Last-Minute Email Boosts to Keep Retail Sales Strong Through the Holidays

By EJ McGowan, GM of Campaigner

December is here, and the long-awaited holiday season is upon us at last.

This month represents the busiest time of year for promotions and the biggest sales season for many retailers. It's also the last month of the financial year for retail businesses operating on an annual fiscal calendar-meaning it's their last chance to turn their bottom line from negative to positive and close out the year on a high note.

In these final weeks of the year, retail marketers should fine-tune their email marketing tactics with some last-minute modifications to wrap up the holiday season. Consider the following tips to be a holiday gift-one that will help retailers achieve email marketing success through the holidays and into 2017.

Test and tweak for standout subject lines

Toy manufacturers don't ship new holiday toys to children without testing them for product faults and market interest first. Nor should retail marketers send holiday campaigns to their subscriber base without first testing elements of the email messages.

Shoppers will be receiving a larger than usual amount of email during the holiday season, so marketers should use whatever tactics will give them an edge.

A/B split testing, for example, can help determine which subject lines, email body content and images will be best received by customers. Marketers can also test subject line emojis and personalization tactics to determine what helps messages stand out in customers' crowded inboxes.

Inbox Spirit

Marketing advice tends to gear toward retailers this time of year, but non-retailers still need to engage their audiences too and have a much more difficult time since recipients have a fuller inbox than any other season. Read "Holiday Campaigns for Non-Retailers" here.

Drum up interest for ongoing interaction

The next few weeks will be filled with holiday event after holiday event, and retailers certainly don't want customers to miss theirs because it slipped off their radar. Throughout the month of December, marketers should build awareness of and excitement for their holiday promotions and events with ever-increasing volume of teaser emails. They should steadily increase the cadence of these messages-from once a week early in the month, to every day of the week while the promotion runs-to generate hype early on and keep the momentum going throughout an email campaign.

Even after the holiday promotion has passed, marketers must maintain a regular flow of content to customers so they are used to seeing the messages in their inboxes and engaging with the brand.

Shift to suggestions for last-minute shoppers

Many holiday shoppers aim to have their gift-getting done well in advance of the holidays, but those plans often go awry as the holidays sneak up. Retailers can make it easy for last-minute shoppers to give great gifts by focusing promotions on items that can be downloaded or shipped quickly. The closer the holiday is, the more the content should highlight gifts-whether e-books that can be downloaded or hardcover novels that can be shipped next-day-that will arrive in time for the holidays.

Simplify the purchase process

Consumers can have long holiday shopping lists and may be overwhelmed with their holiday preparations. Marketers should make the purchase process as quick and easy as possible so customers can cross off shopping from their lists and move onto their holiday planning. If possible, they should implement "buy now" buttons or one-click purchasing into their email marketing content so shoppers can take action and purchase products without even leaving their inboxes.

If marketers remember these best practices in the last few weeks of the holiday season, they will wrap up the sales year with cheer. Not only will a strong December help marketers finish strong in 2016, but it will also prepare them to hit the ground running in the New Year.