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A guest post by Paul Turnbull of Campaigner.

The Black Friday weekend kicked off an encouraging shopping season for retailers with the total spend reaching an estimated $52.4 billion. But there’s still a lot of shopping before Santa jumps on his sleigh.

Not everyone was prepared to hit the shopping malls and cyber stores so early. There are a lot of last-minute shoppers with long gift lists that are still a work in progress. They’re procrastinating, waiting for the best deals, or just can’t figure out the right gift for each recipient, so there is still time to sell.

In this sales cycle, repeated outreach and a little bit of competition can win over the dawdlers. Email marketing is a cost-effective way to market what you have to offer customers, whether selling toys, apparel, salon services, etc. To get the most out of your email marketing program during the holiday season, here are some suggestions to help you increase sales in the final weeks before Christmas.

Who Needs Carolers? Let Your Headline Sing

Grab your email subscribers with your first impression. For those who can’t figure out what to buy for friends, families, or colleagues, write a subject line that lets your readers know you are giving away useful information. Something as simple as “Five Gift Ideas for Your Child’s Teacher” or “Top Ten Secret Santa Gifts, All under $25” can turn out to be a gift itself for those who still can’t figure out what to put under the tree.

For shoppers who are looking for the best deals, a subject headline that includes a promotion or discount is more likely to cause them to click on your email. Let them know before they even open the email campaign that you’re offering a special promotion code or a discount if they purchase on a specific day or at a certain price point.

For those who are simply the last to join the holiday party, give low inventory notices on best sellers. Make sure they know when a sale will end or send a reminder about final shipping days for regular and overnight delivery.

Add Reindeer Speed to Abandoned Shopping Carts

If you have an online store, you are aware that some people fill up their shopping carts and then just leave it in the virtual aisle. Instead of wondering if the shopper has left the building or is planning to come back to buy everything in the cart, you can use this information to send out targeted emails. Remind them that they have unfinished shopping on your site. You can even invite them to come back by giving special offers, such as expedited shipping, free wrapping, or even a gift coupon for a 2012 purchase.

Start by sending a couple of different emails to a small group of shoppers who have abandoned their shopping carts in your store. See which offer brings back the most customers and use that incentive for the rest of the shoppers who haven’t closed the deal.

If you have a brick and mortar store, you can still use last-minute email campaigns to increase traffic to your shop. If you’re giving back to the community, make sure your email subscribers are aware of this. It may be a reason to spend money with you instead of the big box store around the corner. On the other hand, a $25 gift card with a purchase of $100 before Christmas may be just the ticket that gets folks to track back to your establishment. Exclusivity and urgency can give your offers that extra appeal that a customer may respond well to.

Transform January White Sales into Green

Customers have come to expect all-year-round deals and promotions. Don’t shut down your holiday email program when you take down your festive lighting. To everyone who bought something from you over the last two months, send them a thank-you email note that includes a discount coupon or promotional code. You should still wish people who didn't buy a happy New Year and let them know about your January specials.

Take some time to look at your email marketing reports. You have collected valuable information about your subscribers and can use it to segment your lists. For the contacts that opened or clicked a link in one of your emails, make them a priority, as they represent your most engaged subscribers. You may want to offer special deals or incentives to shop with you in 2012.

If they bought something, use that information to send targeted emails during the year. Remember, Valentine’s Day is soon to follow and your customers will be looking for new gifts for their loved ones.

Paul Turnbull is the product manager for Campaigner and is responsible for product design and providing an easy-to-use email marketing solution for SMBs. He can be reached at

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