November and December are key revenue-driving months for many companies, who begin to craft their holiday email strategies months ahead of time. While this is a critical time of the year for many senders, not all senders focus as heavily on these months, especially non-retail brands. If you fall into this category, follow these helpful tips to ensure your messages stand out in a crowded inbox and continue to generate positive engagement with your subscribers:
1. Plan Send Times Carefully. With a major increase in the sheer volume of emails being sent during November and December, it is important to strategically plan your regular sends around high volume days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. The five day Thanksgiving weekend, known as “Cyber Five,” sees a sharp increase in messages as brands are heavily promoting their email offers. As a non-retailer, avoid sending during this time as promotions and deals are top of mind for subscribers, and likely what they are most interested in interacting with in their inbox. Aim for sends early in the season, like the first or second week in November, and again in early December when there may be a slight lull before holiday messages increase again closer to Christmas. If possible, look back at your performance from the last holiday season as a helpful guide to see if previous deployment dates generated expected results.
2. Send to Engaged Subscribers. As volume increases during the holidays and people receive more and more emails in their inbox, spam complaints tend to rise. Mailbox providers rely on subscriber engagement to help them with their filtering decisions, and negative interactions like spam complaints and ignores increase the likelihood of landing in the spam folder. To avoid this, send only to those subscribers who have actively engaged with your emails over the last few months. This is a best practice that should be followed all year but is especially important during the holiday season. Additionally, the holidays are not the time to add unengaged subscribers back into your list as this could negatively impact your deliverability and reputation as you head into the new year.
3. Run a Subject Line Test. Testing is one of the best ways to continuously optimize and improve your email program. During the holiday months, when subject lines need to quickly grab attention amongst hundreds of other emails in the inbox, running a quick subject line tests can help to positively improve engagement. Select a small portion of your audience to use for an A/B subject line test, creating subject lines that test a clear variable, such as the use of an emoji, urgency, or personalization. Run the test a few hours before deployment to the rest of the audience, allowing enough time to determine a clear winner.
4. Focus on a Holiday Theme. Aligning your content with topics subscribers are likely thinking about during the holidays will help bring added relevance to your messages. For example, a financial services institute may promote topics such as ways to avoid overspending this holiday season or money-saving tips for the new year. In addition to any regularly scheduled emails you may send during the holidays, also consider sending a Happy Holidays or Happy New Year email to your subscribers. These types of goodwill messages go a long way in showing subscribers you care and helping to forge positive relationships, which can also help increase long term email engagement.
5. Stick to What Works. A great way to get inspiration for your holiday emails is to look back at the emails you sent throughout the year. Was there a specific topic or content approach that achieved above average results? Were there approaches that fell short? Use these findings to help guide your holiday strategy. While it’s always a great idea to evolve your email strategy by trying out new types of emails and content, during the holidays, stick to what’s proven to work to help your chances of generating positive results.
As you plan out your strategy, it’s also helpful to keep in mind that engagement rates tend to drop in general during the holidays due to the large volume of emails being sent. According to a Yes Lifecycle Marketing case study, open rates for holiday emails are typically ~17% lower than business as usual emails. So be sure to apply these recommendations to your email strategy to increase your chances of positive engagement.