It’s not too late to change your holiday email campaign

Ebenezer Scrooge is the principal character in Charles Dickens’ classic 1843 novel, “A Christmas Carol.” Readers quickly learn that Scrooge is a greedy, penny-pinching and selfish man. He despises anything that is joyful or gives his neighbors happiness, especially Christmas. In the story, Scrooge remarks:

“Christmas is a poor excuse every 25th of December to pick a man’s pockets.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

I am sure you had (or will have) moments this holiday season where you are in agreement with Scrooge’s sentiments. The likelihood of despair increases when you visit your email inbox. According to Return Path, the average subscriber receives 416 commercial emails per month. The additional onslaught of messages from retailers promoting pre-Black Friday, Black Friday, and post-Black Friday sales is oppressive. The retail holiday’s success has spread to Small Business Saturday, Cyber-Monday and Giving Tuesday (for non-profits). Remarkably, this is just the first five-days of the traditional holiday season for people who plan to celebrate Christmas or Kwanzaa.

Black Friday’s results are impressive. Comscore reported that desktop online sales reached $1.198 billion on November 29, 2013 and represented a 15-percent increase versus Black Friday 2012. However, as email marketers, we need to keep the long-term outlook on our relationship with subscribers, and watch our sending frequency carefully. Don’t assume that just because the holiday decorations are up and family plans are being made, that your subscribers want their inboxes stuffed with email.

With at least one ESP Executive tweeting on December 2nd…

“Our customers sent over 1 billion permission-based digital messages on Cyber Monday!”

…it is safe to speculate your competition is increasing their volume and frequency.

Email marketing’s success drives the tremendous volume of messages settling in a customer’s email inbox. However, the consequence is responsive rates dropping on a per subscriber basis. As another ESP’s Head of Marketing explained:

“The average open rate for Thanksgiving weekend campaigns this year was just under 17% — a 5% decrease from last year’s average of 17.8%. And the average click through rate as measured against the number of recipients fared even worse: down more than 17% to 2.8% from 3.4%.”

This is a challenge for our entire industry, because once subscribers become overwhelmed, the quickest way for them to alleviate the stress is for to hit the spam or unsubscribe button. The result is a falling tide for all ships in the ocean.

Remember- a marketer’s goal is to make our customers feel like Scrooge did at the end of the tale:

“I am as light as a feather, I am as happy as an angel, I am as merry as a school-boy. I am as giddy as a drunken man.”
― Charles Dickens, A Christmas Carol

Email marketing has become a trusted and reliable format to communicate with prospects and buyers. In fact, MarketingCharts.com reported that 37% of shoppers looked for information about promotions and sales through keeping track of emails from retailers.

If brands want to build upon this trust, email marketers must be considerate with any changes in mailing frequency. It is not too late to change your holiday email campaign practices! (Do I sound like Bill Murray in Scrooged?)

Changes in holiday email sending frequency require  proactive communication

If you have not mailed to your opt-ins recently, send a notice that reminds them of the permission they granted you to send messages. If your plan is to increase your sending frequency, notify your subscribers.

Example: Zappos

Zappos season's greeting email

An even better idea is to ask your subscribers first if they would like to receive a daily email alert or text, rather than a weekly or monthly note.

Example: Belk

Belk 12 Days of Christmas email

Again, it is never too late to change.  You can still update subscribers regarding your plans to alter email frequency, design or content in the upcoming days or weeks. By clearly communicating your email campaigns content and frequency from the registration page, allowing subscribers to make updates on preference pages, and continually notifying loyal readers of any changes, you will earn, develop, and retain the trust of your readership.

“Competence is no longer scarce. What’s scarce is trust, connection, and surprise.”

– Seth Godin

Please share your questions, thoughts, and examples in the comment section below.

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