Mother’s Day Analysis Across 3 Popular Gift Brands: Tactics for Driving Email Engagement

This year, consumers were expected to spend $20.7 billion dollars for Mother’s Day with an average spend of $168.94 per person, at a projected increase of 11% over 2012, as reported by the National Retail Federation. While the final numbers for 2013 are still being tallied, no one can deny that retailers rely heavily on Mother’s Day to hit their annual numbers and drive earnings. According to Forbes, it’s the second biggest consumer-spending holiday in the US.

Online gift sites are particularly well positioned to reap the rewards of the nation’s collective generosity toward its mothers, and email marketing can and should play a central role in any gift brand’s strategy. So while Mother’s Day has come and gone, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at what tactics worked well for three popular online gift sites: Uncommon Goods, Red Envelope, and their sister brand, Personal Creations.

I used Return Path’s Inbox Insight product and reviewed 30 days’ worth of email marketing campaign data for each brand from April 14th – March 11th and focused on engagement metrics, specifically the Read Rate (messages that were flagged as “marked as read” by the subscriber’s email client).

Uncommon Goods email campaigns had the best overall average read rates at 16%, as compared to Red Envelope at 14% and Personal Creations at 13%, despite the fact that they sent the fewest campaigns over the 30-day period (11 campaigns), while Red Envelope sent the most (26 campaigns). Uncommon Goods campaigns also performed higher than other retailers in the Shopping category across the 30 days leading up to Mother’s Day, where read rates averaged 14%. Interestingly, Uncommon Goods was also the only brand of the three not to include any percentage discounts or references to shipping/delivery times in their subject lines.

While Uncommon Goods performed best overall, both Red Envelope and Personal Creations had campaigns that drove higher than average read rates. With Father’s Day fast approaching, and numerous holidays coming up in the second half of the year, what can email marketers learn from some of the tactics these gift brands used to drive engagement with their campaigns? Here are a few ideas:

  • Subject lines with “Mother” and “Mother’s Day” outperformed subject lines with “Mom” when compared with the average read rates across all Mother’s Day campaigns for each of the three brands. Consider testing “Father” versus “Dad” for your Father’s Day campaigns to learn what works best.
  • Red Envelope sent three campaigns using special characters (hearts), and each campaign outperformed the overall average read rate of their Mother’s Day campaigns by 9%. While special characters for every subject line doesn’t make sense, getting subscribers familiar with seeing them in their inboxes can pay off – each subsequent campaign using special characters generated a higher read rate than the previous one.
  • Consider using numbers in subject lines, beyond featuring percentage discounts. All three brands used numbers in a slightly different way, including: “1 Day Left for Mother’s Day Delivery,” “Redbook’s Top 10 Gifts for Mom,” and “Gifts for #1 Moms.” These campaigns had higher average read rates than the overall average for each brand’s Mother’s Day campaigns. For Red Envelope, campaigns with numbers in the subject line actually outperformed campaigns using percentage discounts by 16%.
  • While Personal Creations specializes in customization, that’s only one category of gift offered by Uncommon Goods and Red Envelope, however campaigns that featured some element of personalization or customization generated higher than average read rates for these brands. Some of the campaigns included references to “one of a kind” gifts or birthstones in the subject lines while others focused on an area of interest, like fashion and gardening, or a life stage, such as women who are new moms or grandmothers.
  • Other campaigns that drove high read rates were those that referenced brand activity in another marketing channel, like Red Envelope’s campaign promoting their new Mother’s Day catalog, which drove a read rate of 16%, and a campaign referencing a Pinterest hash tag (“#mamasays”). The Pinterest campaign included creative with a call-to-action to view their Pinterest board, as well as prominent Twitter and Facebook links. The catalog campaign included links to view the online version in case the hard copy had been “lost in the mail.”
  • Uncommon Goods and Red Envelope sent the most campaigns during the third week of the 30-day period (a week before Mother’s Day); however the campaigns that drove the highest average read rates for these two brands were sent during the second week. Personal Creations sent the most campaigns during the third week and also drove the highest average read rates during that week, likely because 4 of the 5 campaigns sent that week focused on delivery and shipping promotions, which would have been timely and relevant for subscribers leaving their gift-buying to the last minute.

Be sure to test when implementing new tactics to see what resonates the most with your active and inactive segments, especially during important holidays where your campaigns are expected to drive even higher revenue and ROI.

If you’re in the process of implementing some of these tactics, let us know by adding a comment below. Want to learn more about how you can improve the performance of your email program? 

This post originally appeared in ClickZ.

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