Day 1: A New Year's Day Email Marketing Evaluation
We all know that the "Holiday Season" does not end with Christmas. Marketers promote massive year-end clearance offers, gift card redemption and “get what you really wanted” campaigns during the period between Christmas and New Year’s Day. If you're still looking for some post-holiday email marketing strategies, check out "The Holidays are Over...NOW What?" with additional tips for increasing revenue after the Christmas rush. The hope is to bring in some sales before the calendar year is a wrap… Wrap! I really have to stop with the holiday puns.
While a deeper dive into the post-Christmas/pre-New Year period is coming soon, I decided to put the 2012 holiday season behind me for a moment (ahhhhhh!) and take a closer look at the very first day of 2013. I found some winners, losers and a few overlooked best practices. Perhaps New Year's Day could be seen as a microcosm of what to keep in mind for the year and, don’t panic, the 2013 holiday season.
New Year’s Email Volume
From the volume perspective, New Year’s themed emails netted out year-over-year. For the past two years we have seen the new year referenced early in the season though in 2012, volume hovered slightly above the previous year.
As we zoom in closer to the end of the year, there are earlier spikes in messaging for the new year in 2012 but those numbers dipped leading up to New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day. The same trend of extending New Year’s Day sales into New Year’s Week sales continued in 2013. With New Year’s Eve falling on a Monday in 2012, many brands leveraged the days after Christmas to promote New Year’s sales that carried through the pre-holiday weekend. New Year’s Eve 2011 fell on a Saturday which explains the spike that year coming later after Christmas Day.
As I’ve seen throughout the 2012 holiday season, brands have felt more comfortable sending more than one email within a 24-hour period. New Year’s Day was no exception with the number of brands sending two or more emails more than doubling year-over-year.
The promotional tactics shifted around a bit this year. An overly promotional email sent on a holiday could be poorly received by subscribers who are focused on enjoying time with their friends and family and not shopping. Last year we saw that New Year’s Day emails were more promotional compared to those sent on Christmas Day but that shifts around somewhat in 2012. There was a dramatic increase in messages that did not directly promote dollar or percentage off discounts. While the message may have contained sale information, the sales speak was kept out of the subject line.
Of course, "Happy New Year" took the largest spot in the subject line word cloud for the day. Surprisingly, 20% and 25% were the most commonly seen discounts though brands were using urgency for their “Final” and “Clearance” events rather than the percentages.
Many chose to make the day lively by using animated gifs. There were many glittery emails and exploding fireworks but two brands added clever twists. Clarins used their products to light up the sky. Some of my favorite uses of animation are those where you can tell the designers and marketing team put some thought into the design. Blinking “Ends Today” images can be effective, but the visual component of an animation can be equally engaging.
Fossil matched up with 12 characters in “Happy New Year” to a watch design. Nice coincidence for a watch company!
My favorite use of animation on New Year’s Day came from Staples who featured five offers next to a falling ball. Technically this email was sent on New Year's Eve but I like it too much to not feature it here. The animation is fun and also works to guide the reader through the countdown of offers.
A few companies made 2013 part of the sale by offering deals for 20% or 13% off. I saw many mystery coupons throughout the holiday season that offered a wide range of discounts like 5-50% off. With 13% or 20% discounts, the gap is narrower for this Piercing Pagoda email but these sales can be effective to get subscribers to click through and cart an item.
Jockey offered 20% off any purchase and an additional 13% off purchases over $100. This stacking of savings can really put subscribers in the shopping mood. Plus the promotional code “celebrate” is easy to remember.
Promo codes can be difficult to set up and customize on your commerce platform, but remember you are asking the subscriber to do a fair amount of work by remembering the code until they are in the cart or by having them come back to the email for reference. While this may not be as much of an issue when words like “FreeShip” are used for the promo code, Fingerhut’s code of “E1117” could prove challenging for subscribers to recall after taking the steps to get the cart. The multiple 1’s could be read as lower case letter L’s and it could be difficult for subscribers to remember exactly how many 1’s were between the E and the 7. Decrease the risk of a negative shopping experience by making your promo codes plain text if they are difficult for subscribers to remember so they can easily copy the code and paste it in the cart.
It’s impossible to not find a way to relate a product to a common New Year’s resolution. Whether it's aspiration of a fitter figure, being more active or creating a new you, brands are ready to play right into the emotional theme of the new year.
Building on what has been a really engaging holiday email program, HHGregg changed the chore-ish "solution" into an more inspirational “solution.” Not only did they feature exercise equipment in the email, subscribers could enter to win daily prizes that fit with the healthy theme.
I don’t mind the outdoors but I hate snow. So this Timberland email didn’t really speak to me but the concept of using their products to enjoy the outdoors is visually pleasant. One issue I have is that the calls-to-action below the primary offer all speak to holiday gift giving. Holiday footers are a great way to offer additional click opportunities throughout the holidays but they should be updated once the holidays have passed and consumers stop gifting and start shopping for themselves.
Social Awareness and Charitable Giving
While I don’t have the data compiled yet, I will say in a non-data, observational way that I saw a lot more social awareness and charitable giving emails this season. Especially those featuring St. Jude Children's Research Hospital. They were everywhere! Seeing the different ways that companies were matching donations or giving a portion of sales to charities made digging through the nearly 7,000 emails I received in December a bit easier. These continued on New Year’s Day.
Shifting away from a penny pincher’s favorite, the “BOGO,” The Company Store sent a “Buy One, Give One” email on New Year’s Day. They donated a comforter to Family Promise for each one purchased.
West Elm took the first day of the year to share the results of their St. Jude Children’s Hospital campaign with subscribers. The company raised nearly $3 million and gave subscribers an opportunity to keep the number raising.
My New Year’s Day Pick
Warning: This email will not be for everyone… and the video even more so.
Urban Outfitters encouraged subscribers to get organized for the new year in a very, well, Urban Outfitters kind of way. The message is to the point, pushes the envelope and, in addition to the chance to shop the sale, includes a really amusing video that surely will have their subscribers remembering why they love the brand.
Manager of Marketing Research
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About the Author
As an expert in email, mobile and social strategies, Jim Davidsonbrings over 14 years of experience in online marketing, managing email and cross-channel programs for top retail clients. From strategic vision to implementation, Jim has led clients to successfully meet aggressive revenue and performance goals. As Bronto's Manager of Marketing Research, he regularly publishes industry-focused white papers, research reports and contributes to the Bronto Blog. His articles can be found in publications such as DM News, ClickZ, eM+C and Multichannel Merchant.