For retailers, while Black Friday and Cyber Monday typically mark the start of the holidays, a successful email marketing plan starts long before then. To get ready for the 2019 holiday season, we have developed a handy holiday email marketing guide, complete with a weekly schedule to keep you on track for the busiest email season of the year.

With this guide, your holiday email marketing program will help your business thrive throughout the festive season.

Pre-holiday planning – 8 Weeks to Go

Do a little fall cleaning: segment your email list, purge inactive subscribers, or better yet, create a reactivation campaign to engage inactive customers. Wondering which groups to segment your list into? Here are a few of our suggestions:

  • Interests
  • Loyalty
  • Buying behavior
  • Past purchases
  • Geography

Week 1: Create your plan (October 28 – Nov 1)

With high-level goals in place, start planning your product offering. Review last year’s performance, as well as current sales trends, to determine the right product offerings to promote during the holiday season. Are you looking to focus on a best-selling product, or do you want to take the opportunity to amplify your newest offerings?

From here, build out your schedule of email deployments to have a clear path of where you’re going.

Next, determine the assets you will need to fulfill your holiday schedule. Build the strategy for your email templates and landing pages with a coherent look and feel that speak to the holiday season. Moreover, ensure you have the expertise you need to build your assets.

This will give you an idea as to how much time to set aside for each tactic as you move through your 8-week program.

Week 2: Production (November 4 – 8)

With your first campaign in sight, week 2 is where you get into high gear and work with your production team to start building out the assets for your initial email deployments.

Make sure all content remains on-brand and has a consistent tone of voice. After all, consistency breeds credibility. Also, increase the conversion rate by making emails personal. You can achieve this by incorporating the data you have on contacts such as their name and location in the email.

One of the great advantages of planning ahead is that you have time to test and tweak your emails for optimum success. Use responsive email templates so that the email can appear beautifully in all the major clients and devices (Gmail, Outlook, mobile, etc.). Once drafts are ready, run them through rigorous testing to ensure the templates render correctly as any faulty rendering could cost you potential sales. Tools for email testing include Litmus and Email on Acid.

Lastly, work with your Analytics team to ensure all email deployments are ready to be properly tracked from email open to landing page to conversion. HubSpot’s capabilities in gathering, reporting and analyzing the full customer journey is world-class and if needed, we’re happy to walk you through it.

Week 3: Kick off (November 11 – 15)

It’s time to launch your first campaign. Break your audience into the holiday season with a special sale or a complete holiday gift guide.

Most importantly, with each email you send, testing is key. Prior to launching a campaign, send it to a test segment of your list to determine the initial response. In particular, we recommend A/B testing the subject line, format (e.g. length, images), or offer to see if your deal is effective in getting your customers’ attention. Emails that have a sense of urgency tend to produce the best results but test this out for yourself.  We suggest A/B testing to a 5% segment of your targeted list of 1,000+ contacts for each variation. Remember: test one variable at a time, test often, and track your results.

Tokyobike email campaign

Bonus: Singles Day (November 11)

Singles Day or 11/11 is China’s own version of Black Friday, but much bigger and crazier. The day was originally created to celebrate “the honor of being single” but has since then grown into the largest eCommerce promotion in the world.

As more and more Chinese people immigrate to western countries, brands outside of China are also joining in on the Singles’ Day craze — it has become a global phenomenon.

If you’re sending an email campaign for Singles Day, ensure you are speaking to the Chinese demographic with content that is relevant to them.

Sephora email campaign

Some interesting statistics

Online retailers earned a record $6.22 billion on Black Friday in 2018, according to Adobe Analytics. That’s an increase of nearly 24% from 2017.

The consensus seems to be that while overall sales were up for Thanksgiving weekend, it was eCommerce that won big. Retailers with the most compelling websites paired with physical store locations will have the advantage.

Week 4: VIP (November 18 – 22)

One of the essential pieces missing from many email marketing campaigns we see is the opportunity to provide added value to existing subscribers. Make these loyal customers feel special through targeted offers exclusive to the list. This can be a pre-Black Friday offer — product exclusives, extra discounts, a chance to shop before anyone else, or added bonuses — go above and beyond to show the value of being part of your email list.

Week 5: All systems go! (November 25 – 29)

Thanks to deep discounts from retailers, Black Friday is one of the busiest shopping days of the year, officially kicking off the holiday shopping season.

Be sure to send out a few promotional emails to reach out again before Black Friday.

Whether you go the traditional discount route or try alternative promotions, be prepared as the competition for shoppers’ attention will be fierce.

Abandoned cart emails

Abandoned cart emails have proven themselves to be highly valuable and are most successful during this time of the year. Leverage well-timed automated abandoned cart emails to gain more sales from users who had placed your products in their shopping cart without too much heavy lifting.

Week 5: Cyber Monday (December 2 – 6)

Don’t forget about Cyber Monday, geared towards online sales and shoppers. Last year Cyber Monday had more total sales than Black Friday!

This is a great time to liquidate old stock at unbeatable prices, or put a one-time discount on some of your hotter selling items.

With email competition at an all-time high, make sure to develop a strong promotion with email assets to match. Make sure customers cut through inbox clutter and latch onto your offer with strong subject lines and focused content. Lastly, don’t forget, testing is vital to success.

Week 6: Deadlines (December 9 – 13)

Between work, holiday events, and other commitments, people can lose track of time during the holiday season. Week 6 is a great time to remind customers that time is running out through targeted messaging around shipping deadlines.

Week 7: Last-minute deals and gift ideas (December 16 – 20)

There are plenty of procrastinators out there. Try targeting them with time-sensitive subject lines: “last chance,” “order by x date for delivery by December 24,” or “offer ends in x days.”

Week 8: E-gift cards (December 21 – 24)

With mere days before Christmas, e-gift card sales can be your secret weapon to boost last-minute sales. E-gift cards have been well-branded as “the perfect last-minute gift,” and deservingly so. Deliver targeted messaging that speaks to the stress last-minute shoppers can feel when it’s coming down to the wire for holiday shopping.

Keep in mind the rest of your business

Now you’re prepared to execute a powerful email marketing campaign for the holidays, but don’t overlook the full customer journey and your business processes.

Ensuring that your website can handle a surge in traffic and that you have the inventory and shipping system in place to handle an influx of orders is crucial. Creating contingency plans in case something goes awry is always a good idea. Don’t forget about being able to provide extra customer service through the likes of live chat and emails so that you can address any concerns or issues promptly. Finally, if you run paid campaigns using Facebook or Google, be sure to place tracking pixels on your website as this a great opportunity to remarket to your holiday sales traffic.

Ask the experts

If your business needs help getting ready for a very merry, very email-heavy holiday season in the coming weeks, get in touch with Major Tom’s email marketing experts and start optimizing your campaigns today.