Post-Christmas Email Retention

By EJ McGowan, General Manager, Campaigner at J2 Global

With so many festive promotions to offer during the holiday season, attracting new customers from Black Friday through the New Year isn't a problem for most email marketers. The true challenge is getting new subscribers to stick around after the holiday hype dies down.

After putting effort into pulling in new customers for the holidays, the key to long-term success is retaining those new subscribers and fostering strong customer relationships. However, the biggest mistake many marketers make in retention is treating new subscribers like the rest of their contact lists.

Below are a few tips and best practices to most effectively retain this season's new subscribers and turn them into loyal brand advocates:

Hone Your Holiday Tactics

The holiday season is a great time to prepare new subscribers for a lifetime of happiness with a brand. Marketers should use these first few months to grab their attention and leave a lasting impression.

This can be done by revamping the standard welcome message with a personalized seasonal greeting. Holiday subscribers aren't a brand's average contacts and shouldn't be treated as such. Adding a personalized touch will make a strong first impression and give them an idea of what a long-term relationship with the brand might look like. Additionally, marketers should make sure transactional emails are well branded. Holiday subscribers will likely receive a flood of transactional emails during the season, so a company will need to ensure it stands out above the rest.

Slow and Steady, Santa

Once brands have these new contacts, they have to treat them uniquely and avoid approaching them too aggressively. There should be a "slow and steady" period in the initial engagement, focused on building rapport rather than overwhelming new contacts with a blizzard of emails. To build trust and "introduce" a brand to new subscribers, companies should send informational content over promotional deals - they'll probably be cutting down on the shopping after the holidays anyway. Futher, if marketers purvey information, send surveys and request feedback about the customer experience, it proves that they appreciate the business. This will ensure a brand is still top-of-mind without being overbearing.

Re-Gifting Isn't Always Tacky

A retailer's contact list will likely double, or even triple, in size between Halloween and the New Year. Retailers should use this as an opportunity to recycle old content. All of the content will be brand new to holiday subscribers, so they could be a more receptive audience for campaigns that have some more life left in them. This will allow marketers to not only predict which campaigns will garner success (since they've executed on them before), but to also maintain efficiency despite a flourishing contact list.

Be the Gift that Keeps on Giving

The secret to retention after the holidays is continuing holiday engagement even after the holiday season ends. By studying contacts' engagement with a brand throughout the holiday season this information can be leveraged in upcoming holidays in the New Year. By using reporting and analysis tools, companies can identify what type of product or deal attracted holiday subscribers to their brand initially and use that information to tailor and personalize deals moving forward. For example, if a man bought a woman's necklace around New Years, send him jewelry promotions around Valentine's Day. Or if a woman purchased children's toys for Christmas, deliver toy promotions around Easter.

Don't Be a Greedy Grinch

Subscribers earned over the holidays aren't always long-term wins. Email marketers should work to build a relationship with new contacts for the first few months of the New Year, but may want to taper off if they don't receive engagement. Further, they will want to use engagement scoring to determine who is open to communication. If recipients are not interacting with the content, they should temporarily be suspended from the mailing lists and re-engaged after Christmas.

Holiday subscribers can be valuable contacts long after December but only if approached correctly. Still, even failure in a retention effort can be a lesson that pays off. Use new subscribers as a testing group if you lose more than half after the holidays end, and re-evaluate your overall email marketing strategy to optimize for retention. In short, don't waste the opportunity holiday contacts offer. Whether they're naughty or nice, there's insight to be gained.