Today, we're featuring a guest post from Kenna Hilburn of Liveclicker.
The holiday season looms near, and marketers are feeling the pressure to develop campaigns that drive results before, during, and after this period. Fortunately, with the right tools and strategy, email can serve as a much-needed engagement channel and revenue driver right at one of the most important times of the year.
This is poised to be a banner year in terms of total consumer spending. In 2018, the average American shopper spent $846 on gifts, a 14% increase YoY. With a high-performing economy, a healthy labor market, and high consumer confidence, holiday spending is likely to increase again this year.
The power of personalization
Together, these factors present a tremendous opportunity to achieve unprecedented email marketing results. And now there’s an apparent path to accomplish all of these goals: real-time personalization.
The value of personalization is well documented; research shows that marketers who use advanced personalization tactics receive 17% greater email revenue than those that don’t.
Despite these results, a surprisingly high number of campaigns are still being deployed without meaningful personalization. A recent research report found that nearly 40% of marketers said that they almost never personalized their emails in the previous year.
Even when brands do use some type of personalization, it is often limited to the same basic customization we’ve been using for years: a first name in the greeting, a recent purchase in the body, a static city or state mentioned in the headline, and so on.
These tactics can be effective — and at least are a step in the right direction — but today’s consumers have come to expect much more.
Three use cases for any holiday audience
Need some inspiration for powering up your holiday campaigns with real-time personalization? Consider the following real-time personalization use cases to improve the way you engage with three very different segments of holiday shoppers: Early Birds, Seasonal Shoppers, and Procrastinators.
Help the Early Birds find the perfect worm.
Nearly a quarter of consumers will start shopping for holiday gifts before October 1. While they’re motivated to get it done, time is still on your side.
Forty-two percent of companies don’t survey their customers or collect feedback. Consider using in-email polls or other interactive ways to collect valuable information about what is important to Early Birds and then use real-time personalization to create highly relevant email experiences.
In this case, you could create a poll where you ask them what special products are most appealing this holiday season. Here’s a great example from Taubman Centers asking subscribers what they love most about the new season:
This is a great way to ask engaging questions about what’s on their own wishlists, or what matters most to them when shopping for holiday gifts. You can even use this as an opportunity to offer initial discounts or holiday promotions!
But the real value is the specific information you’ll receive about each individual respondent. You can use data gathered now to send even more customized emails that give them exactly what they’re looking for throughout the rest of the year!
Deliver ideal experiences for Seasonal Shoppers.
Consumers who prefer to shop in October and November are looking for ways to get the best deals possible — without running into inventory issues.
It’s a real concern; popular items tend to move fast during the holidays, and special offers and deals can change in a flash. If you’re not careful, you can send emails that feature products that are out of stock, priced higher than expected, or temporarily unavailable.
This inevitably leads to a frustrating experience for customers who were ready to pull the trigger on a specific item or sale. Heavily promoted or discounted products can have out-of-stock rates of 10% or more, and out-of-stock experiences are consistently named among the most frustrating for consumers. An initial out-of-stock encounter results in a 30% chance of that customer going to a competitor and not returning, a rate that increases to 50% and then 70% with subsequent experiences. Ouch.
Real-time personalization can save the day. Avoid promoting sold-out products or expired offers with personalized emails that pull the most up-to-date images and content directly from your website — right at the moment of open.
Hot Topic used this tactic to reveal hot new products as they became available, and then swapped or grayed out items that became sold out:
Give Procrastinators a way to save the day.
When the clock is ticking, Procrastinators need as much help as possible. With real-time personalization, desperate times don’t have to lead to desperate measures.
For example, you can send emails that use recipients’ geotargeting data to create maps that show your closest store location to save them time and effort.
White House Black Market used this feature to drive subscribers in-store for New Year’s Eve dress shopping:
You can also add a countdown timer as a fun way to communicate important information, such as the last possible time to take advantage of extended holiday hours or a free shipping deadline. (Tip: Once the deadline has passed, swap out the countdown timer with a link to buy an online gift card instead!)
For a more disruptive approach, include an “Add to Calendar” feature to remind them not only to shop, but also to encourage them to shop with you.
Happy holiday planning!
It’s not too late to incorporate more real-time personalization into your holiday emails. We’ve detailed even more great ideas (complete with effective examples from leading brands) in Liveclicker’s holiday lookbook. Check it out; it will help you avoid a lot of holiday revenue killers (and the related headaches).
See you at Signals!
I’m excited to be joining the marketing experts at Signals 19 in just a few days. You can find even more inspiration for making your holiday email campaigns more personal and more effective at Liveclicker’s Thursday breakout session with Chico’s from 12:45-1:30 p.m. on Fulton Market Stage. See you there!
Kenna Hilburn is Vice President of Account Development & Partnerships at Liveclicker, a Cheetah Digital partner.