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Planning your Christmas Emailing Strategy

September 5, 2011

Unlike your last minute Christmas shopping; successful Christmas email marketing campaigns cannot be put off. Whether you work in B2B or B2C, planning for your Christmas email marketing campaigns is something you need to start now! This article provides some tips to maximise the success of your email marketing campaigns during this period.
According to the IMRG Capgemini e-retail sales index; consumers spent £6.4 billion online over Christmas 2010, up 16% from 2009. In many cases retailers earn more in the 10 weeks prior to Christmas than the other 42 weeks of the year put together.
While your search marketing strategy, online and offline advertising will bring you new customers, email will enable you to drive sales from existing customers and warm prospects.

Start early

Your busy period might start in late November and run into December, but your customers will be starting to think about what to buy well before this. They may never have thought of using your site for buying gifts for friends and family so email is a great medium to remind them that they can do this. These early emails may not generate many of your Christmas orders, but they will plant the seed in your customers mind to come back when they are looking to buy.

Analyse your 2010 campaigns

  • What worked best?
  • What subject lines generated the most opens, and what offers, product lines and approaches generated the most click throughs and conversions?
  • How did your contacts respond to your increased frequency?
  • What were your competitors doing that you should have been doing better?
Chat to your sales team and collect their feedback and analysis on how customers behaved and what they responded to last Christmas. Speak to your finance people and get them to run you some key reports on which products/lines/offers performed best both last Christmas, and throughout the year. Based on your findings from all this analysis you will be in a position to draw up an outline plan of:
  • What your pre-Christmas marketing offer is
  • How you want to offer it
  • Who you want to offer it to

Finish late

People can make purchases 365 days a year through online stores, including Christmas Day. Hit-wise, reported a similar level of traffic to retail sites on Christmas Day compared to the lead up to Christmas. This suggests people are making or planning to make purchases on these days making sending timely emails on these days a worthwhile activity to stimulate interest in the post-Christmas sales.

Think about data capture

Emails containing targeted content based on customer data are proven to return higher ROI than untargeted, 'blanket' campaigns. This is the busiest time of the year in recipients’ inboxes and you need to focus on the relevancy of your content. Avoid the blanket approach at Christmas and use targeted, data rich, opted-in lists.
If you don't have all the data you need for targeting, it's not too late to collect it. Start running customer surveys or competitions right now, and build in a data collection element. Promote these at all your customer touch points, always including your website.
If you have an online store, it is likely to be getting more visitors per day over Christmas than at any other time of the year. Whilst you might have devised a site with a high conversion rate there will be many shoppers who decide not to buy so think about what incentives there are to register their details with you.

Ideas to stimulate your visitors

  • Exclusive daily special offer alerts
  • Register for Stock updates when popular items become available again
  • Free prize draws
  • Discount vouchers for use after Christmas
  • Exclusive January sales preview alerts

Who are people buying for?

Your customers are usually buying for their own needs but over the Christmas period it is more likely to be for friends and family. This means you will need to alter your email communications to reflect this. Generally this will mean not just tailoring the products offered but also providing new features such as recommendations for specific types of family members.

What did people buy last year?

While not always the case it can be useful to know what someone purchased last Christmas in order to target them with either the same or similar products. The theory will work in many cases that if they previously bought something like a particular CD then they are likely to buy another one this year.

  • Insert the same product as the main offer within the email if appropriate
  • List upgrades, accessories and complimentary products for purchases made last Christmas
  • Inform about any new additions in the product range


  • In addition to tailoring content upon what someone purchased last year there are other segmentation options to enhance the response rate of email campaigns including:

  • What other similar segments of customers purchased last year

  • What other people in that segment have been buying as gifts so far

  • Tailoring offers which would appeal to a person’s particular demographic

Implement a testing plan

To ensure your email campaigns hit the right spot we always recommend running tests on different elements such as subject lines, call-to-actions, products featured or anything else you feel is important. Running some simple tests to small samples of your database can enable you to gain significant uplifts in open, click or purchase rates by choosing the best performing version.

Another way of looking at it is you can make sure you avoid sending your customers an email that will generate low levels of sales by only sending to a small sample rather than the whole database.

Measure the sales

To truly gauge how effective your email campaigns are you need to track the sales from these. Some analytics packages will enable you to do this but this usually involves manually adding tracking links on every URL and they usually do not track which customers have bought.

Other insights you will be able to glean by using your email service providers tracking include:
  • Which links in the email generate the most sales?
  • What versions of the email generate the most revenue?
  • What segments of the database are buying?

Your subject line is crucial

All your customers inboxes will be rammed with promotions before Christmas from other retailers including those from your competitors. With all this added clutter you will need to try that bit extra to capture the recipients attention.

Your key tool in doing this is your subject line. Here are some different styles you should be using:
  • Inserting relevant product names that the segment might be interested in purchasing
  • Talk about product categories that you offer
  • Create urgency – utilise messages such as “last few days for Christmas delivery” or “Only a few in stock”
  • Highlight your unique proposition – is it free delivery, stock of popular items or a price point?
  • If you have a particularly hot product that is this years must have you can’t go wrong in including that in your subject line
  • What won’t work well this Christmas will be generic subject lines such as “Latest products this Christmas” that will fail to inspire your customers to open your emails.

After a purchase

When thinking about your email campaigns don’t just think about running a standard newsletter style but think about the other types of emails you can send. For example consider sending everyone who makes a purchase a special email a few days later to try and drive further sales. These people have already made the decision to trust you as a supplier so are more likely to be receptive to your messages.

This could include:
  • More gift ideas based upon who they have not purchased for
  • Encourage them to purchase gift vouchers from you if they cannot think of what to buy for certain friends and family

A customer is not just for Christmas

You may be very successful in generating new customers in the run up to Christmas but what about the following year – how are you going to turn these customers into all year round customers? This planning work should be done before Christmas is over as the few weeks after Christmas are crucial. While your messages before Christmas might be relevant in terms of what their gift buying needs are think about how each of your segments buying needs will change after Christmas. If your new customers start getting irrelevant messages after Christmas they may switch off you for good.

One tactic we have seen work quite well for a client is sending a voucher to new customers that they can redeem after Christmas.

And remember, a Christmas e-card helps build customer loyalty and brand recognition, so don't just make it a commercial message, make it have a feel good factor

The above ideas will hopefully get your creative juices flowing for what you can do with your email marketing over Christmas. Above anything else however you should remember that if you stick to the golden rule of email marketing – delivering timely, relevant emails – your Christmas email campaigns will help you have a Merry Christmas. 

Posted by Jenni Malley

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