By Margaret Farmakis
Senior Director, Response Consulting
With another Royal Mail strike looming just as the busy shopping season gears up, it’s understandable for retailers in the United Kingdom to be in a bit of a panic. Having signed off months ago on glossy Christmas catalogues, marketing managers will be left wondering when customers will actually see the results of their hard work (and high printing costs). Will they remain in postal sorting limbo, will they ever be delivered and when? Online retailers will be worried as well: consumers are going to be less inclined to shop online if they can’t have a guaranteed shipping or delivery date for their items.
As if this year wasn’t hard enough on businesses trying to keep a positive balance sheet and stay upbeat amidst the dire financial and economic predictions, now this. So what’s a retailer to do? Where can a retail marketer turn during a quarter so crucial to the company’s bottom line? The answer is email. Now, more than ever. Here are three ideas for surviving, and thriving, the Christmas crunch:
- Build an integrated marketing strategy. Use email to celebrate your printed marketing materials – celebrate what you’ve printed now; there’s no point waiting for them to be delivered to post boxes. Create an online version of your Christmas catalogues and circulars and invite your subscribers to check out what’s on offer this Christmas season. Encourage a sense of exclusivity by offering only your email subscribers a special incentive to start shopping from the online catalogue with a discount or voucher.
- Keep the lines of communication open. Email is a great way to instantly alert your customers and prospects that you’re proactively addressing their concerns about shipping and delivery delays. Email subscribers are primed to engage with your brand. They’ve purchased from you in the past or have requested to receive your email updates. Let them know you’re aware of the effects the strike may have on their brand experience, and if you are taking alternative steps to improve that, let them know. Have you expanded store shopping hours? Are you offering free in-store pickups? Do you have an order tracking functionality that updates their order status in real time? Are you offering in-time-for-Christmas delivery guarantees? Let your email subscribers know about it.
- Drive store traffic. If the crowds on the High Street are any indication, shoppers are already out in droves. Use email to promote your store events, sales and promotions. Offer vouchers that email subscribers can use in store and be sure to include a ready-to-print voucher in the email. All the subscriber needs to do is print off the email, rather than write down or remember a special promotion code or click to a landing page to get a print-ready format. Use the data you collected during the sign-up process to make your store promotions even more relevant. If you have subscribers’ post codes, feature their local store’s postal address and hours of business in the email. Consider hosting a special after-hours makeover session or festive cocktail party for your loyalty credit card customers or frequent buyers, and send these coveted invitations by email.
- Spread the word. Email is a fantastic channel for viral marketing efforts and the Christmas season is a great time of year to send an interactive game or quiz that subscribers can pass along and share with friends and family, thereby expanding your brand footprint with each forwarded message. Have a social media presence? Use your email messages to feature links to your pages and invite subscribers to become fans or followers. Encourage social media activity with exclusive prize draws or games only accessible through your network pages.
Now, more than ever, email is the channel to turn to for ROI, branding and relationship building. There’s never been a better time to press “send.”
This post originally appeared, in slightly different form, on the DMA-UK Email Marketing blog.