Happy Holidays in August! What You Can Do Now to be Prepared Later

Happy holidays, everyone!

Wait, what? It’s August. There’s no snow yet and my Frank Sinatra Christmas CD isn’t on repeat in my car. But for me, coming from a background in retail, it wasn’t summer until I received my first communication about the upcoming holiday season.

And rightly so.

The holiday season is a vital time for both businesses and consumers. With retail holiday sales up 4% during the 2014 shopping season to their highest level since 2011, it is crucial that your email program be up and running smoothly before you find yourself getting blocked on Black Friday. [Source: National Retail Federation]

To that end, here are a few hints on what to implement now to ensure a solid subscriber experience and beat out the competition come November.

Implement a list unsubscribe option
This one is my soapbox and I am going to stand on it tall and proud. It may not sound optimal, especially during the holiday season, to make it easy for your subscribers to unsubscribe from your messages. After all, you want as many people to see and hopefully act on your message as possible. However, not having an accessible and easy unsubscribe process can increase complaint rates. Increased complaint rates can lead to decreased reputation and lower inbox placement.

The holidays are a common time for marketers to reach back further in their lists and send to more unengaged subscribers. While this is a strategy that can be used, make sure it’s easy for people who do not want your message to stop getting them instead of complaining about them.

Test your emails for different devices
With the evolution of Black Friday to web-based shopping and the adoption and incline in Cyber Monday promotions, in 2014, more than 126 million Americans planned to shop online. When asked how they plan to shop, 24.5 million (19.3%) said they will use their mobile device and eight in 10 (84.5%) said they will use their home computer to shop online. “Mobile retailing remains important as consumers increasingly rely on their smartphones and tablets to research and purchase products.” [Source: National Retail Federation]

In an IBM study, they found that 50% of all traffic to retail sites is occurring on mobile. By December, these figures are expected to grow. And while mobile is growing, consumers use their phones to get inspiration and conduct research in order to make purchases later, possibly on a desktop or a tablet. [Source: Digiday]

With so much opportunity in so many different places, you want your email to be the first trigger these shoppers see to make their purchases. Testing your emails before sending, using tools like Return Path’s Inbox Preview, will help optimize content for many different kinds of subscribers on various devices, leading to increased opens and purchases.

Do something different than you have in the past
Mix it up and make it interesting. Changing up subject lines from the norm is a key focus for many companies this upcoming season and an excellent way to drive subscriber engagement. Check out the Art and Science of Effective Subject Lines for tips on which words within subject lines lend to increased read rates.

Grow your list
Brush up on your acquisition techniques by reading our ebook 50 Ways to Grow you Email List. Now is a great time to grow your list, set frequency preferences and expectations with your subscribers, and cultivate enthusiasm for your holiday communications. Encouraging your current subscribers to update their preferences is another technique to get your subscribers geared up for the holidays.

Email fraud protection: get it now before you get hit later
I know first-hand from working with a company that was compromised, how a cyber-attack or any data breach can affect a business not only during the time of the attack but for a long time after. It can affect your revenue, your customer trust, your ability to use year over year data to make decisions, and so much more.

The Email Fraud Protection team here at Return Path can actively monitor your sending domains and those that phishers or spoofers might use to send fraudulent emails and stop it before it starts. For more information on protecting your brand and your customers, take a look here.

Here’s to a profitable 2015 holiday shopping season!

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