Until recently, marketers have been able to reliably look at past holiday performance as a strong starting point to build their email strategy for the next. But this year? Not so much.

Retailers and researchers alike have scrutinized consumer behavior closely since March, looking for trends and changes in shopping patterns. This report title from WARC, based on panel data and insight from media firm Meredith, sums up the general direction of most of the research so far: “Meredith predicts consumers will use e-commerce to drive an earlier, quieter 2020 holiday season.”

The 10 statistics below show a combination of two big trends: Consumer behavior shifted significantly in the first seven months of 2020, but marketers can still base their planning on a few fundamentals. 

1. 48% of holiday shoppers expect to spend less to “a lot less” than last year. Nonretail services like dining out will be affected most. (Coresight

2. One-third of holiday shoppers expect to do their shopping on Amazon Prime Day, which is expected to be in October. Another 28% said they will start their holiday shopping earlier than usual, 18% said they would shop on Black Friday (Coresight)

3. The proportion of consumers avoiding any kind of public places, especially malls and shopping centers, spiked to 85% in late July, reversing a gradual decline (Coresight). 

4. 73% of holiday shoppers will purchase primarily online this holiday (Netimperative/Rakuten).

5. More than 72% of consumers believe the 2020  holidays will be different from past years. (WARC/Meredith)

6. 50% of consumer families have someone concerned about a job. More than a third of them have already experienced some loss of income. (WARC/Meredith)

7. July, August and September have the highest rates of shopper interaction with customer reviews, photos, and questions and answers as they research gifts online. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

8. October is the month when shoppers are most likely to submit reviews and questions as they intensify their gift shopping. (NetImperative/BazaarVoice)

9. Retailers’ loyalty-program members generate 12% to 18% more revenue for retailers than non-member customers (Accenture Interactive).

10. 36.4% of consumers say they don’t consider themselves brand loyal until they’ve made five or more purchases from a brand, and 36.5% of shoppers said they will spend more on products if they’re loyal to a brand.  (Yotpo).   

What now? How to act on new insights

Most of the evidence points toward an unpredictable, difficult holiday season for email marketers, right at a time they’re under more pressure than ever to drive results and make up for lost time. Creative, innovative measures will be needed to stand out in a crowded inbox, keep revenue flowing, and stay essential to your team.

Download the 2020 Holiday Email Lookbook for ideas and inspiration to update your email strategy for a new kind of holiday season. You’ll get actionable tips and examples to help you pursue revenue growth, engagement, and efficiency when it’s needed most.

In a normal year, many email marketers would be hard at work right now planning strategy and campaigns for the holiday shopping season. But these days it’s hard enough planning a campaign just a week or two out, let alone three to six months in the future. 

And nothing’s more frustrating than scrambling to replace a campaign you had to scrap because something went wrong at the last minute—except, perhaps, scrambling in damage control mode as you realize a campaign you just sent has incorrect or outdated information.

This year, with so much riding on a successful holiday season, you must be able to plan campaigns knowing your hard work and creativity won’t be wasted if conditions change unexpectedly. But how can you do it without pulling your team off other projects to create and test hasty replacements?

Here’s the not-so-secret secret: Dynamic content that you can swap out as needed will keep your messages fresh and up to date no matter when your customers open them.

3 easy ways to work dynamic content into your messaging

Dynamic content lets you update messaging and creative in emails at any time. It’s as easy as changing out a header image on your website, and updates can be automated or made manually depending on the situation.

You probably know about some tried-and-true uses of dynamic content, like a map that shows your customers where to find your nearest stores. These days, with businesses opening and closing at short notice according to government requirements, that feature is more essential than ever. But dynamic content can do so much more, keeping all your hard work and holiday planning as evergreen as the finest tannenbaum.

Need some holiday email marketing ideas? We just came out with a new guide, the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook, which is filled with ways to use dynamic content to boost revenue, help your team work smarter and build customer engagement that makes your brand your customers’ reliable source for easy holiday shopping. 

Here are three tips from the Lookbook you can use right away to create campaigns that will stay relevant and usable months after you create them:

1. Give customers a gift they can open again and again

Keep your subscribers clicking on your emails with a multiple-day, multi-touch campaign that highlights different limited-time promotions (like a “Twelve Days of Christmas” campaign with last-minute gift ideas).

Dynamic content ensures that each subscriber sees only your current offer, no matter which email they open or when they open it. It ends the frustration customers feel at clicking on a tempting offer, only to find themselves shut out when they reach your website.

2. Make the moment unforgettable

Whenever you have a big event coming up, like your Black Friday kickoff or a VIP gathering at local stores, include an “Add to Calendar” function in your email invite.

With just a couple of taps, your customers can add your event to their calendars. They’ll even get a personalized reminder when it’s time to show up!  

3. Reduce your follow-up workload

Expired offers and out-of-stocks are some of the hazards that go along with the harried holiday shopping season, but they don’t have to be business as usual in your email messages. And, in this year of disruption and uncertainty, you could be dealing with other issues like merchandise delays and regional business disruptions, too. 

So, use dynamic content to update your outdated email automatically with correct information. Your customers will see only the updated content whenever they open the email – even after you send it! Your team won’t have to spend time on follow-up emails or even the dreaded “Oops!” apology email. This gives your subscribers a better experience with your brand, too.

Want to know more? Get the guide!

Your copy of the Liveclicker 2020 Holiday Lookbook is as close as a click. It’s free and filled with great tips to help you leverage the power of dynamic content and moment of open technology for more relevant and engaging email. 

Download your free copy now!

The Beauty industry has a long history of resilience and providing comfort in difficult times. As far back as the Great Depression, people who couldn’t afford expensive treatments could still often pop for Tangee or Max Factor lipsticks for a little help feeling special. 

This “lipstick effect” holds true in 2020 as the $75 billion U.S. beauty industry scrambles to make up losses during the coronavirus pandemic. DIY and self-care purchases have helped push online beauty sales up 20% to 30% over 2019, according to McKinsey, after most retail outlets closed.

The digital surge alone won’t be enough to make up the losses from store shutdowns and lower traffic to essential businesses, McKinsey projects. However, the move to digital could signal a long-lasting change for the beauty industry, where up to 85% of beauty sales happened in stores previously.

That’s why marketers must be ready to use all the digital channels at their disposal to stay connected with customers, today and in the future when retail operations begin to ramp up again. In particular, email’s cost-effectiveness and flexibility makes it a prime medium to serve as the foundation for digital relationship building.

Beauty marketers looking for advice can turn to a new Liveclicker guide, Preparing for the New Normal in Beauty: Preparing and Scaling Digital Customer Communications, for quarter-by-quarter strategies, campaign guidance and a new set of best practices that will help them respond effectively when customers are ready to return.

Will customers come back to stores to shop beauty?

Unlike the Depression or the 2008 recession, today’s “Great Cessation” is a double whammy: an economic crisis driven by a health crisis. “Business as usual” is a long way off, and we might not fully return to pre-pandemic conditions for some time, if ever. 

“Be prepared to adapt your hard-earned brand voice. Beauty products have long enjoyed a status as a fun, accessible indulgence, but even as commerce picks up, customers will be watching their money much more closely,” the guide advises.

Strategies and content must evolve

As a beauty marketer, you must be prepared to switch up messages as conditions warrant – especially in an environment that changes so fast. Email is ideal for this because you can get your messages in front of your customers quickly and tailor them by regions where conditions might vary.

Near-term: Use email to keep customers in the loop about store policies on safety, managing returns, gift cards or loyalty points that expired while stores were closed, delivery or supply disruptions (see the example below), options for low- or no-contact deliveries and payment and other key issues. Look for ways to build trust with new customers and maintain it with long-time and loyal buyers.

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Longer term: The months leading up to the holiday shopping can be a time to clear out inventory that built up in slower months. Acknowledge that many customers still face economic hardship. Explain how customers can shop in-store, online, in an app or by phone. 

This Tarte email promotes the payment plan AfterPay with the subject line: “for when you’re on a budget💸💸💸.” 

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Download your copy of Preparing for the New Normal in Beauty: Preparing and Scaling Digital Customer Communications for more strategies like these, along with detailed holiday season guidance.

Follow new best practices to communicate with confidence

The changes we’ve gone through since March mean your traditional beauty industry marketing playbook now needs a total makeover. The best advice? “Assume nothing.” 

The “new normal” of the moment has generated several new best practices, like these:

Adopt advanced personalization and moment-of-open content

Although no one’s certain yet what life will be like in the next year or so, the best advice is to remain flexible. Advanced personalization and real-time content combined with email allow you to pivot your messages swiftly, using customer data and moment of open technology. 

One example: notifying local customers about a store opening. Many retailers will roll out store openings gradually based on local conditions. Create emails that adapt to location data to let customers in a specific store’s market area know the store is open and what to expect when they get there. 

Wrapping up

Nobody says navigating these next month will be easy as we watch how the pandemic moves and where economic recovery is advancing or lagging. McKinsey even suggests we might not begin to see a recovery until early 2022. 

In this environment, tools that allow your email strategies to turn on a dime if conditions change suddenly and scale up personalization to keep communications meaningful and relevant are no longer “nice to have.” They’re an essential part of a modern email program that puts customers first – something that is more important than ever today and on into the future.

The cruise industry was one of the first to feel the full effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic earlier this year. Interest in cruising remains high, however. Cruise lines that can capitalize on that interest until departure day is safe once again are best positioned to endure through their toughest season in decades.

Innovative use of email will be a key asset for cruise line marketing teams working hard to reassure and engage passengers, update messages swiftly and create more personalized, relevant campaigns faster and more cost-effectively. Its cost effectiveness and flexibility offer marketers a powerful combo to continue engaging future passengers and weather the storm.

Brisk business in cruise shopping

So far in 2020, bookings for 2021 cruises are up 40% over the same time in 2019, a representative of Cruisecompete.com told the Los Angeles Times. Only 11% of those bookings were from people whose 2020 cruises were canceled, she said.

The demand for bookings, although a year out, is a bright spot in an industry that effectively shut down by government order, and it indicates that cruise passengers are still interested in sightseeing by water. Though there’s still uncertainty about how COVID and the resulting economic difficulties will play out, there’s reason to be hopeful for the future. 

Messaging to the new cruise market

A traditional single-note “Book This Cruise” message will likely not be enough to bring back a large swath of the cruise-going public. Cruise marketing must adjust to new expectations and concerns, address a changing lineup of passenger worries, and respond when conditions change unexpectedly. 

“We have seen consumers, at this stage, be more health-sensitive than price-sensitive,” Robert Li, director of the U.S.-Asia Center for Tourism and Hospitality Research at Temple University’s School of Sport, Tourism and Hospitality Management, told the Los Angles Times

A new Liveclicker guide, Email Marketing for Cruise Lines: Finding the Layline to Success through Personalization, gives marketers a quarter-by-quarter playbook of recommendations for sending emails that keep up with and even anticipate passengers’ interests and concerns.

Near-term email campaigns can focus on reassuring both passengers and cruise shoppers about health and safety measures and supporting passengers who booked on canceled or delayed cruises.

Reminding passengers of the good times they enjoyed on earlier voyages can keep the focus on positive developments for people who remain interested in cruising but aren’t ready to book yet. 

That’s why this email from Celebrity Cruises stands out. The message, sent to repeat passengers and loyalty program members, uses advanced personalization to pull in important data to populate a fond reminiscence about past travels. But beyond its friendly walk down Memory Lane, the email also uses a small but noticeable call to action to prompt the recipients to check out current deals. 

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As the weeks go on and shopper focus switches from seeking reassurance to getting back on board, cruise marketing should evolve to nudge browsers into booking. Promoting deals and low prices to spur bookings is one approach, as Royal Caribbean demonstrates:

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Achieving more with less

Notice something unusual about that Royal Caribbean email? It shows the real-time weather report for the next 5 days in the Bahamas, one of the destinations featured in the email. 

But here’s something you don’t see: Every time the email recipient opens the message, she’ll see an updated forecast, no matter how long after the company sent the email. 

Real-time dynamic content that updates content at the moment of open is more than an interesting “nice to have” feature. It’s a critical tool for any industry in which everything can change in just a few seconds, from schedules and offers to regulations and operating conditions.

It’s also one of the recommendations in Liveclicker’s guide to help marketers save time and money by reducing the steps needed to build and send highly personalized and effective email campaigns. 

Download your copy of Email Marketing for Cruise Lines: Finding the Layline to Success through Personalization to learn how advanced personalization, adaptive content and moment-of-open technology can help cruise marketers can send email with confidence and give passengers and shoppers a better email experience without adding team members spending precious time building and sending follow-up email campaigns. 

These recommendations will help you strengthen relationships and drive business in today’s turbulent journey and shore up your foundation as you move into your “next normal.” May it come with fair winds and following seas! 

Congratulations to Sandra Cordero, CRM manager for women’s apparel retailer Torrid, the 2020 winner of the Email Experience Council’s 2020 Stefan Pollard Award. Sandra is a good friend to Liveclicker, and her work and leadership are well-deserving of this honor.

Image from EEC

The Pollard Award is the most prestigious award in the email industry. What makes it unique among industry awards is that the email marketers who win it not only have to develop innovative campaigns but must also show that their strategies and tactics drive real results for their companies. 

That’s what Sandra was able to do with Torrid since she joined the women’s apparel retailer in 2016. Working closely with her team and Liveclicker, Sandra has proved again and again how innovation in email can drive revenue and performance for her company.

Her initiatives have contributed to a 44% increase in redemption rate and a 44% increase in revenue from digitizing Torrid’s omnichannel bounceback program. The email program itself has seen a 119% increase in total program revenue over that time, representing consistent double-digit growth year over year. 

“Working with Sandra and her team has been a reward in itself. She has an eye toward innovation and improvement that leaves no stone unturned. She’s so deserving of this award, and Torrid has the email performance to prove it,” Brooke Schommer, Account Development Manager who has worked closely with Sandra, says.

Sandra isn’t the only Liveclicker client whose work was recognized this year by the EEC. Faith Bukauskus of Hot Topic was an award finalist as well.

“Faith exhibits a fantastic can-do spirit that brings success to every project she touches, and has driven so much success for Hot Topic with her email programs,” Brooke says.

As a strong supporter of email for more than three years, Faith has driven double-digit returns in annual growth for the last two years. She reinvigorated Hot Topic’s email initiatives program and re-engineered the Black Friday plan, which included sending more activity-based personalized messages earlier in the season to warm up clients.

Torrid and Hot Topic in action

If you follow our blog or read our case studies and white papers, you’ve seen the innovative ways both Torrid and Hot Topic have used advanced personalization and moment of open technology to make their emails more engaging, useful and compelling for their customers. 

One of Sandra’s big successes was a total makeover of Torrid’s loyalty program that included developing a monthly rewards statement with personalized content based on behavior and rewards for members at each tier of the program. Customers love the email – it generates over-the-top opens and clicks – and have come to rely on it to track their status in the loyalty program.

Hot Topic was able to use dynamic content to solve a perennial problem – email recipients who click through on a tempting offer, only to find the product sold out or the promotion had expired. The brand now uses dynamic images and moment of open technology to substitute new images or offers if the original ones are no longer available.

What would Stefan say?

Stefan’s friends and co-workers remember him as a tireless supporter of email innovations that produce better experiences for customers and stronger results for brands, as well as email education to improve the entire practice of email marketing. 

We think he would be proud of Sandra and Faith and how they have adopted new uses of technology to create better experiences for their customers and their brands.

Our recent search for the latest in email marketing led us to Jessica Mirabelli, Digital Messaging Specialist at Bond Brand Loyalty—who served up three tales (two shareworthy, one cautionary) that put experience front and centre, both for consumers and for marketers.

Knowing her team currently designs, builds and/or deploys campaigns for 15+ brands – we’re glad Jess was able to narrow things down to a few examples that can resonate across the industry. Each of them showcases how optimizing lifecycle email can influence and extend the experience beyond transactional touchpoints, so let’s get to it!

Win #1: Redeeming for travel—and help along the way

Rewards programs and lifecycles go together like, well, pretty much anything that goes together, really. Any program, especially those based on redeeming points, can benefit from having well-mapped triggers going to work for them. In one brand’s case, a comprehensive communication strategy was already surpassing expectations. What led to the positive results? A focus on campaign engagements based on relevant customer journey touchpoints.

If you’re into specifics (we are, obviously), 1 of 5 members redeemed 5X more points than before the triggers were launched—and when it came to cardholders booking travel with their points, Jess and company saw an opportunity.

“Knowing we’d be reaching travellers when it matters was just the beginning,” she told us, “we had to pinpoint useful content, too, and unique ways to deliver it. The ‘what’ and ‘how’ are always just as important as the ‘when’.”

First, handy travel tips, combined with calculated content designed to reinforce the program’s key feature and benefits, hit your inbox post-booking. Then, timely look-aheads – scheduled according to your travel dates – take over with dynamic real-time content to help the brand make the most of the moment and stay with you throughout your travel journey.

Closer to your trip, with the goal once again being to show that the brand’s thinking of you – and to amp up your excitement – you receive an email reminder that your flight is just two days away. What’s packed inside? A checklist of travel essentials, as well as a live weather forecast for your destination. And to cap it all off, a day before your return, you get another checklist, along with a live look at what the weather’s supposed to be like once you return home.

No matter what mother nature has in store, members are left feeling valued and recognized.

Key takeaways:

Win #2: CTR (Convenience Through Registration) and beyond

Of course, you don’t have to have a full-blown program to be sending emails strategically. Say you have an event. And say email is one of your channels of choice for communicating with prospective guests/registered attendees. Now, step out of those hypotheticals and right into this real-life scenario that plays out for Bond every year.

See, every Spring marks a new launch event for The Loyalty Report, a Bond staple and the longest-standing and largest global study on customer engagement, loyalty attitudes, behaviour, drivers and disruption. 2019 marked the culmination of an annual effort to maximize the registration flow and keep one of the company’s calling cards top of mind.

In Jess’ words, “We’ve always sort of tinkered with how we should talk when it comes to events—and how often,” she noted, “this year we upped the cadence a bit, and thought a lot about how we could turn emails that are usually transactional, into key moments in the overall experience.”

That cadence makes up a lifecycle that’s built to expand the experience, while opening the door for engagement before and after the event.

Your Registration/Invitation arrives in your inbox complete with:

Your Weekly Reminders leading up to launch day build anticipation by featuring:

And last but not least, your Post-Event Communications empower you to:

In the end, Bond saw registrants confirm their attendance faster than any other year, and more surveys filled out than ever before.

Jess admitted the results have had a trickle-down effect within the company, since Bond engages an overall audience of more than a million through its email and campaign marketing. “It’s not just huge for us,” she asserted, “it gives us some tried and true best practices, and a solid foundation that allows us to confidently set up other brands for success, too.”

Key takeaways:

Myopic fail: Return to sender

Before we cast off here, we wanted to note: Subscribers may not have even realized these next events took place, so keep’em on the down low, ok? Kidding aside, Bond recently had to navigate some choppy waters after embarking on what’s usually an uneventful migration.

At first glance, everything seemed normal. It wasn’t until a few months after the migration that a deeper look into one campaign revealed a consistently large drop-off in opens for the entire lifecycle. Not just a couple of triggers, every email.

The problem turned out to be simple: A provider was blocking Bond’s domains and preventing the emails from being delivered. 

The solution? It ended up being fairly simple, too, but here’s what played out. Contact was immediately made with the provider to remove the block and correct the issue.

The issue itself served as a catalyst for the team to implement critical changes:

“It’s led us to a more fine-tuned process, for sure,” Jess admitted, “it’s even shown us how we can get our Decision Sciences team involved early and often, so we can paint a really clear picture when it comes to the data that matters to our clients.”

Key takeaways:


It was a pleasure having Jess share these email insights with us. Thanks to her, and to Bond, for putting the time in. We posted the link earlier, but if you want to know more about what they’ve got going on, you can check out the Bond website anytime.

Huge thanks to Zach Cosby, Associate Creative Director/Copywriter at Bond Brand Loyalty, for his contributions on this piece!

There’s a lot to be learned from the past and the experience of others—building off their successes and learning from their mistakes. In this 2 Wins and a Fail blog series, we’re inviting clients, partners, friends and thought leaders to share their email marketing stories; both good and bad.


In this edition, we’re speaking with the CRM + Email experts from Tinuiti, an award-winning marketing agency that partners with brands to deliver strategy, management, and results across their entire digital business.

Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team works with brands of all sizes to scale their email marketing programs and drive results. Their ecommerce clients cover a diverse mix of industries and come with varying levels of sophistication in their email marketing programs, meaning there’s few things in the email marketing industry the Tinuiti team of email strategists haven’t encountered. But even the experts aren’t perfect. Two of these email marketing strategy examples generated positive results for Tinuiti’s partners, while one didn’t go exactly as planned.

Win #1: Live Content: The Gift That Keeps on Giving

Abby Siciliano, Senior Strategist

A common pain point for brands trying to scale their email marketing programs can be summed up in one word: bandwidth. So when Headline Shirts was looking for new and innovative ways to bring content to subscribers at scale, Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team instantly thought of live content.

“Coupling the goals and live content together, we created exactly what the email program needed.”

The cheeky t-shirt brand wanted to create content to show off their designs and keep up with their new release production schedule. So, Senior Strategist Abby Siciliano set out to find the right tool to support this enhancement with the following goals:

  1. Create evergreen content that required minimal maintenance from send to send.
  2. Engage subscribers with new and exciting content focused on their unique product designs.
  3. Drive revenue!

CRM & Email Senior Strategist, Abby Siciliano summarized the project: “Coupling the goals and live content together, we created exactly what the email program needed.” 

Email Anatomy Breakdown:

The new arrivals live content email is made up of 3 parts:

  1. A static header and footer section that outlines every campaign for strong and recognizable branding.
  2. An easy-to-update hero image boasting the NEW ARRIVALS message.
  3. Dynamic content that pulls in images from the brand’s new arrivals category on their website.

Leveraging the Live Scrape functionality from Liveclicker, Tinuiti was able to pull in the top new arrivals directly from headlineshirts.net with ease. Now, Headline Shirts has evergreen, reusable content that updates upon open – eliminating the need for additional bandwidth to update before every send. With some simple seasonal tweaks, they’re able to keep this content fresh and engaging while driving strong revenue.

Since launching, this campaign was consistently a top 3 revenue-driver for the program month after month.

Key takeaways:

Win #2: A Little VIP Treatment Goes A Long Way

Stacy Strom, Senior Strategist

In the day and age of tech-savvy shoppers, customers have more options than ever and are shopping around more frequently. While Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team is no stranger to a variety of customer retention methods, they’ve had to get creative for clients that don’t have the funds and resources to pull off the most ideal of strategies – a loyalty program.

Loyalty programs provide a tried and true method of retaining customers and growing brand affinity, even when competitors may be lower priced or more convenient. These programs fulfill the need for customers to feel like they are being rewarded for spending hard-earned dollars with a company. Unfortunately, these programs can come with a steep price tag for businesses, both monetarily speaking and when considering the resources required to maintain the technical integrations involved.  

“Two retail clients in particular saw an incremental $10K in revenue for the month from VIP targeted campaigns.”

Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team devised a plan to test the loyalty waters with several clients through clever segmentation and creative approaches that didn’t come with any additional cost. 

“Through the use of VIP treatment in email marketing campaigns, we were able to prove the value of a loyalty program for our clients,” says Stacy Strom, Senior Strategist and lead for a variety of clients at Tinuiti. “We’ve tested this concept in a variety of ways for several clients and all have produced incremental revenue and growth in LTV for customers. Recently, two retail clients in particular saw an incremental $10K in revenue for the month from VIP targeted campaigns.”

VIPs can be defined in a number of ways: frequency of purchases, frequency of engagement with marketing campaigns, acquisition source, total spend, etc. and should be based off of your business’s goals and benchmarks for performance. For retail clients, Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team has seen great success with basing VIP segmentation on a combination of purchase history and engagement frequency. With Tinuiti’s approach to this concept, you can provide almost all the perks of a typical loyalty program without the point liability that could impact profit margins. 

So how do you show your VIPs red-carpet treatment without paying for a loyalty platform? With careful timing of promotions, VIP early access to sales, and VIP sale extensions. These give customers that are frequently engaged a sense of exclusivity and special treatment. This is executed through simple versioning of email creative; from headlines changes to call out “just for you” to subject line updates that use “exclusive access” to entice opens to elevated creative that uses richer color palettes such as gold and black.  

Overall, this approach has led to great success across a variety of clients. With the most successful of these, Tinuiti’s CRM &+ Email team has even launched versioned triggered campaigns based on VIP segmentation for successful programs such as Post Purchase, Browse Abandon, and Cart Abandon. These programs have seen not only strong revenue performance, but also an average lift of 20% in engagement rates compared to those without VIP treatment. 

Key Takeaways:

The Fail: Email Drives Traffic That Can’t Convert

Mandi Moshay, Associate Director

While Tinuiti’s CRM + Email team strives to operate as an extension of their clients’ internal teams, the nature of the client-agency partnership doesn’t always lend itself to the immediate exchange of information. Such was the case when one of the agency’s long-time partners, an online lingerie retailer, had an issue with their website that was causing the submission of orders to time out.

“In client service there’s no time to dwell on what might’ve been, so our team quickly pivoted toward potential paths forward to recoup lost revenue and rebuild trust with the impacted customers.”

By the time the issue was identified and the client was able to notify their Tinuiti team, that morning’s email had already deployed. The message, highlighting the release of a new seasonal collection, began driving traffic to a site that could not process orders, diminishing the anticipated return on the email campaign and upsetting potential customers.

“It’s a frustrating experience,” said Mandi Moshay, Associate Director and lead strategist on the account. “Once you deploy an email campaign, it’s out there and there’s no taking it back. But in client service there’s no time to dwell on what might’ve been, so our team quickly pivoted toward potential paths forward to recoup lost revenue and rebuild trust with the impacted customers.”

The Tinuiti team immediately knew an apology email was in order. “Any time the purchase process is interrupted – whether due to a broken link or site error – we strongly consider an apology email, both to let the customer know how sorry we are for the negative site experience, and to motivate them to come back and complete their purchase once the issue has been resolved.” Mandi and team began strategizing with the client on the best approach to take once the order submission issue was resolved. 

After agreeing on an incentive of 20% off for impacted customers, the Tinuiti creative team set to work to quickly turn a banner that could be added to the top of that morning’s email creative, conveying the apology and the promotion. To control margin, the Tinuiti team recommended only mailing to contacts who had clicked through the original email and were potentially exposed to the checkout error. Finally, an eye-catching subject line and preheader were drafted to grab the attention of affected subscribers and get them back in the mood to shop.

Fortunately, this fail turned into a win after the apology email was deployed and generated a 66% open rate (compared to a program average of ~15%), and drove nearly 4x times the revenue/delivered of the brand’s standard product launch campaigns. The total revenue between the original message and the apology exceeded product launch averages by 65%!

Key Takeaways:

There’s a lot to be learned from the past and the experience of others—building off their successes and learning from their mistakes. In this 2 Wins and a Fail blog series, we’re inviting clients, partners, friends and thought leaders to share their email marketing stories; both good and bad.


In this edition we highlight Faith Bukauskas, Senior Email Marketing Analyst for Hot Topic, and show how this pop culture retailer improved its email marketing results with three innovative real-time personalization strategies. Two of these email marketing examples exceeded expectations; and while the third didn’t go exactly as planned, Hot Topic has already learned how to adapt and find success with future campaigns.

Hot Topic has been the go-to destination for music, pop culture, and fashion for almost 30 years. With more than 600 locations across North America, the brand strives to ignite customers’ passions by offering only the best, authentic merchandise. Faith has worked on the organization’s email program for 3 years, and her stories and experiences hold valuable takeaways for marketers in retail, ecommerce, and CPG industries.

Win #1: A Time-based Targeting Strategy Leads to a 30% Increase in Clicks

Hot Topic is rapidly expanding its ecommerce presence and relies heavily on digital channels, especially email marketing, to showcase its giant assortment of products to its loyal fans and customers. 

Recently Hot Topic needed a new way to develop and deploy product-centric emails that were not just personalized, but could be updated in real time to deliver better customer experiences.

In the past, Hot Topic sent product promotion emails as soon as a particular product became available on its ecommerce site. But sometimes these products would sell out before all recipients opened the email (or even received it, depending on what time zone they were in). 

“It was a negative customer experience,” Faith said. “The experience confused and frustrated subscribers who weren’t able to act fast enough to get the product they wanted.”

Hot Topic’s marketing team considered sending these emails earlier so they would be in everyone’s inbox before their day started—no matter what time zone they were in. Yet they were concerned that customers would forget to act on them. Even if they didn’t, the original challenge remained: customers might still open an email with a link to a product that was now sold out.

A solution was found in the form of dynamic real-time content from Liveclicker’s RealTime Email platform.

“We designed a comprehensive time-based targeting strategy to handle this issue and deliver a better experience,” Faith said. “ We started using a dynamic image when announcing a product was now available in stores. Then when the product also became available online, we used moment-of-open technology to swap in a new image with that message and provide a link to encourage online shopping. And we also had a third ‘grayed out’ image prepared for when a product was out of stock, so openers knew whether something was available at the moment they opened the email.”

Hot Topic quickly discovered that this time-based strategy was a hit. These new emails produced a 30% lift in clicks, and Hot Topic saw a significant increase in click rates after the image was switched to show a new product was now available for purchase. 

Customers were much more engaged and now spent twice as much time viewing each email. Recipients now clicked before, during, and after a product went on sale; an improvement that generated new sales and revenue opportunities, especially in the case of customers who visited Hot Topic’s site before a specific product was even available.

The single biggest success metric was the reduction in customers complaining about receiving promotions for products that were already unavailable. Hot Topic has seen such improvement that they now believe they have virtually eliminated the problem on email. 

Key takeaways:

Win #2: Embedding Polls Increased Open Rates by 260% and Click-through Rates by 300+%

Hot Topic sells an incredible variety of pop culture-branded merchandise, including Harry Potter products. The retailer used to send all Harry Potter product offers to fans based on their past purchases of any and all Harry Potter merchandise. 

Yet this approach still wasn’t segmented enough; large fan bases are often split among different styles and preferences. Which band member is most talented? Who’s the coolest character in the movie? Which book is the best in the series? Such questions can divide as much as they unite.

One way the Harry Potter fans are split is among their school ‘House’ affiliation (Gryffindor, Slytherin, etc.), and that can have a huge influence on the type of merchandise they want. Customer service even noted an increase in customer complaints. If you’re a baseball fan, compare it to a sports retailer sending Red Sox fans personalized offers for Yankees jerseys. You can imagine the kind of response that would get.

“We wanted to improve overall segmentation for the fan base, but didn’t have the data to accurately divide this group,” Faith said. “So we did the most obvious thing we could think of: we asked them!”

The brand did this by embedding a poll in an email asking about subscribers’ house loyalty. This equipped Hot Topic with the data it needed to segment its list and improve future relevance, and minimized errors that might have occurred if they had to make assumptions based on click-stream or purchase data.

All of these efforts paid off. Where past Harry Potter control emails had a 10% open rate and a 1.2% CTR, Hot Topic’s new house-specific emails had open rates up to 36% and CTRs of nearly 5%. This represented improvements of 260% and 300+%, respectively.

The poll email was Hot Topic’s third-highest email in terms of highest clicks sent in 2018. The company also saw more than a 90% increase on average in click-to-open. In fact, this was so successful, the company is now considering new ways to use Liveclicker’s LivePoll element to increase explicit data from its customers, which can then be used to improve future targeting campaigns. 

Key takeaways:

The Fail: An Initial Geo-targeting Campaign Misses the Mark

Hot Topic freely admits that the use of geotargeting has been a challenge, especially since a significant portion of their database is made up of Gmail users. Gmail prevents geolocation information from being recognized and instead shows all users as being in Mountain View, California.

Hot Topic’s marketing team initially wanted to deploy an email campaign that would use geotargeting to send personalized messages to recipients near the upcoming San Diego Comic-Con event. 

“It was a really cool idea,” Faith said. “We had all this location-specific messaging and creative that would be perfect for anyone who opened the email within a certain proximity to the event. Unfortunately technical limitations with Gmail meant we had to table that strategy. We ended up serving the default message in email even though we went through the work of creating the segmented campaign and creative.” 

As a result, Hot Topic missed out on valuable opportunity to deliver personalized content that was more likely to connect and engage with its target audience.

Fortunately, good news is on the horizon. Hot Topic is planning on taking advantage of new Liveclicker functionality that will be able to anticipate a recipient’s location at time of open based on past behavior. 

Since activating on Geo-Prediction in the last few months, there have been 1.3 million impressions that have been predicted by LiveClicker. This means geo-centric content and promotions can be sent to Gmail users, along with personalized messages that can even be further targeted based on their operating system, device type, and other factors.

Key takeaways:

We would like to sincerely thank Faith Bukauskas and Hot Topic for sharing these great stories and examples. For more information, you can download the complete Hot Topic case study and subscribe to Hot Topic yourself for more inspiration (and great deals!).

There’s a lot to be learned from the past and the experience of others—building off their successes and learning from their mistakes. In this 2 Wins and a Fail blog series, we’re inviting clients, partners, friends and thought leaders to share their email marketing stories; both good and bad.


This week we had the pleasure to speak with Matt Berry, Digital Marketing Manager for Herschend Family Entertainment.

Herschend is the largest family-owned themed attractions corporation in the US, managing 23 entertainment, tourism and hospitality properties and theme parks including Silver Dollar City Attractions and Dollywood Parks & Resorts. Matt has worked with Herschend brands for 4 years and oversees email campaigns for many of the organization’s properties and attractions. His experiences hold valuable advice for any email marketer; especially those working in the entertainment, travel, and hospitality industries.

Success Story #1: Getting Subscribers Ready To Explore A New Land

Drumming up excitement for upcoming locations and attractions is an ongoing challenge for destination brands like Herschend’s.

When Dollywood started promoting its latest theme park expansion, Wildwood Grove, it took a strategic, measured approach.

Wildwood Grove will be the newest—and largest—addition to the world-famous Dollywood theme park. “Because of how significant the new area is, we really went big and are still going big with this announcement across all channels,” Berry said.

Dollywood wanted to create excitement and awareness about the new attraction and use that buzz as momentum to fuel related campaigns and sales opportunities. Though the big expansion wouldn’t open for several months, the brand started promoting it as early as last fall; right when it was going on sale with its season passes for the upcoming year.

Click here to see the complete interactive email!

The Dollywood team also tried something new with this announcement; a pre-sale campaign.

“When we announced, we gave guests the opportunity to ‘raise their hand’ to learn more about Wildwood Grove early,” Berry explained. “We also offered guests to sign up to be part of our limited time pre-sale, which would give them special pricing opportunities in addition to access to Wildwood Grove before anyone else. So we were using the announcement to sell season passes as well as offering special access to early adopters.”

A series of announcement emails directed interested subscribers to a specialized landing page where they could opt in to receive additional news and special offers related to Wildwood Grove. The email team segmented this list and sent it an extremely successful pre-sale campaign, taking advantage of Liveclicker features like fully-embedded video and slideshows in-email to build excitement and anticipation.

As icing on the cake, Dollywood made clever use of advanced tracking technology to monitor individuals who:

  1. Signed up for the special Season Pass Pre-Sale
  2. Went to the Dollywood site store where season passes were sold
  3. Did not make a purchase

The company remarketed this audience segment with highly-focused and effective ‘abandoned cart’ style emails.

The Wildwood Grove announcement and the campaigns launched alongside it have proven extremely potent for Dollywood, and Herschend is now adapting these tactics to its other brands to multiply its success.

Key takeaways:

P.S. Wildwood Grove is scheduled to open soon (May 11)…and it looks AWESOME! Check out this teaser featuring an introduction from Dolly Parton:

Success Story 2: A Concert Promotion Email Encore

The second big win Matt shared was an initiative to create interest and sell more tickets to concerts at another one of Herschend’s theme parks: Wild Adventures.

The park hosts a series of A-list bands, artists, performers and comedians with every new season. This year Wild Adventures adopted a new strategy that boosted both season pass and reserved concert seat sales.

Instead of announcing the complete concert lineup all at once, the team decided to ‘tease’ subscribers by just featuring a couple of the events on the schedule at the beginning of the campaign in the fall. These limited announcements were used as value-adds to drive early season pass purchases.

As the new season approached, Wild Adventures used the final main concert announcement as a miniature event in and of itself, using in-email countdown timers to build and maintain excitement leading up to the release date.

The email featuring main concert announcement was heavily personalized. ”We have rock artists, we have Christian artists, country, and so on,” Berry said. “If we saw that a user had attended a certain kind of event in the past, we made sure to showcase similar artists and performers and bring them to the top because that’s what they’re likely to be most interested in.”

But this year the company was careful not just to show a limited selection of events. They wanted to highlight the sheer breadth and variety of high-quality concerts and performances available. After all; people can have diverse tastes and interests in more than just one or two entertainment categories.

To showcase the broad suite of concert selections in the limited real estate of an email, Wild Adventures made great use of Liveclicker’s LiveSlides functionality. The interactive element could effortlessly showcase multiple artists in a particular genre, which was dynamic based on that subscribers preferences, while maintaining a sleek, user-friendly email design.

As an extra value-add, they explained that season passholders received exclusive first access to reserved concert seats a week before they went on sale to the general public.

Click here to see the complete interactive email!

This multi-pronged approach has been hugely successful. Though only a few concerts have occurred so far this season, Wild Adventures is already up YoY on the limited reserved concert seats and has seen substantial growth in season pass sales since the main concert announcement.

Key Takeaways:

The Fail: “Oops.”

Herschend has seen a lot of email success across its properties. But even very well managed marketing programs aren’t always executed perfectly.

Matt was given an especially stark reminder of this after a Herschend property sent out a mass email with a crucial oversight.

This property is well known and respected for its fun, quirky email campaigns. So when it sent out an email announcing a pending price increase in membership costs, it got a lot of opens for a flash sale for memberships at the current lower price.

Unfortunately there was a critical mistake in the email. The link to the landing page where subscribers could buy at the discounted price was wrong. It went to an unrelated web page, and any openers clicking through expecting a good deal were immediately disappointed, confused, and frustrated.

This is a nightmare scenario for email marketers. Countless hours of creativity, strategy, and analytics—not to mention months or years of careful relationship nurturing and goodwill building—can all be sabotaged by a single mistake like this.

The property’s email team reacted in textbook fashion once it realized the error. They followed up with an apologetic, funny, and self-deprecating “oops” email. The email didn’t try to ignore the mistake; it owned up to the error and provided subscribers a comically large selection of correct links that would take openers where needed to go for the flash sale.

“We have learned over the years that ‘oops’ emails actually perform pretty well..people like to watch you mess up and are more prone to open,” Berry said. “I loved the way this was written as it was calling attention to ourselves for making a mistake and putting less focus on the promotion itself. The message barely mentioned the sale, yet drove engagement and resulted in sales – possibly higher than the original email may have achieved on its own.”

This follow-up strategy proved to be extremely effective and earned exceptional open and engagement rates.

Key Takeaways:


Enormous thanks to Matt Berry and Herschend Family Entertainment Brands for these stories for us to share and learn from!

Matt recently shared even more of his experiences, expertise and advice at our Future of Email Atlanta event! If you’re interested in hearing more stories from email pros, register now to join the conversation at a session near you—it’s completely free for email marketers!

Consistent streams of high quality, hyperpersonalized emails can keep customers engaged, build loyalty, and develop relationships. But it’s triggered emails, not promotional campaigns or nurture drips, that are usually most effective for driving immediate conversions.

About ¾ of email ROI comes from “segmented, targeted, and triggered campaigns.” It makes sense; triggered email marketing connects brands with customers right at the moment they’re most willing and able to engage.

Given all the potential for conversions and revenue, shouldn’t you be making sure you get the absolute most out of your trigger-based email marketing?

The Power of Triggered Email Marketing

Expertly implemented trigger emails bring a lot to the table for digital marketers. Sailthru listed a few of them on its comprehensive guide to trigger-based email marketing:

To top it off, setting up triggered emails with contextual relevance and personalization is easier than ever thanks to real-time email automation technology. Need some ideas to energize your marketing performance? Draw inspiration from these ROI-generating triggered email examples!

The Warmest of Welcomes

Welcome emails are opened at a higher rate than almost any other kind of direct marketing message. When someone subscribes to your newsletter, joins your loyalty program, or registers an account with your ecommerce site, that’s your opportunity to make a big first impression that will keep them coming back for more!

Need a triggered email example to inspire your welcome series? Chuck E Cheese’s sets the tone for its brand relationship with new rewards program members with a colorful, fun, and highly personalized welcome email. The brand combines dynamic images that adjust to the subscriber’s name, a live map that shows the way to the nearest destination, and real-time geo-data that gives new members everything they need to start planning their next visit right away.

Sophisticated email marketers send multiple messages in a welcome series. This strategy provides additional opportunities to direct consumers to complete high-value activities. If you know that your best customers are those with a loyalty membership, follow you on Instagram, and have set explicit preferences for products consider highlighting these in a multi-step welcome flow.

Weather Triggered Emails

Weather is one of those universal factors that binds us all together. There’s a reason it’s been one of the most popular pieces conversation starters and small-talk fuel for ages untold.

But weather isn’t just basic water cooler chit-chat material; it’s a great way to start conversations with your audience with the power of weather triggered emails. As Paul Walsch, Weather Channel weather and climate specialist said, “Weather is such an important driver of consumer sentiment and activity…but it’s not as well known and leveraged as it should be.”

Imagine having an email set to automatically deploy on a rainy day to invite subscribers into your stores for some shelter (and savings!). Or including live forecasts in a triggered email leading up to a personally-relevant event like a vacation or concert to add even more value.

Hotels.com includes both real-time weather information and an up-to-date forecast in an email triggered to send a few days before a reservation. This information helps customers prepare to make the most of their stays, gives them a reason to re-open, and enhances the customer experience to motivate repeat purchases.

 

RentPath included live weather data in its emails to apartment hunters and improved engagement rates by 25%: click here to see how!

Abandoned Cart Email Triggers

Some 69% of digital shopping carts get abandoned throughout the conversion process. This is the perfect opportunity for a targeted, direct message. Your prospect has made the effort to register an account and choose products she’s interested in; often a little extra motivation is all that’s needed to give her that extra nudge into customerhood.

Automated emails targeted at cart-deserters have impressive engagement and conversion rates that can have an immediate and substantial impact on digital revenue:

Image source

Keep Collective makes excellent use of their abandoned cart triggers. The brand uses friendly language and dynamic product-feature elements that adapt in real time to exclude any items that the shopper goes on to purchase or that are currently out of stock. The email reminds people of what they’re missing out on—while cleverly omitting any content that could be confusing or disappointing.

Looking for more highly-effective triggered email examples? Check out our Lookbook or download this inspirational triggered emails guide for creative, results-driving ideas to steal for your own programs!