I firmly believe in the "make it easy" principle for email marketing, especially in holiday shopping seasons.
However, "make it easy" doesn't mean sending your subscribers stripped-down messages with a call to action and almost nothing else. Instead, you design every aspect of your message — from concept to execution — to help your subscribers browse effectively, buy with confidence and get the information they need to become or remain loyal customers.
Although the high holiday season is just a few weeks away, you still have time to tweak, test and adjust your messages to raise your "make it easy" score.
EMAIL DESIGN AND NAVIGATION
Design emails to enable mobile navigation, research and browsing without sacrificing the desktop user's experience.
The stark reality is that most conversions still happen on the desktop, while tablets rule the mobile world.
"Tablets are where the action is," says Charles Nicholls, founder and chief strategy officer for remarketing technology vendor SeeWhy (a Silverpop technology partner.)
His company studied 21 million transactions from its 2,500 retail clients and found that 75 percent of mobile conversions happen on a tablet while 25 percent occur on a smartphone.
Given that data, your email design and navigation should work in a multiscreen environment: easy to read on a smartphone but desktop-serviceable for more conversions.
Below is a list of steps to take potential friction spots out of your most important messages:
1) Polish up your mobile-friendly design.
If you’ve already converted your email templates to responsive design or another mobile-friendly format, test and tweak them so they take as much friction out of the reading process as possible.
Be confident that your design correctly shows and/or hides the right elements for optimum mobile viewing (secondary content or calls to action, for example).
2) Make small changes in your key email messages.
Identify the emails that have the greatest impact on conversion and follow-up (broadcast newsletters, order confirmations, abandoned-cart/browse reminders, etc.) and look for ways to make them more functional on a small screen. A few suggestions:
- Boost button, font and image sizes in body copy, links and preheaders/administration footers.
- Add space between links to avoid "fat-finger" misclicking.
- Add information to the email preheader that will either support the subject line (viewable in inbox snippets) or highlight secondary information in the email.
- Add inline navigation that can take the reader directly to a CTA farther down in the copy.
- Make sure the subject line, headline, images and button copy work together to deliver your message quickly and efficiently, especially on a small screen.
MESSAGE COPY AND CONTENT
Useful information that helps your customers research, buy and get questions answered easily
1) Add what they're looking for.
Research the search terms that drove traffic to your website last holiday season. Besides product pages, are your shoppers looking for your administrative pages with gift-card purchase/redemption rules, return policy, shipping policies, store locations, store hours, etc.?
Consider adding this information to your navigation or footer, or even sending a stand-alone email with this information before the general holiday email blitz begins.
2) Do the math.
Instead of just telling your customers they get 20 percent off, or a $10 discount, or half off a second purchase, show them the exact savings in the email. Display the original price, the discount and the final price (see Amazon example at right).
Do the math on the product you're promoting, or add a dynamic content module that shows the price on products that match their previous purchases.
3) Promote your loyalty, rewards or premium club in holiday emails.
Many shoppers might sign up for your added-value programs (points, benefits, unlimited shipping, etc.) even without buying or otherwise converting. Add this information to your emails.
If you can, send a membership status email to your club members showing how much they have saved, their progress toward a premium level or other benefit notice.
4) Highlight what makes you special.
Add space in your emails to call out your differentiating services, such as gift wrapping, in-store pick-up, personal shoppers, gift matching, unlimited free shipping, easy returns, etc.
Build functions into your emails that make the shopping process as simple as possible for your customers. Marketing guru Jay Baer calls this "Youtility."
Below is a list of ideas that you can either build into existing messages or use as the basis for new stand-alone broadcast or triggered emails:
1) Populate forms with the personal data you already have on your customers.
This saves time for everybody but is especially helpful for customers who access your emails and website exclusively on mobile.
2) Add reminders in your messages.
Employ these to keep your customers informed about crucial deadlines (ordering, shipping, gift wrapping, etc.). A great example: Silverpop client King Arthur Flour posts its seasonal shipping calendar in its broadcast emails, updating deadlines for regular and priority shipping throughout the season.
3) Insert countdown timers.
Use these before major events, such as Black Friday/Cyber Monday, major sales or other promotions.
4) Highlight nearby stores.
Add a dynamic copy block that inserts nearby store locations and hours as well as any special sales or events at those stores.
5) Add an additional reminder email for key events.
Use the following to trigger communications:
- Process abandonment (cart, browse, account registration, wizards/calculators)
- Back-in-stock notifications
- In-store or online events such as invite-only sales or demonstrations, sent to those who click on email invitations
6) Help out first-time customers or those buying for someone else.
For people who don't know your company, products or culture well, add special information to your onboarding program such as a buying guide for your products, special holiday shipping, return and gift card policies and even a little information about your company: some history, what you do and why and a few extras, such as your retail philosophy, charities you support, etc.
SUBSCRIPTION AND FREQUENCY MANAGEMENT
The holiday means more new subscribers for you and, usually, more email for your regulars. Both constituencies need special attention.
1) Revise your regular welcome/onboarding program.
Add a holiday theme, special holiday-focused content such as shipping schedules, return and gift-card policies, and customer-support contact information.
2) Consider adding an advance heads-up email to your subscribers.
Let them know what to expect in the coming weeks and how they can manage their subscriptions if they want more or fewer emails (see next item).
3) Offer subscribers frequency options.
Give them the opportunity to change their frequency if they don't want to receive every email during the holidays (see Moosejaw example at right). If you use Silverpop's Snooze feature, add copy promoting it in your administrative footer near your unsubscribe link in your emails and on your unsubscribe and preference pages at your website.
4) Develop a plan for “unengaged” past purchasers.
Search through your database for shoppers who bought from you last year but haven't purchased or registered other engagement, such as clicks or opens, since then. Segment them out and send them a special mailing inviting them to return, mentioning new services, product lines or other enhancements.
WHERE TO BEGIN?
I've compiled a pretty comprehensive list of suggestions, but don't think you need to add everything here to your email program before Black Friday rolls around.
Instead, look at your emails that have the greatest impact on revenue or engagement, and find tactics or tweaks you can deploy before the holidays take over.
Then, keep the list around for next year, because anything you do now to make holiday shopping easier can benefit your regular email program as well.
More Holiday Marketing Blog Posts:
1) “5 Holiday Acquisition Tactics to Grow Your Database”
2) “4 Tips for Fine-Tuning Your Holiday Approach This Year”
3) “Creative Ways to Boost Sales with Agile Email Marketing”