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The 2019 Holiday Email Marketer’s Checklist

holiday email campaign checklist

Got your holiday email marketing plans locked down yet? No shame if you still need to get back to school and Halloween campaigns out the dooryou’re not alone. 

A 2018 workflow study by Litmus found only 17% of brands start planning more than three months out for peak holiday, and between 30% and 40% don’t start until a month ahead, or even less.

If your company is one of the roughly 10% that plan six months or more, congratulations! If not, there’s still time to lay the foundation for some incredible holiday email campaigns. Check our holiday email marketing checklist to see if you have covered all the bases for the best holiday season ever.

  1. Know your goals for the season, and share them with your team.

Make sure everything in your marketing plan supports your strategies for achieving your goals; whether you need to hit a revenue amount, increase your market share, add new customers, retain more of your current customer base or recover more potential lost sales.

When your goal and strategies guide your email execution, you’re less likely to resort to less ideal measures like drastically increasing frequency if business conditions change.

  1. Test all email templates, integrations and automations.

Stress-testing everything now will save you time, frustration and lost sales later in the year when the going gets really crazy. It’s a must if you plan to introduce new templates, new automations and new technology.   

One of the things you can test is a new way to engage with your customers. For instance, you could try embedding video in your emails to help you tell your product story within your email messages. Customers then arrive on your landing pages knowing more about your products and closer to a purchase.

Embedded video in email has been a difficult issue in the past, but more email clients today can render it the way you intend. Test it in your promotional emails using RealTime Email and use Adaptive Testing in your triggered and automated messaging to send the winning version every time. 

  1. Tune up acquisition.

The holiday shopping season is already under way for many shoppers. Is your email program ready to welcome all the new customers who will find your website when they click on your search listings, find you in their social media channels or see an ad on TV?

Check all of your landing pages to ensure you have a friendly invitation to join your email program. Don’t just say “Opt in for our emails.” Tell your newbies what they’ll get in exchange for sharing their email addresses. 

Bonus tip: Add real-time verification if you don’t have it already to make sure those addresses are valid!

  1. Grab newbies at the start with onboarding.

Holiday shopping brings streams of new shoppers to your sites. Your onboarding email series can help you bring them into your fold, guide them through your site and start collecting data that you can use to personalize your future emails and web experience.

You could cross your fingers and hope they click the link to your preference center. Or, you could just ask them right in your onboarding email. Embedding an interactive poll lets you set up a fun interactive quiz in your first email to start the data-gathering process.  

  1. Find new ways to use data to enrich broadcast emails.

Gift-guide emails are a great campaign promotion because you can show off a range of products at different prices, all tied to a theme, your customer personas, the data you have on your customers or whatever makes sense for your campaign. 

There’s one problem: length. You need enough items to make them useful. But if they run on too long, you could lose viewers. Or, your email could get snipped or not render properly in Gmail and other email clients.

A slideshow functionality creates a smoothly moving collection of images in a single module, allowing you to do more with less real estate. You’ll avoid the user-experience failures that can happen with traditional image carousels or truncated messages and deliver plenty of inspirational content. And now, you can even incorporate dynamic personalization into your slideshows!

  1. Make shopping as engaging as possible.

Open the email. See the offer. Click the call to action. Buy. 

If only it were that easy to make a sale!

What do your emails do to nudge shoppers buy from you and keep your brand and offers in front of them? Three elements can make your emails more imperative for customers to act on:

  • • A countdown timer that shows customers how long they have to act, such as the time they have left for a flash deal, or builds anticipation for an event, like a product launch.
  • • An add-to-calendar functionality that lets email viewers add your event to their digital calendars, a move that generates a personalized calendar reminder without the need to send a reminder email.
  • • A live map to your nearest store to pick up an order or drive in-person traffic. You can even incorporate adaptive maps in your emails to show the nearest location changing according to where the customer is when opening the email.
  1. Bring social media and mobile apps into the email marketing mix.

Does your email plan include cross-promotion with your other digital channels? One great advantage of email is that it works well with social media and apps. 

One tactic is to cross-post your email content on your social channels and reward your top social influencers in your email content. (Do you promote opting in to email on your social About pages?)

With mobile, tap-to-text functionality can grab customers’ eyes on their phones and drive attention to your email.

  1. Track engagement across all messages, and watch for drop-off signs.

Open and click rates aren’t always the greatest metrics for measuring email value. When you view them over time, however, they’ll show whether engagement is trending up or down. Add a plan for coverage if campaign reports begin to show signs of subscriber rebellion (lower opens and clicks, higher unsubscribes or spam-complaint spikes).

Jump into action immediately if you see spam complaints increase. Analyze the numbers – how many, who they’re coming from, if they spike or come from a specific acquisition source.

  1. Create a strong repeat-purchase plan.

The old saying goes that a customer isn’t really a customer until the third purchase. The first purchase is easy. The second is a step in the right direction, but the third purchase means you’ve moved to the top of the brand consideration set.

A repeat-purchase plan to develop loyalty and drive up-sells and cross-sells can take several forms. See which combination brings the most shoppers back:

  • • Purchase reviews and recommendations in transactional messages
  • • A follow-up email with an attention-getting offer. Consider adding a tantalizing scratch-off experience to create an irresistible deal reveal right in the email.
  • • A personalized offer based on recent purchases using an adaptive couponing tool that can serve personalized deals to large-scale audiences.
  1. Solidify customer relationships with a year-end recap.

This isn’t the time of year to try to tackle all of your win-back and inactive issues. (Put that on your January “to-do” list instead.) But a year-end reminder about everything your customers did with their brands is a subtle way of reminding them about you. Include an offer to bring them back to your site one more time before the year ends.

If you have the data capability, you can send this to every customer who has bought, opened or clicked on emails, joined your VIP program or browsed products. We love this example from Ulta, who was able to make a great personal connection with loyalty members and triple time of open with this campaign.

If you can’t get that granular with your copy, try a year-end recap of your own company’s milestones. Frame it as what your teams were able to accomplish with your customers’ help so they feel as if they were able to contribute to your accomplishments.

Get inspired this holiday season!

Make sure your email program is ready for anything this holiday season. Find out how some of the world’s most dynamic brands are hacking the holiday inbox with innovative, results driving ideas in our exclusive lookbook. Download it now in time to prepare your campaigns!