Cheetah Digital shares their ultimate holiday campaign planning resource for digital marketers.
Many wasted hours crafting this guide were spent trying to work out if we could appropriately crowbar Alanis Morissette’s “Ironic” into the introduction:
“It’s the holiday email created in the heart of summer,
It’s like planning for Christmas in July,
And who would’ve thought it figuuured”
That just sounds like something that should be there right? But are these things ironic? Not really, but we won’t let grammatical pedantry get in the way of that one idea we couldn’t shake. Here we are.
Likely you’re reading this because you were promised tips and advice on how to make your holiday campaigns more successful. You were not expecting a tedious intro about a song, albeit a classic, from the 90s. Don’t fret though, as just like Santa Claus, Royal Mail, and FedEx… we deliver. It’s the same as when your younger self unwrapped the gift you said you wanted all season long. There it is staring back at you in the packaging, or in this case, on the page.
However, the holidays isn’t merely Christmas Day. Thanksgiving a month before is the starting klaxon, and then it’s a frenetic six weeks of Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years, January sales, a lot of sweets, and much more.
As the days grow ever shorter, the leaves begin to brown, and pumpkin-spiced everything hits our shelves, it is one of the busiest times of the year for the beloved brand marketers we work with. But rather than leave everything to one night like Ol’ Saint Nick, proactive marketers will be relaxing with a glass of eggnog and roasting their chestnuts on an open fire – as the painstaking planning of content, offers, and crafting messages was done in t-shirt weather. That’s why we have released this guide in the heart of summer, as we know you’re busy planning for the end of the year well before sweater weather.
So without further ado, here is the Ultimate Holiday Campaign Planning Resource for Digital Marketers. In this guide you will find the following:
- Ghosts of holiday’s past, present, and future
- Wrapping content in the right messaging
- Creating the best holiday experiences
- Personalisation, the gift that keeps giving
- Loyalty for life, Thanksgiving
- The nice list – a single source of truth
- Santa’s little helpers – Cheetah Digital services
Let’s get started!
1. Ghosts of holiday’s past, present, and future
Holiday 2020, a review
Last holiday season, our strategic services team carefully searched for highlights and trends seen in the digital market. Be you inspired by the pumpkin pies, the Thanksgiving spread, or the Christmas dinner, here’s some food for thought from 2020:
Some things were different…
- Holiday themes and offers were in full swing in October – about a month earlier than in past years.
- Emails highlighting COVID-19 masks and safety features for in-store shopping and pick-ups were part of the messaging for many brands.
- Delivery deadlines, shipping delays, free shipping, and enhanced delivery were all key features in the season.
…and some things were the same
- In spite of the emphasis on early shopping, Black Friday and Cyber Monday were the two biggest days for email volume, transactions, and revenue.
- Interactive countdowns, mysteries, and games enhanced engagement.
- Personalised messages lead to high transaction rates for promotional, loyalty, and trigger mailings.
We also ran a more granular survey to try and understand the longer-term impact of COVID-19 on the holidays, and then used that data to better prepare marketers. Some insights here included:
- There is likely to be more shopping in late October and early November than in past seasons.
- Friends and relatives are the next most trusted source for reviews (after social media).
- Seventy-eight per cent of consumers believe shopping will be done earlier this year to allow for protracted delivery times.
- More than half of online shoppers plan to buy online and pick-up in store.
- While groceries will still be primarily bought in-store, 33 per cent plan on ordering online.
- Most consumers will be adjusting their plans to celebrate with friends and family again.
Cheetah Digital’s pre-holiday survey 2021 coming soon*
Holiday 2021, some thoughts
Much like last year, this holiday season is likely to look and feel a little different. After Christmas cracker jokes over Zoom, people are eager to return to tradition in a big way, but like it or not, for now, the pandemic has changed the way we “internet”, and much of this shift may endure in the long-term. Marketers will be challenged to capture pent-up demand and adapt to new ways of serving customers.
With more eyeballs than ever online, to win and maintain relationships with today’s tech-savvy consumers, marketers need to connect with them on the right channel, with the right message at the right time. Some brands have spent years creating strategies that blend physical and online channels to engage consumers on the touchpoint of their choosing, but many are playing catch-up.
We may as a collective be tired of phrases like “the new normal,” but the pandemic has accelerated the shift towards a more digital world, and triggered changes in shopping behaviours that are likely to have lasting effects. To win, that means going beyond one-size-fits-all offers, powering personalisation from third-party aggregated data sets, or sending a weekly email blast to your entire database.
2. Wrapping content in the right messaging
Read any thought leadership blog on better email marketing and you’ll no doubt get into the optimisation rabbit hole. How many characters constitute the perfect subject line length? How many calls-to-action generate the best click-through rates? What’s better, a pre-work or post-work send time…maybe even weekends? And what are the pros and cons of including images? All of these things are important, of course, but for what really moves the needle, consider the following:
1. Aim for that peak time for your holiday emails
Last year, we saw a trend of late-in-the-day emails getting the most engagement. Our statistical model suggests that campaigns sent between 4 p.m. and midnight EST had around one to three per cent higher open rates than expected.
2. A sense of urgency can work against you
Oft-quoted advice in email campaigns is to use a sense of urgency in the subject to get more clicks. Unfortunately, this advice seems to have been used so much that customers are ignoring these emails altogether: subject lines that stress urgent actions underperformed by 1.5 per cent in terms of open rate.
What does it mean for you?
Urgency still has its place, especially when it comes to approaching expiration dates for coupons or items that actually need timely attention. But for your holiday messages, you should avoid the overuse of urgency-related expressions as they don’t necessarily help with performance.
3. Incorporate animation to make things exciting
The holidays are full of lively and spirited times, so it makes sense that customers seem especially receptive to emails that include something a little more eye-catching. Case in point: animation. We found that the use of animation in email content increased click rates by 2.2 per cent, but our model found no statistically significant contribution on expected transaction rates.
What does it mean for you?
If you’ve used animations in the past, or your messaging platform enables easy addition of animations, go ahead and include them in your email content. We’ve found great success with our innovative, interactive, and easy-to incorporate CTA options.
4. Customers go crazy over higher-than-usual discounts
Who doesn’t adore a great discount? Customers love to score a deal but when everyone is vying for attention with discounts during the holidays, how do you show them your deal is best? Offer a higher discount than usual. In our findings, larger discounts contributed to click rates up to 10 per cent higher than suggested by the email’s open rates alone. This also translated to better transaction rates, especially for discount rates of more than 15 per cent.
What does it mean for you?
It’s no surprise that discounts result in more sales. If you want to determine which products or categories you should promote with higher percentage discounts, you should identify your more valuable gateway products for longer-term customer value.
As we head into the heart of the holiday season, we’ll leave you with one additional tip. The holidays are a great time for customer acquisition, but even after the last present is unwrapped, the work is still not done. Keep an eye on new customers and how they evolve in their customer journey. If you understand which customers are more likely to become repeat buyers and bring more value to your brand, you’ll be able to build a strategy around smarter customer targeting with higher CLV.