Ask the Experts: Email Performance During the Holidays

Beth Perry, Content Marketing Editor

The countdown is on! We’re well into November, which means Black Friday is right around the corner and Christmas is just weeks away. Are you ready?

We hope you found some helpful holiday tips in our earlier posts on must-have holiday marketing campaigns and optimal sending frequency for the busy shopping season. But once you finalize the timing for your festive campaigns and they’re off and running, how should you expect them to perform?

In this final installment of our Ask the Experts holiday series, the team offers their thoughts on the typical performance for email campaigns at this time of year. What metrics should you expect, and how can you achieve the best results?

Tami UrbanTami Urban, Marketing Strategist: On average, my retail clients have shared that they plan to send around 25% more email than they did last holiday season. When doing that, you can expect lower open and click rates due to the sheer volume of original sends and remails; however, the ROI from those additional sends should be strong. Be sure to entice hesitant customers to shop early and often by adding a sense of urgency around your offers. Try using phrases such as “today only,” “act fast” and “ending soon” to help motivate those customers.

Since we’re starting to see promotions earlier and earlier in November, don’t wait until Black Friday to start showcasing your promotions. While the earlier promotions could decrease the revenue specifically attributed to Black Friday or Cyber Monday, these campaigns will still add to your overall holiday season bottom line.

And make your transactional messages work harder for you this holiday season. These types of messages are highly anticipated and personal, so engagement is strong. Find additional ways to add value, such as leveraging product recommendations or including an email sign-up. You could even spruce them up with a little holiday cheer and decorate them as you would your store front.

Anna PfeifferAnna Pfeiffer, Marketing Strategist: I can’t give you any definite numbers, but you should expect to see lower open rates; that’s normal! Click rates may be slightly lower as well, but those numbers shouldn’t be affected by the holidays quite as much. Remember: Your subscribers’ inboxes are jam-packed this time of year, so you can expect them to miss more of your messages than usual. No matter the open or click activity, ultimately, your goal is to maintain a conversion rate that’s in line with your average, if not better.

To keep engagement high and maintain a strong conversion rate, include relevant campaigns that will draw your subscribers in. Provide helpful gift-giving resources with gift guides and gift finders, such as a landing page for “25 gifts under $25” or others geared toward specific gift recipients (i.e. top gifts for women, various personas). Remind subscribers of shipping deadlines, and when they’ve passed, push e-gift cards. Be sure to include plenty of flash sales and deep discounts, as well as friends and family campaigns. Consider exclusive offers for email subscribers that they won’t find on your site. Overall, don’t send just to send – be sure you have something valuable to share.

David TaitelbaumDavid Taitelbaum, Marketing Strategist: 

Generally, you will likely see a decline in open and click rates. Inboxes start to get slammed, and your messaging can get buried. To help you have a better chance of being seen, I suggest sending first thing in the morning based on time zone if possible. And plan to remail your biggest promotions to those who didn’t open the email the first time.

If you never send on the weekends, give it a shot during the holiday season. People will likely have more time to sort through their inbox, and as a result, be more responsive to your messaging.

Greg Zakowicz Greg Zakowicz, Senior Commerce Marketing Analyst: This really depends on the brand. Look at your metrics from previous years to gather your baselines. Traditionally, I see a slight uptick in open rate but with a lower click rate. Subscribers will tend to open to see the offer, but some will just close out rather than clicking through to actively shop.

Try to preserve your open rates during this time of year by not mentioning the offer in the subject line (unless it is a really strong offer). People looking to buy have become accustomed to a specific incentive, and if they see a lower discount in their inbox, it gives them less of a reason to open.

And since it’s gift-giving season, your AOVs will likely be lower. Consider including gifts with purchases or offering tiered discounts to help offset this. But ultimately, it’s really a combination of things like your send cadence and promotions that will determine how your campaigns perform.

Remember: Open rates are subjective and very dependent on strategy. If you start sending to withheld or unengaged contacts, your open rates will go down. And the same goes for remailing offers to non-openers versus non-converters. In my experience, I tend to advise sending again to those who opened the first message but failed to convert, as they are already more engaged with you and could be more likely to respond.

Looking for more ideas and inspiration this holiday season? Find more valuable tips for a successful holiday season at Bronto’s Holiday Marketing Academy.