12 Days of Christmas: Learning from last year

It’s that time of year once again – the holiday shopping season that is make or break for many marketers. We’re here to help with a series of 12 blog postings that focus on helping you not only get the most out of Q4 but pave the way for success in 2012.

At the beginning of 2011 did you take a close look at what worked in your email program during the 2010 holiday shopping season? If you did, it’s time to go back and carefully review your findings. If, like many, you ploughed right into 2011 without a look back, we recommend doing a methodical review of your campaigns from the 2010 holiday season.

1. First, did you track the right KPIs? Do your reports give you enough insight so that you can accurately evaluate success? If not, make sure you have those in place this year.

2. Which types of campaigns worked? Which didn’t? What does “worked” mean? There are many factors that influence campaign success: subject line, offer, creative. Ultimately, you are looking for the campaigns with the highest conversion. But there are many steps: first the subscriber needs to open the message, then click, then shop, and then buy. The campaigns that had the highest conversion were your winners. But you can learn by reviewing other campaigns too.

• Look at which had the highest open rate even if it didn’t convert well. Why did that campaign have the highest open rate? Was it the subject line? Was it the offer?

• Then look at your click-through rates. Did the higher open rate correlate with a high click-through rate? If not, what could the reasons be? Maybe the subject line was appealing but you somehow lost the subscriber’s interest once they actually opened the message. Maybe the call to action was lost or the image that was used wasn’t compelling.

• Did the high click-through rate correlate with high conversion? If not, something happened between the click on the email and the follow through to the shopping cart. Was it the landing page? Take a look at your web analytics data to see where you lost your customer.

3. Did you do any testing last year? If not, plan on doing it this year. Subject line, offer and image testing are fairly easy for most marketers to implement. It takes a bit more work, but the lift you’ll see will be worth it.

4. Look at what you didn’t do and try something totally different this year to see if you get a boost. Do you avoid using holiday themed images? Try the opposite approach this year and see if it resonates with your subscribers. Everyone does free shipping during the holidays – is there a way to make your offer more unique? Is there a way to incorporate your customers’ stories of last year’s purchases into this year’s promotions (Dad loved the fishing pole I bought last year so I know a new tackle box will be the perfect thing this year.)

The bottom line is, do your homework. Dive into what resonated and what didn’t before creating a strategy for this year.

We’ve also created a quick tip sheet of the 12 steps you need to take.

Later this week: Monitoring Your Sender Reputation

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