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Holiday Email Frequency: Start Planning Now to Get It Right

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by: Heather Shore (@heathervshore)
18 July 2013

Happy holidays! Yep, it’s that time of year again to start thinking about your December (and earlier) holiday campaigns. As my colleague Dave Walters recently outlined, there are several reasons you should start thinking about your holiday marketing now if you want to boost revenue – and maintain your sanity – during the end-of-year rush. One of the items to consider is frequency.

If you’re like most retailers, you increase your email frequency in the last quarter of the year in anticipation of driving additional online sales. But what if this holiday season you took a different approach? What would happen if you started increasing email frequency to your customer base earlier rather than later? More revenue and higher conversions could be in your future.

When clients ask me to advise them on the right emailing frequency, I tell them to test, test and test again so they can get a feel for how boosting frequency impacts revenue as well as list churn. By starting the process this summer, you’ll have plenty of time to test frequency thresholds and gauge what your audience can handle.

Here are some steps to guide you through the process:

1) Start with a three-month test. This will give your customers time to “detox” before the big season begins in October.

2) Split your list into different segments. If you’re testing a few different intervals — twice a week, three times a week and five times a week, for instance — you’ll want to segment your list appropriately. The structure might look like this: 5x = Monday-Friday; 3x = Monday, Tuesday, Thursday; 2x = Monday, Thursday. In Silverpop Engage, for example, you’d use the segmentation field and do a three-way split, labeling each group “5x,” “3x” and “2x” for the duration of the test.

3) Once the test has ended, analyze a range of metrics. Look at open rate, click rate, unsubscribe rate, conversion rate, monthly revenue and revenue per email to gauge which segment wins the frequency test. These metrics will help you make an informed decision on how frequently messages should be sent during the holiday season.

Keep a careful eye on unsubscribes, bounces and abuse complaints to make sure the emails are being received. You don’t want an increase in frequency to have an adverse effect on a clean database and revenue.

4) After doing the frequency interval test, perform a “day of the week” test. If, for example, you found that three times a week was your ideal frequency, perform some split tests to determine the right days to send to your audience based on performance. You can set up one group to go on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, for example, and another on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This will help you determine the best-performing days, especially when it comes to increasing conversions.

5) Apply your findings to your holiday frequency. Based on the test results, start building out the best holiday offer cadence to help you meet sales goals per product segment. For example, if you know that your audience will only tolerate a 3x/week frequency and your best sending day is Friday, you’ll want to position your best offers on Fridays.

Don’t forget to factor in an extra email during Black Friday and Cyber Monday weeks. Consumers will expect to hear from retailers more often during these weeks.

6) Add behavioral components to the mix. Incorporating content based on an individual’s behaviors can make recipients more welcoming of frequency increases, since the content being delivered is driven by their actions and is thus inherently relevant. So, once you’ve tweaked your holiday offers, take a look at the behavioral component of your messaging.

If customers are converting by the second offer during a typical week, you might route them into a different message stream with  “Free Shipping” offers to continue the conversion conversation. Another option is to deliver content based on products purchased. You could dynamically generate a follow-up message with similar products to create an upsell opportunity — much like what Amazon does with its Cyber Monday deals.

In the end, it’s about getting the right balance between revenue and list churn. Here’s to sending more this holiday season!

Related Resources:
1) Blog: “Holiday Quick Tip: Do the Math in Discount Promotions
2) Blog: “Take a Progressive Approach to Increasing Email Frequency
3) White Paper: “20 Ways to Personalize Content and Enhance the Web Experience


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