The holiday season has always been an enormous — and stressful — revenue opportunity for retailers, and the stakes continue to grow higher each year: forecasters predict $142 billion in online sales this season.

But never fear, we’ve got you covered with a detailed breakdown of trending strategies to “sleigh” your holiday sales goals this year.

In this episode of “The Commerce Marketer Podcast,” Greg Zakowicz, senior commerce marketing analyst at Oracle NetSuite, discusses strategies to prepare your email marketing program for the 2019 holiday season with key lessons from last year, overlooked best practices and the best send days and times.

Greg starts by breaking down last year’s holiday sales performance, which averaged to about $2 billion a day in sales. He notes that the only days not to break $1 billion in sales were the four days leading up to Christmas — which could be because those sales moved to in-store or “buy online pickup in store” (BOPUS) because of delivery timelines.

Another important number to note is that more than half of holiday traffic and 31% of revenue came from smartphones last year for the first time.

“And if you count tablet traffic too, mobile accounts for 60% of traffic and 40% of revenue for the holiday season,” Zakowicz says. “So, what that means is that if you’re in paid search or email marketing and you’re not mobile optimized, then you’re not optimized by any means.”

He then breaks down the most popular promotions from last year, citing a survey that says shoppers’ first choice is a price discount, followed closely by free shipping and then free gifts with a purchase. He covers some of the promotions that were trending downward, before discussing a new one: category discounts.

“The benefit for category-specific deals is that you can space out your incentives over multiple days,” Zakowicz said. “You might have sweaters for 40% off today and pajamas for 40% off tomorrow, which keeps people opening emails because they have a reason to come back.”

He gives examples of how retailers can make this trend work for them, as well as some of the drawbacks before explaining how free shipping thresholds can work with category-specific sales to protect margins. Customers are beginning to expect free shipping, but Zakowicz says it can be a strong incentive for shoppers on its own, especially as the season progresses.

He goes on to discuss subject line tactics and standing out in the inbox, before getting into what he calls the Cyber Five, the days running from Thanksgiving until Cyber Monday.

“Those five days accounted for were the top five online sales days of the entire season, almost 20% of all holiday spending,” Zakowicz said. “But a lot of retailers started their Black Friday promotions on the Monday before Black Friday.”
For this reason, he suggests you consider this time to be your Cyber Ten — and even if your margins don’t support you running promotions during this entire period, you should at least structure your marketing and promotions to compete for shoppers’ attention.

“Don’t be caught off guard,” he says. “The Sunday before Thanksgiving is an opportunity to start those sales early.”

He ends by sharing five frequently overlooked holiday planning items as well as lifecycle message considerations for the holidays, wrapping the podcast up with one email send tip to gain you an advantage over your competition.

If you want to find out, just listen to the full episode on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Google Play, CastBox, TuneIn, or YouTube