.
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Email marketing and email delivery are both an art and a science—especially during high-traffic periods. Don't be afraid to experiment (and test!) with your email program during the holiday season, but avoid using tactics that lower your engagement and boost the likelihood your messages will be marked as spam.
Keep your messages brief and straight to the point, and measure email engagement. Happy sending!