DIrect marketing channels like email, mobile app notifications, and SMS messages are almost certainly a part of your holiday marketing strategy. But if you’re only using these communication paths to push out one-size-fits-all emails and generic promotions, you’re failing to tap into Q4’s true business potential.

Because in 2021, three important holiday shopping stats we’ve found point to some major retail industry changes over the next few months.

And—much like last year—there’s no approach to guarantee 100% success. Between an earlier start to holiday shopping than ever before, new buyer behaviors and preferences, and alternative fulfillment options born from  a need to avoid supply chain shorts and delays, you’ll need to be as agile as ever when it comes to planning, implementing, and executing your seasonal marketing strategy.

So, before you make significant changes to evolve this year’s holiday planning effort, think about these three holiday shopping stats and how they impact your brand in Q4 and beyond. Consider this blog our special gift to you!

Start Your Holiday Shopping Season Now

It’s not exactly a secret that there’s a laundry list of problems plaguing the retail sector right now. Chances are, your customers are well-aware of the supply chain shortages and rising materials costs impacting your products. Which is why they’re already starting to put together holiday shopping lists and seek out deals on the gifts they know friends and family want in 2021.

In fact, a recent survey conducted by The NPD Group revealed that 51% of holiday shoppers plan to start stuffing their stockings before Thanksgiving this year—including 38% who will begin making purchases as early as this month!

For you, this means you need to start testing your holiday email experiences and campaign tactics now. Things like advanced audience segmentation and predictive analytics—when combined with personalization—can ensure your messages reach the right people with the perfect content at the right time.

holiday shopping stats

Let Your Customers Shop for Themselves This Season

This year, you’ll see more online holiday shoppers than ever before. But here’s the most important question: Will your recipients be reading your emails for their own benefit, or on behalf of someone else? It can be tough to identify individual consumers’ intent and who’s shopping for whom over the next few months. So, why not give your customers the best of both experiences?

While we’re about to kick off the season of giving, it’s critical to remember that only 27% of holiday shoppers are focused on browsing and/or buying products for other people. Meaning things like self-gifting guides and messaging focused on “Treat yourself” approaches are guaranteed to deliver more impressive results than you may think in Q4.

Now more than ever, it’s vital your emails offer something valuable to every recipient—no matter their motivation, engagement level, or who they’re shopping for. And you can do this by simply combining thoughtful, stay-at-home themes with highly relevant product recommendations and dynamic content to create convenient shopping experiences that deliver great gift-giving ideas. For your subscribers and their loved ones.

holiday shopping stats

Make e-Gift Cards a Priority

Since December 2020, year-over-year sales of holiday e-gift cards have increased by over 106%. And with more supply chain shortages and inventory challenges to deal with this year, you can be sure this trend will continue to grow as retailers and consumers alike search for gifts and shopping experiences that are impossible to delay.

So, if you’re looking to tap into the feelings of homesickness to drive consumer conversions and engagement this season, promote e-gift cards at every opportunity. It’s an easy way to generate revenue—especially among shoppers who are struggling to find the perfect present. Plus, it’s a sneaky smart way to prevent negative customer experiences caused by seasonal shipping mishaps that inevitably happen every year.

holiday shopping stats

Want to incorporate even more modern retail trends into your holiday email campaigns? Check out our 2021 Holiday Marketing Guide for some fresh, exciting ideas you can implement with little-to-no extra work right now!

Combined company to focus on developing solutions for marketing’s most critical challenges from acquisition through retention and loyalty.

CM Group, a portfolio of martech companies focused on multichannel digital marketing, today announced its merger with Cheetah Digital under the CM Group name. The merger expands and enhances both CM Group’s and Cheetah Digital’s ability to deliver innovative email, omnichannel, personalization, and loyalty solutions. The combined company will own a broad array of technologies referenced in the 2021 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Multichannel Marketing Hubs, which orchestrate marketer communications with client segments across multiple channels.

Following the merger, the company plans significant investments across the portfolio to bring new products to its base of 70,000+ active customers. As marketers increasingly seek multi- and omnichannel technology solutions to meet modern customer expectations, CM Group will expand its primary focus from email marketing to overall customer engagement and give marketers the ability to acquire, engage, and retain customers through the channels that matter most. Cheetah Digital’s Customer Engagement Suite solutions including Experiences, Personalization, Loyalty, and the Engagement Data Platform will help further accelerate the pace of innovation across CM Group’s existing products, enabling customer organizations of all sizes to meet the needs of modern consumers.

What differentiates CM Group is that each of its nine products focuses on specific verticals or market segments. The merger with Cheetah Digital will expand CM Group’s reach into the large enterprise segment. Key Cheetah Digital customers include Hilton, Neiman Marcus, Walgreens and Williams-Sonoma.

CM Group’s model enables product development and services to be tuned to the specific needs of each of its key customer verticals and segments, making CM Group’s products core to the marketing tech stack. By leveraging Cheetah Digital’s innovative solutions, CM Group’s brands will be able to deliver new vertical and use-case specific products to markets ranging from small and medium businesses to enterprises across key verticals including retail, ecommerce, media, publishing, financial services, travel and hospitality, entertainment, agencies, and more.

“Our merger with Cheetah Digital means CM Group will be well positioned to meet the needs of customers of all sizes and shapes, and we will continue to be their marketing technology partner as they grow by delivering the right technology at the right time, tailored to their industry and built for the scale at which they operate,” said Wellford Dillard, CEO at CM Group. “By keeping each CM Group product distinct and focused on specific verticals or market segments, we deliver superior solutions, expertise, and outcomes for customers when compared to the large volume of generalist solutions in the market today.”

“CM Group’s ‘home for every marketer’ model is a completely unique approach in our industry and in broader martech. This merger offers us the opportunity to bring immense innovation to the customers within the CM Group portfolio through an expanded suite of product offerings. The momentum of our ‘innovation engine’ at Cheetah will develop these solutions beyond email to bring net-new value for our customers,” said Peter McCormick, Executive Chairman at Cheetah Digital.

CM Group will continue to look for opportunities to accelerate innovation, augment existing product capabilities and add complementary technologies through future business combinations, bringing significant benefits to marketers and further accelerating CM Group’s organic growth.

“As marketers’ needs have evolved and organizations turn toward their own data as the foundation of their marketing strategy, CM Group is perfectly positioned to grow dramatically in the future. Their unique approach – having a suite of highly specialized data-driven offerings – creates an opportunity to become the leading provider of modern marketing technology to nearly every organization in the world,” said Adam Berger, Managing Director at Insight Partners.

“With these two organizations joining forces, CM Group is set to become a global leader in customer acquisition, engagement, retention, and growth,” said Sandy Gill, Managing Director at Vector Capital. “Marketers are looking for the next generation of technology to be specialized to their needs and CM Group is executing on a strategy that truly meets the needs of their customers while opening up new opportunities to accelerate growth within a fragmented martech landscape.”

The existing owners of CM Group, including Insight Partners, will remain majority owners of the combined company. Vector Capital, which was previously a majority owner of Cheetah Digital, will become a substantial minority owner of the combined company.

What’s scarier than a haunted house on a dark and stormy night? For email marketers, it’s being asked to churn out a last-minute Halloween promotion on the fly.

Don’t let that last-minute request throw you! Because our treat bowl is full of five last-minute Halloween email tactics to help you create maximum engagement—and eerie-sistible experiences—with minimal effort. 

Halloween is bigger and more boo-worthy than ever

This year, Halloween enthusiasm has rebounded to near-2019 levels. The National Retail Federation projects consumers will spend $10.1 billion, or $102.74 per person, on costumes, décor, candy, and food, up more than $2 billion from last year’s figure. 

Fortunately for you, plug-and-play interactive modules and personalized email elements recycled from previously successful campaigns will help you create attention-grabbing experiences in less time than it takes to put on your costume.

As always, begin your email planning with a specific goal for the campaign. Sure, you’ll drive a few extra sales, and that’s always a bonus. But a Halloween email campaign can also reveal data you can use to guide and refine your holiday email marketing content and targeting. 

5 last-minute Halloween email ideas for max engagement

Emails designed specifically for engagement can tell you more about your customers’ preferences, generate fresh, new ideas, and help you collect the zero- and first-party data you need to create even more relevant messaging. So, let’s get started!

1. Click to reveal the deal 

Mystery and Halloween—is there any more perfect combination? An effective email can be as easy as swapping in some Halloween visuals and asking customers to click on the one they like. You can go for fun (favorite candy or costume) or unearth some customer preferences by featuring Halloween-themed merchandise in several categories, but one thing is certain: this tactic is all treat, no tricks.

last-minute Halloween email ideas

Whichever approach you choose, be sure to use unique promo codes and virtual gift unwrapping experiences to make customer acquisition and attribution tasks easier to track and apply automatically.  

2. Suggest last-minute purchases and products

Gift guides are always popular. But this year, with the holiday shopping season and Halloween overlapping and inventory in a precarious position to deal with, your suggestions should reflect real-time order status and live updates to avoid disappointing customers who are ready to buy. If a product sells out, this real-time module can swap in a replacement automatically – no need to pause the campaign and rebuild the email.

3. Promote BOPIS and less spooky fulfillment services 
You’ll never go wrong by helping customers shop quicker and more conveniently. Let time-pressed shoppers know they can celebrate Halloween even if they had to leave preparations to the last minute by highlighting your Buy Online, Pickup In-Store (BOPIS) service.

last-minute Halloween email ideas

You can even include explicit details such as BOPIS locations and instructions for your order-availability notice directly in your emails to give shoppers one place for all the info they need. Just make sure your Halloween email campaigns stress ease of service and alternative fulfillment availability accurately.

4. Offer complementary options to delight every customer

Although Halloween has regained much of the steam it lost last year thanks to lockdowns and public hesitancy about gathering in large groups, not everyone is on board. Recognize this continuing hesitancy with content that refers to both large-group and at-home celebrations to the degree that it’s relevant for your brands. 

5. Give Halloween browsers a second chance to buy

Browse-abandonment emails can prod some shoppers to buy if you send them out right after they break off a session. Now, go back to your browsers who checked out your goods early in the season but never went back to buy and tempt them with an offer—especially if it’s something they browsed before but has gone on sale in the meantime.

Reach out to your previous shoppers with a gentle email reminder, using a dynamic product recommendation if possible, that incorporates each shopper’s browse abandonment history and available inventory. You can thank us for that engagement rate boost later.

Generate clicks, conversions, sales, and more last-minute

With Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Christmas, and all the other marquee Q4 shopping events right around the corner, Halloween might feel like an afterthought. 

But a carefully designed interaction combined with these five last-minute Halloween email ideas can deliver plenty of value in the days leading up to Halloween, whether your goal is to drive extra sales, clear out inventory, or collect more data you can use to give your customers the best-possible experience.

This year, retailers everywhere will approach the holidays with an increased reliance on email marketing and ecommerce. But it’s not just that marketers will send more emails than ever this year; people will engage with your messages at never-before-seen rates too.

If you’re looking for some fresh, new email marketing elements to experiment with for increased holiday engagement, you’ve come to the right place. Because this blog explores three exciting email tactics you can start testing now!

Give loyal shoppers even more reasons to celebrate the season

Holiday promotions definitely help you drive new sales, subscriptions, and website traffic, but to tap into the true business potential of your email marketing strategy you can’t leave your loyal customers out in the cold. After all, you already know how to reach them and how to motivate them to buy—so give your VIPs the gift of rewards and special events like this Grove Collaborative email does.

email marketing elements to experiment with

Obviously, a GIF is going to be the first thing that catches any buyer’s eye with this interaction. But the smart, value- driven messaging supporting this visual-fueled content is our favorite piece of the (pumpkin) pie. Rewarding loyal customers with their own holiday before the holidays is a fun, interactive way to escape the all- too-common sales push this time of year—and for Grove Collaborate—an optimal way to inspire new purchases and increased engagement as well.

By rewarding their most loyal subscribers and customers with a celebration-worthy personalized experience, we also love the brand’s way-above-benchmark results. In fact, this campaign resulted in the brand’s best click engagement booster the quarter it was sent—as well as one of its highest revenue-generating emails ever.

What This Means for You: Don’t wait; get ahead of your peak holiday marketing period and target your best, most loyal customers with a special incentive ahead of everyone else. You’ll be surprised to see how stress-free Q4 can be if you don’t have to meet sales goals by selling your brand to every buyer first.

Let your customers shop from anywhere

Just like last year, the pandemic will make 2021’s holiday marketing initiatives a little more complicated than usual. With economic uncertainty, shipping delays, and in-store traffic approaching a standstill, this year’s messages need to be every bit as quarantine-friendly as last year’s campaigns. And that means giving your shoppers a variety of ways to browse and buy—exemplified perfectly by this Signet Jewelers experience.

email marketing elements to experiment with

Incentivizing surprise discounts and sales promotions that allow customers to shop however, whenever, and whenever they want was our favorite thing about this email. Signet Jewelers’ flash sale campaign gives online buyers everything they need to make a purchase. Weekly best sellers, shop-by-category capabilities, guidelines on safe shopping during the pandemic, and more are personalized touches that really knocked our candy cane-print socks off.

What This Means for You: Use your collected customer data and previous purchase history records to target buyers with a single threshold offer instead of multiple ones. By doing so, you build more straightforward, clear, and—most importantly—effective holiday email experiences. Testing these tactics now can result in increased Average Order Value (AOV) and conversion rates for key promotions and exciting flash sales throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Give your customers choices and complementary options

This year, there will be more online holiday shoppers than ever before. But will they be reading your emails for their own benefit, or on behalf of someone else? It can be tough to identify individual consumers’ intent and who’s shopping for whom. So, give your customers the best of both worlds like Fashion Nova did in this featured experience.

email marketing elements to experiment with

Beyond a clever display that accurately summarizes life amidst lockdown via visuals and copy, Fashion Nova’s holiday PJ party-themed message targets a single product category that’s relevant and engaging to self-buyers and gift givers alike. With options to browse pajama categories and complementary products like slippers, this brand turned a potentially sad stay-at-home experience into a special holiday event for its subscribers.

What we love most about this email is that it offers something valuable to every holiday shopper—no matter their motivation or who they’re buying for. By combining thoughtful, stay-at-home holiday messaging with highly relevant product recommendations and dynamic category combinations, Fashion Nova created a convenient shopping experience that gave every recipient great last-minute gift ideas. And after experiencing more click engagement than any other end-of-year email campaign, it’s clear that thousands of new and long-time customers took advantage of their personalized PJ party invitation.

What This Means for You: Cozying up at home will be a theme you’ll see across holiday messages in retail and media in Q4 2021. If you haven’t followed suit, prepare imagery that can support a holiday at home and holiday party look and feel in order to relate to potential customer behaviors.

But these three email marketing elements to experiment with aren’t all—they’re just the start of how working smarter not harder this holiday season can lead to even more success in 2021. For even more fresh, engaging email ideas, download our Work Smarter Not Harder Guide now!

2020 accelerated ecommerce trends and online engagement like no year ever has. And yet, for many retailers out there, the pace of change and elevating consumer expectations has yet to slow down. Combined with record-high email conversion rates, this leaves a lot of opportunity for any retailer savvy enough to take advantage.

So, if your goal is to be one of Q4’s highest-performing digital merchants, here are four ecommerce trends you can use to increase your email conversion rate.

Personalize your welcome experience

Over the next few months, you’re going to see more new ecommerce shoppers than any other time this year. In fact, after surveying our retail customers, you can expect around one-third of your holiday sales to come from brand-new buyers.

And because our research also found that email is the most effective channel for converting new customers into loyal brand followers, your welcome experience needs to be on point going forward if your goal is inspiring success by incorporating ecommerce trends like personalization from your very first send.

Even something as simple as a customized welcome message based on where someone first engaged your brand can lead to massive conversion gains. Many retailers already use some kind of website referral process that immediately recognizes where a visitor comes from — so take advantage of this insight to personalize your hello in the context of each individual interaction accordingly.

ecommerce trends

If you want to take the ecommerce feel of your welcome emails to another level, ask your shoppers about the content they’d like to see and only deliver what’s relevant to their specific interests. By directing new subscribers and loyal customers alike to your email preference center as soon as possible, they can opt into the content they’re most likely to engage with — enabling you to deliver a more personal, relevant, and likely-to-convert communication right away.

Transparency and honesty are a refreshing ecommerce trend

If the past 18+ months have taught retail marketers anything, it’s that today’s buyers value trust and open communication more than ever. So, if you haven’t given it much thought yet, what does your brand stand for?

Online shoppers are increasingly basing purchase decisions on your societal impact—not products, services, or hollow mission statements. Are you working to create more sustainable practices? Do you care about climate change and fair trade? Let your engaged followers know about all the good you’re doing—then carry this approach over to your ecommerce environment.

ecommerce trends

Because, when it comes to ecommerce trends and modern customer expectations, an online experience that hides shipping costs, makes transactions overly complex and time-consuming, or features irrelevant products and messaging usually scares away more subscribers than it converts.

While there’s immense pressure to perform and convert as many shoppers to paying customers as possible, keep in mind that not every email or promotion you send has to push a product. In fact, shoppers worn out from seeing the same sales speak and pushy emails day after day are more likely to notice and appreciate your efforts for doing so.

Our 2021 Retail Personalization Index Consumer Survey found that two-thirds of all retail buyers believe a brand’s ethics and values are important — substantiating 5W Public Relations’ 2020 Consumer Culture Report that notes 71% of shoppers prefer to shop with brands that are aligned to their values.

Add value to every brand interaction

While personalized experiences and honest messaging is great, ultimately your ecommerce shoppers seek one thing above all else: value. And there’s a ton of ways to deliver value across every interaction without undercutting your competitors on price.

After all, a $20 toaster oven with limited functionality is likely to offer less value than a $200 model that will last 20 years or more. But if your product descriptions and marketing efforts don’t communicate this long-term value, how is anyone supposed to know? And—more importantly—how do you expect to compete against the online giants?
And where your email marketing effort is concerned, first-party data can be your key to creating the personalized value your customers crave. Did you know that retail marketing teams with a data-driven personalization strategy achieve 15% to 20% greater ROI?

ecommerce trends

Shopper-specific insights such as gender, birthday, brand-specific anniversary dates, customer acquisition source, Average Order Value (AOV), propensity to buy, purchase history, Customer Lifetime Value (CLTV), personal product preferences, and whether someone’s shopping for themselves or someone else are all extremely valuable discoveries your team can use to make emails more engaging—and, more importantly, more likely to result in conversion.

Make buy now, pay later your best friend

Another ecommerce trend gaining massive momentum is Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL). Unlike traditional ecommerce and in-store layaway payment options, BNPL gives your buyers the benefit of instant gratification—and your brand the advantage of actualized revenue and conversions as soon as you implement it.

ecommerce trends

Because someone doesn’t have to wait until payments are complete to receive their products, emails that feature BNPL financing options increase conversion rate by 79% and AOV by twice as much on average. No doubt a huge boon for any retail brand looking to better recent results.

Like us, you know that email has the potential to be your most effective, profitable marketing channel. And if you ever needed any more proof, the latest research affirms what email marketers have known for years: it beats print, direct mail, TV, search, programmatic ads, display/video messages, and audio experiences in terms of ROI for every department dollar you spend according to 62% of B2C marketers.

But email’s benefits don’t stop at B2C ROI—because this proven communication path also leads both digital and offline channels for acquiring new customers and for driving fast sales gains, coming in second only to paid search for ease in tracking and measuring results. 

If you need further confirmation that email rules in customer engagement (in addition to ROI as we just mentioned), look no further than the massive Facebook/Instagram/WhatsApp Outage of 2021 that just took place—and where email was a lifesaver in a nearly 6-hour sea of frustrations caused by offline platform alerts and configuration errors.

So, make this moment matter and jump on your opportunity to create catchy, engaging email campaigns that remind customers you’re never more than a click in their inbox away. And—more importantly—deliver maximum B2C ROI to keep your boss(es) smiling, too.

Make advanced personalization a priority

In the intro above, we addressed email’s value in general. But we’re well-aware that not all campaigns drive the same value. Or are even intended to/used to do so.

A broadcast email campaign will go out to major segments of your audience. But with little to no personalization or offer targeting their specific needs, your message will ultimately go ignored by most—obviously failing to generate anywhere near the level of ROI as a personalized campaign using collected customer data to create unique content for each recipient. And with automation added into the mix, the possibilities are endless.

5 email marketing best practices that maximize B2C ROI, revenue, and engagement

With the holidays bearing down on email marketers everywhere, retail and ecommerce teams are looking for last-minute campaign ideas that come with the promise of producing high-value interactions and building loyal, engaged buyers that visit your store more than once a year.

So, here are five best practices we recommend to reduce the stress—and increase results—this season and beyond:

1. Forget welcome emails. It’s all about the onboarding experience now.

The first email you send after someone opts in is the most important one your email marketing program will ever send. It does more than just say “Thanks for joining us.” It’s your first opportunity to sell directly to your new customers through email—and to learn more about their personal buying habits, shopping behaviors, product preferences, and more from your first interaction.

Opt-in is the point at which any subscriber’s interest in your brand peaks, so strike while the interest is high and sprinkle opportunities to go back to your website and shop later to drive engagement through personalization and the data insights you collect..

A few suggestions: 

2. Build repeat purchases with dynamic triggered content

During the holiday season, you’ll have hordes of new customers visiting your site and buying in-store for the very first time. That first purchase is the easy one, though. Second and third purchases upgrade one-time buyers into long-time customers. And isn’t that really what your job is all about?

Fortunately, triggered and targeted messages can bring first-time customers back to buy again. But you need to offer more than the basic 20%-off discount to rise above the noise of all the other brands in your buyers’ inboxes. Because they too are trying to woo your customers into coming back!

Messages featuring product recommendations or displays that reflect customer preferences, purchases, and browsing sessions can make all the difference here. And you don’t need to call them out as “Suggested for You” buys, either. Instead, incorporate them in message images—a pair of skinny jeans by a brand your customer browses regularly on a model looks more interesting than a straight product shot with no context.

But who has time when you’re deep in December to create 50 versions of one email, each with a different hero product image? Nobody—that’s why dynamic content is your co-savior here.

With a little upfront rule-writing work, you can leave it to automation to choose the right product for each customer group, and you can think about other things—such as keeping your loyalty program members, well,  loyal.

3. Reward your recipients with mystery 

Persuading customers to join your loyalty program is one thing. Keeping them active, buying products, and generating streams of first-party data you can use to make your emails even more relevant? That’s an entirely different challenge.

Suppose your marketing budget doesn’t have enough room in it by the end of the year for anything bigger than a variable-size discount. No problem! Wrap it up in a fun, interactive mystery reveal-the-deal message that begs customers to click on it and find out what their special deal is. It’s not quite the same as unwrapping a present, but it’s the best digital alternative out there—and brands like NASCAR prove why.

Share this irresistible mystery deal with new VIPs or with loyalty program members who show signs of churning soon. Or, dangle it in front of members who need just a few more points or purchases to move to the next tier in your program. Mystery deals are flexible enough to accommodate every customer group from newbies to inactives—and effective enough to raise your B2C ROI simultaneously, too.

4. Make your customer experience more friendly and flexible

Credit cards did away with layaway at many big-box retailers, but multiple delayed payments are back in a big way. Because ecommerce has brought traditional retail tactics and technology together for a blended payment option known as Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL).

BNPL programs like Affirm and Klarna encourage customers to buy more often, increase orders, and more frequently buy premium products without loading up their credit cards all at once. Customers can enjoy their purchases right away, and you get the revenue right away. Everybody wins.

Promoting BNPL can increase email marketing performance KPIs like revenue per email (probably the best measure of campaign success) or average order value, to say the least. So, encourage customers to use BNPL within your emails. Send a stand-alone message that promotes your BNPL services,and features their logos and copy in every place where they’re relevant and stand a chance to increase intent to purchase.

5. Thank shoppers after the holiday season with special offers

When the holiday season is over, many brands simply move on to the next major calendar event. But this year is unprecedented, so why not shake things up a little bit by pausing to thank the customers who shopped with you all year instead of just one season? How you choose to express your thanks can depend on what you want your customers to do next. Here are some options:

Want more tips? We have them!

Our new guide, The Smart Marketer’s Guide to 2021 Holiday Success, has tips and tactics from cover to cover, and all geared to help you achieve all your marketing goals and increase your ROI this season and beyond. Download it for free today!

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to your 2021 holiday email marketing effort. Will the fear of another outbreak keep your customers at home? Or, will the chance to shop your deals in-store be too hard for them to deny?

Nobody knows — and for a savvy marketer such as yourself, these trends truthfully shouldn’t make much difference anyway. Because the only way to ensure holiday email engagement this year is by providing stellar interactions online and through every brick-and-mortar engagement. 

Sounds easy, right? In many cases, deceptively so.

Before your brand can deliver the relevant, engaging email experience your 2021 holiday audience demands, you need to be moving at the speed they are. Otherwise, you won’t be able to pivot and take advantage of favorable changes by the time consumers are choosing to engage with your messages.

Fortunately, that’s where this post comes in. By focusing on the five key focus areas mentioned below, you can find a few new, last-minute tactics to maximize holiday email engagement and make even the biggest Grinch’s heart grow three sizes in Q4!

Make mobile a priority, then worry about maximizing holiday email engagement

The key to making your holiday promotions — or any email, for that matter — more engaging is to make your path to purchase easy. Any campaign that gives someone a one-click shopping experience in the same place they’re browsing your products dramatically increases your odds of conversion.

In 2021, consumers are responding well to the omnichannel approaches more and more retailers are taking, particularly when it comes to mobile shopping.
In fact, our 2021 Retail Personalization Index research found that nearly half of all retail consumers browsed products and made purchases on their smartphone this year — increasing total mobile website traffic by as much as 80% for some forward-thinking brands that prioritize omnichannel interactions.

This will only become increasingly important as trends like mobile move from afterthought to top-of-mind in 2021. In fact, 73% of all ecommerce sales will take place on a mobile device by the end of this year. So, if you’re not operating with a mobile-first mindset, start making changes now before you fall too far behind the rest of retail.

Build loyalty and long-term email engagement

Holiday promotions definitely help you drive new sales, but retailers need to continue building community and goodwill with their customers to tap into the true business potential of these sends.  And that only happens after you maximize holiday email engagement.

So, what better way to improve your Q4 2021 campaign results than by catering to the needs and wants of your most loyal buyers?

A loyalty program based on your long-time followers’ personal preferences and values is a huge advantage for winning more revenue this time of year. Especially if you add juicy incentives like extra loyalty perks, double rewards points, exclusive discounts, free samples, or a free gift with every holiday purchase into the mix.

Bonus points for building omnichannel flows based on buyer behavior changes to grow loyalty and build rapport with your audience directly into your holiday email campaigns. By providing these highly personalized experiences, you can even follow individual shoppers across every channel to interact on their terms — giving them a sense of control and personal connection with your messaging rather than a lump of generic marketing coal.

If you’re looking to turn last-minute engagement into long-term email results, take your loyalty program  to the next level by tracking each shopper persona that made a purchase during the holidays. Then, design targeted post-purchase email campaigns and triggered messages to turn one-time transactions into repeat purchases regardless of season.

Add flexibility to your in-store experience

This year, COVID-19 is still a serious consideration for retail shoppers — as are the ever-evolving safety protocols and in-store precautions you take to protect your in-store customers this holiday season. While the future may look uncertain, don’t forget about the important lessons you learned in 2020 — or how they can help you maximize holiday email engagement among these shoppers despite another unprecedented season.

Be prepared to adjust your communications approach at a moment’s notice so you don’t leave any potential buyers feeling left out in the cold. Tear down traditional boundaries by integrating your ecommerce and in-store environments into a seamless brick-and-click experience. Because we predict that this season’s most creative marketers will also be the most successful.

Take a page out of their playbook and include special holiday events, hours of operation, in-store promotions, and any other brick-and-mortar benefit in your emails to entice digital buyers to visit your store and engage with multiple marketing channels in a manner that enhances their overall shopping experience.

Remember: holiday marketing success is a two-way street. While you shift your priorities to the ecommerce environment in 2021, be sure to keep your brick-and-mortar interactions in mind. Train in-store staff members to ask for customer data and promote email subscription/marketing opt-ins across every customer engagement to maximize the impact of your omnichannel strategy without lifting a finger.

Offer fulfillment and flexible payment options this year

Holiday shoppers are like snowflakes — every one of them is unique. But here’s something that may not be so obvious: building unique subscription models for each audience persona you market to can deliver tremendous results. After all, 80% of marketers are using automation to increase leads, 77% to increase conversions, and 76% to realize ROI in a year or less (including 44% over just the first six months).

While the risks of COVID-19 are nothing new, many people will still likely be hesitant to visit your brick-and-mortar stores in 2021. Making hybrid fulfillment options like BOPIS and curbside pickup as appealing an offering — if not more so — than they were at this time last year. Because more than half of all consumers plan to continue using these more convenient, customer-friendly fulfillment alternatives even after the pandemic ends.

If your in-store purchases typically feature a high Average Order Value (AOV), it’s a smart idea to create incentives that tempt traditional shoppers to take advantage of your alternative fulfillment options. A free gift upon pickup or a discount off their next BOPIS purchase can be a simple-yet-satisfying holiday experience that convinces first-time buyers to stick with your brand long-term.

Another trend gaining massive momentum this holiday season is Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL). Unlike traditional ecommerce and in-store layaway payment options, BNPL gives your buyers the benefit of instant gratification — and your brand the advantage of actualized revenue in Q4. 

Because someone doesn’t have to wait until payments are complete to receive their products, emails that feature BNPL financing options increase conversion rate by 79% and AOV by twice as much on average. No doubt a huge boon for any retail brand looking to better 2020’s holiday email engagement rate.

Prioritize trust and community in your holiday communications

If the past 18 months have taught marketers anything, it’s that transparency and honesty are more valuable than ever in your email messages. So, emphasize these values at every opportunity to maximize holiday email engagement in 2021.

After all, an experience that hides shipping costs, makes online purchases overly complex and time-consuming, or features irrelevant products and messaging usually scares away more customers than it converts.

While there’s immense pressure to perform and convert as many shoppers to paying customers as possible throughout the holiday season, keep in mind that not every email or promotion you send has to push a product. In fact, shoppers worn out from seeing the same holiday-themed communications for weeks or months on end are more likely to notice and appreciate your efforts for doing so.

Earlier this year, we found that two-thirds of today’s retail buyers believe a brand’s ethics and values are important — substantiating 5W Public Relations’ 2020 Consumer Culture Report that notes 71% of shoppers prefer to shop with brands that are aligned to their values.

But that’s not the only thing your customers expect from your holiday experience this year. Dig even deeper into the trend and tactics that can help you maximize holiday email engagement and take 2021’s results to the next level; download A Smart Marketer’s Guide to 2021 Holiday Success to get started.

Throughout the pandemic, email engagement soared to never-before-seen heights. Meaning that media companies and publishers entered 2021 with big plans for their email newsletters.

Diversified revenues streams, subscriber growth, and more relevant, personalized content were within the reach of so many brands. Until Apple made big, privacy-focused changes to its Mail app and operating systems — leaving many digital marketers scrambling to come up with a new plan.

So, what do media and publishing marketers need to know about Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update? And how should you shift your email newsletter strategy to achieve even more success in this new generation of consumer privacy?

Everything You Need to Know Before You Send Your Next Email Newsletter

Last week, Apple rolled out iOS 15 — its newest desktop and mobile operating system. And while these releases are always a big deal for your shoppers and subscribers, this release threw a few extra wrenches into every marketer’s email newsletter plans.

Thanks to Mail Privacy Protection, this update contains a variety of features “designed to protect user privacy,” including the obfuscation of personally identifiable information to email senders whenever someone opens their message through Apple Mail, the tech titan’s native email application.

And — unfortunately for you — these changes may come with some extra work. At minimum, this privacy-minded shift will have a profound effect on how media groups and publishers use their email newsletters moving forward. Because now, increasing in-email engagement of your readers is only half the battle; you need to make data-driven strategies and new information collecting methods that help you attract and retain paid newsletter subscribers a top priority.

It’s Time to Make Some Tough Choices

Today is the perfect time to elevate your email newsletter strategy — whether your goal is to simply maintain your current understanding of your audience or drive new engagement growth. But that end goal only becomes possible after making some tough choices — and before you’re ready to pivot, you need to have the answers to a few key questions.

Should you shift to in-email engagement as a primary metric, even if it risks making your newsletters more clickbait-y? Do you add fields and forms to your email newsletter subscription process in order to bridge the gap and collect more personal data — risking friction that may deter some from completing the last step? Should you invest even more into subscription business models to make up for potential ad revenue losses?

These are just a few things to consider. But first, take a deep breath and don’t freak out. Accept that this transition is going to require change — so focus 100% of your time, energy, and attention on the things you can control today to inspire even greater success in the future.

Evolve Your Email Newsletter Beyond Opens

While open rate and open-focused KPIs aren’t the only metric available to media and publisher email marketing teams, they’re definitely high on the list for every major brand. Correction: were. Because Apple Mail’s most recent update puts a proxy in place that automatically opens any message a user is sent — whether the recipient actually ever sees it or not.

And this makes open rates an inaccurate and unreliable metric to gauge your success moving forward — unfortunately, it’s too early to tell exactly to what extent. While the average US media company can expect roughly half its audience to consume content on their Apple device, only a fraction of that percentage actively use Apple Mail.

Regardless, it’s time to move away from open-focused measurements and toward a more engagement-driven email newsletter ecosystem instead. If you could use a few fresh ideas to inspire your future strategy, check out A Marketer’s Guide to Working Smarter Not Harder for some low-effort, high-impact marketing tactics you can implement right away.

Recently, financial software provider Intuit announced its plan to acquire the Mailchimp email and ecommerce platform for $12 billion. Yes, you read that right.

And for more than two billion users worldwide—many of whom are small and medium-sized business email marketers like you—this news likely means that the next few months will require a wait-and-see approach to find out what exactly changes moving forward.

While Intuit’s Mailchimp acquisition is expected to benefit small-business email marketers who use their data across the provider’s fully integrated platform and services offering, it’s a much different story for marketers who take advantage of Mailchimp’s free and low-cost services and tools.

Things like bulk email sending, basic personalization, automated customer journeys, and third-party ecommerce app/platform integrations could be taken completely off the table in the coming weeks—leaving any brand without a dedicated email partner scrambling for a new solution. Or, at the very least, costing your company even more than what you already pay for this assistance.

Should you stay with Mailchimp or should you go now?

Whether you’re a part of the conversation or not, the truth is that most email marketing circles are already kicking off discussion about migrating to a new Email Service Provider (ESP). But, just to be clear, ESP migration is a drastic step that needs to be carefully considered.

It can take a year or more to simply find the right solution—and that doesn’t even include other necessary steps like migrating data, building new automation flows, and training your team on how to use any new ESP features you’ve added.

Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can engage with more customers. earn more conversions, and grow your email revenue without investing in heavy development or switching to a new ESP—no matter what happens with Mailchimp (or your email sender of choice).

Here are three good places to start:

1. Start learning about your new subscribers and customers right away 

Everything starts with data—personalization, segmentation, dynamic content—you name it. So, why wait? Begin the process of collecting it as soon as your newcomers opt into email with a quick, interactive survey or poll built into your welcome experience.

These are more fun and rewarding than asking your new customers to fill out a long preference list, and it helps you zero in on the first-party data feedback you need to build out audience segmentation rules or customer personas that drive the future success of your email campaigns.

Ask customers to pick a favorite product,  answer a one-question poll, or pick which persona they identify with—and then use their response to personalize your next send accordingly. Who knew engagement could be so easy?

2. Personalize beyond the subject line

The data you collect along each customer’s journey can be used to make every email look as if you created it just for them. First names are fine, but they’re just your opening bid in the high-stakes business of personalized email. Instead of “Hi ‘first-name,’ personalize a product graphic or branded image with your customer’s name, sit back, and wait for the sales to roll in. 

Other unexpected, data-driven personal email touches you can use include adding a localized map with your nearest store’s location, address, business hours, store manager’s name, peak shopping hours, current inventory, and more. Being able to integrate your email, ecommerce, and CRM systems with automation means this magic happens without having to wave a wand every time.

3. Keep customers in the loop with every email

All signs point to potential supply chain problems for the 2021 holiday season thanks to lingering effects from the pandemic and other worldwide economic disruptions. 

But even if your inventory is present and accounted for, things change quickly in the busiest shopping season of the year. Can your email program keep up? Or do you have to manually push the pause button and update content by hand before clicking ‘Send?’

Keeping your customers informed means they’re less likely to be disappointed if they click through on an enticing offer, only to discover they’re too late or the items they want are sold out already. 

Using dynamic personalization, you can anticipate unexpected changes or roll out planned updates automatically. Replace expired promotions with new ones or a default offer, or swap out promotions on items that sell out. 

Email success takes more than a platform switch

The right ESP can help you achieve great things, but it’s not the only key to success. Instead, look at tools that help you stay focused on anticipating and meeting your customers’ needs right now and for the months to come. 

Develop an email program centered on relevant messaging that does more than sell. Because that is how you can cement the relationships that keep your brand top-of-mind all year long.

If you’re looking to take your email marketing strategy to the next level for Q4 and beyond, download your copy of A Smart Marketer’s Guide to 2021 Holiday Success to learn about many more fun, interactive experiences just waiting to help you elevate your brand.

Today,  Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update goes live. If you’re scrambling to put together any last-minute planning or prep to evolve your email strategy, check out our press release or our Navigating an Evolving Privacy Environment webinar where we cover high-level changes that will impact every email marketer.

In the weeks leading up to today’s update, we’ve been taking time to understand the full impact these consumer privacy-minded changes will have on our products as well as the digital marketing community at-large. And we’re doing some exciting, new things to help you evolve your email strategy, navigate the uncertainty, and take advantage of every opportunity the future presents us all to think and engage differently.

If you’re curious about how to evolve or how Liveclicker can help you inspire more moments that matter, click here to explore the future of email with Adam Weissmuller, Liveclicker VP of Product Management, and Maria Braune, Sailthru and Liveclicker Senior Manager of Product Marketing.