Holiday guide 2013


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Holiday guide 2013

  1. 1. 1-888-BRONTO1 Hear that? It’s the holiday season sneaking up on you! Each day brings us closer to the busiest time of year for marketers and it will be here before we know it. Advanced planning can position you and your team for success by driving more revenue with less stress and more joy. This guide will step through the months leading up to the holiday rush and present steps you can take to make sure you are meeting monthly planning goals. July Establish Holiday Benchmarks Weekly or monthly reports may already exist for the 2012 holiday season but that may be too broad of an approach. As a first step toward developing your communication plan, focus on trends within key holiday promotional periods from last year. Identify which emails worked best and determine which variables led to success. Note how the time of the deployment and the time before a major shopping day or holiday impacted conversions. If promotions varied, discuss the promotions that didn’t connect with shoppers and key-in on how additional success can be gained from evolving last year’s promotions into 2013. Use this data to establish open, click and conversion benchmarks and goals for big dates such as Black Friday or the last day of shipping. Compare your sending patterns against those of other brands by reviewing Bronto’s “Email Trends & Tactics from the 2011 Holiday Season” report. • Compare your sending patterns against those of other brands by viewing Bronto’s “What Just Happened? A 2012 Black Friday Recap and Analysis” on-demand webinar. Recruit a Subject Line Team Great minds do not think alike. That’s what makes them great! Build a small team to contribute subject lines throughout the season. Find the winning subject lines from last year and analyze the following factors: Length: Did size matter? Perhaps a shorter subject line helped your mailing stand out in a cluttered inbox. Tone: Were the winning subject lines playful, promotional, elusive, or a mix? Did your subscribers respond to subject lines differently as the countdown to Christmas approached? Special Characters: Using special characters like arrows, snowflakes or hearts can make you remail stand out in a cluttered inbox. Start testing subject lines with special characters now to better understand how your subscribers will respond. Special characters can lose impact if overused. Go into the season understanding which characters resonate with your customers and how frequently they should be used to gain maximum impact. 2012 Key Holiday Period Thanksgiving Promotional Period Tues 11/20 – Thu 11/22 Black Friday Promotional Period Thu 11/15 – Sun 11/25 Cyber Week Promotional Period Fri 11/23 – Thu 11/29 Cyber Monday Promotional Period Sun 11/25 – Tue 11/27 Christmas Promotional Period Thu 11/29 – Tue 12/25 New Year’s Period Wed 12/26 – Sun 01/06
  2. 2. 1-888-BRONTO1 Commit to writing five subject line options for each mailing. This may sound like a lot of work but this will be helpful on many levels. Not only will you have various perspectives on how the content should be promoted, but you can also use the options for subject line testing. The remaining op- tions can also be candidates for remailings should an email underperform. Partner Collaboration Many brands and their partners will go into code-freeze in September or October. Meet with your technology team and your partners to discuss development schedules for the holiday season and lock down any new integrations, modifications to existing data transfers and other backend pro- cesses while resources are available. To allow enough time for implementation, these meetings should be on your calendar in July. Here are a few topics to put on the agenda. Meet with your Email Service Provider (ESP) to discuss your tentative communication plan. Discuss your holiday frequency and volume. Your ESP may be able to identify ways you can streamline your email production, deployment and data exchanges within the platform. Confirm that your sending infrastructure is optimized. Determine if you should move to a dedicated IP. Moving to a dedicated IP could help troubleshoot delivery issues during the holiday season. Learn more about dedicated IPs and whether you should make the move in Bronto’s “Improve Email Deliverability with a Dedicated IP” white paper. This is the time to implement abandoned cart emails if they are not currently part of your marketing mix. Meet with your shopping cart partner and your ESP to discuss how to best implement abandoned cart emails while you have time for any required development. If you are currently sending abandoned cart messages, now is the time for a comprehensive review to ensure content is up-to-date and data exchanges are functioning properly and to identify optimization opportunities. Compare your existing abandoned cart program, or get ideas for getting started, by reading Bronto’s “From Abandon to Conversion: Why Shoppers Abandon Carts and What Merchants Can Do About It” white paper. August Audit Forms Document Form Locations: If you don’t already have a list of every form that collects new email subscriptions, now is the time to document all forms and the related URLs. This will help to complete updates even after the holidays are over and to isolate issues during the busy holiday season. Acquisition: With the ever expanding number of sites that can be used for email acqui- sition, it is vital to audit the forms to not only verify that they are functioning correctly both from the user experience and the data capture perspectives, but also to make sure you are collecting relevant data. Check preference center, opt-in form, and unsubscribe form functionality. Put yourself in a customer’s shoes and identify if forms are asking for too much information on specific sites. Visitors to your site may be willing to provide more information than a browser on Facebook. Discover methods of optimizing your sign-up forms, check out “Get the Sign Up: Improve the Form”.
  3. 3. 1-888-BRONTO1 Preference Centers: These forms are primarily accessed from links within an email. Make sure all outgoing emails, including triggered messages are linking to the most up-to- date preference center and that the links are functioning properly. On the form itself, confirm that all subscription and unsubscription options are available and that data values are properly populated. Forms for Mobile Devices: Test function and usability of forms on smartphones and tablets. Ensure that the forms render properly, correctly capture data points and are easy for the potential subscriber to use. The holidays will bring increase in-store traffic. Customize forms for mobile devices and plan to promote them in your stores to increase subscriber acquisition and help the customer to take advantage of both in-store and online shopping opportunities. Review Last Year’s Communication Plan At this stage, you have already reviewed mailing data from the 2012 holiday season and penciled in a few ideas for your 2013 communication plan. Now, go back in time and review what you had originally planned to send last year. Find the gaps between your intentions and the reality of what was sent. Did you veer off course because of underperformance, technical issues, or resource limitations? Read more about events that could take you off plan and how to get back on plan here: “Uh-oh... Black Friday isn’t going so well. What do you do?” Factor those deviations into your 2013 holiday communication plan development. Build the 2013 Holiday Communication Plan It’s time to plan your roadmap for holiday success. A well-built communication plan should include, at a minimum, the following elements: - Send date - Mailing name - Day of week - Subject line options - Promotion information - Goal, actual, and difference for open, click, and conversion rate - Segment to be mailed - Goal, actual, and difference for revenue Use this sample 2013 Holiday Communication Plan (Excel file) to get started. Do not delete rows for days when you are not mailing. The spaces will provide a visual representation of time between mailings. Although numerous reports will be generated throughout the holiday season, documenting your mailing plan will help you track progress, measure performance, troubleshoot issues, as well as provide a record of the season when you start planning for the 2014 holiday season. Promotional Contingency Plan Everyone hopes to see green going into the holiday season, but consumer behavior is a moving target, so disappointment is always a looming possibility. The unexpected need to switch promotion- al gears mid-season can be frustrating. From designing a new email creative to implementing the promotion in your commerce platform, resources will be needed and the task will be stressful.
  4. 4. 1-888-BRONTO1 Avoid the chaos and minimize stress, by preparing back-up promotions or variations on what isn’t working. This could mean switching from a dollar discount to percentage off or including free shipping, a free gift, or a gift card with the existing offer. Have alternative email creative ready to go should your numbers not meet your goals. Have the promotions set up on your commerce platform so they can be implemented when needed. An ounce of prevention could save your holiday numbers. Establish Remailing Strategy You may have included remailings in your communication plan, but you should also be prepared to remail other messages throughout the season. Since the majority of retailers will significantly increase mailing frequency this time of year, it is important to be strategic about your unplanned remailings. Sending too many messages to your subscribers could result in increased unsub- scriptions and abuse complaints which may lead to your mailings being blocked. Determine which mailings in your communication plan would be good candidates. Perhaps a “Free Ship- ping Ends Today” mailing could be remailed as “Free Shipping-Hours Left.” Consider excluding subscribers who have already purchased and those who have not opened the first message from the campaign, leaving only those who have either opened and/or clicked but not pur- chased. This group of engaged subscribers has shown interest and the reminder may help take them to the next step in the purchase funnel. Learn more remailing strategies on the Bronto Blog: “Remailing: It’s Like Printing Money!” September Reengagement and List Cleaning Getting your emails into the inbox is always important, but it is essential during the holidays. With the annual increase in email traffic resulting in subscribers dealing with overstuffed in- boxes, it is important to make sure you are sending your messages to a clean and engaged list. Start by determining levels of disengagement and inactivity within your subscriber population. Look for subscribers who have been on the list for a period of time (or have received a certain number of emails) and have not opened or clicked. Adjust these variables until you find signifi- cant populations of subscribers who have stopped interacting with your emails. With two months before the major holiday madness, you have time to either reengage the subscribers or remove them from your list. Send a multi-message reengagement series that tells these subscribers they are missed. Offer a small incentive for them to open, click and convert. If the first messages are ignored, send one last email notifying the subscriber that they will be removed from your list if they do not take an action. In addition to decreasing blocking risks, trimming the deadweight from your list before the holidays begin will give you a better view into the engagement of active subscribers. Learn more about developing a reengagement campaign in the “Will You Stay Or Will You Go Now? How to Successfully Run a Make-Up or Break-Up Campaign” Bronto Blog post.
  5. 5. 1-888-BRONTO1 New Subscriber Acquisition If you followed this guide and audited your forms last month, you are well positioned to put them to work! Feature your email sign up form above the fold on your site. Highlight any incentives a new subscriber will receive to encourage the opt-in. More aggressive tactics would be running a sweepstakes or using a pop-over sign up form for new visitors to your site. Dedicate Facebook posts and tweets to communicate the value of becoming an email subscriber and call out any exclusive email offers that are available to new subscribers. Improve Subscriber Data Profiles Use this opportunity to also build out a more complete data profile of your existing subscribers by sending a dedicated message asking subscribers to update their preferences. These campaigns are often coupled with a one-time discount or a giveaway for taking the action. If you have added key data points that will be essential for the holiday season, focus on asking the subscriber to update those specific data points. Develop Daily,Weekend Summary and Weekly Reports It’s time for a fire drill! Everyone on your team and those that you report to will want insight into the performance of the holiday email campaigns. Be prepared by developing daily, weekend and weekly reports now. Use actual mailings going out this month to build the reports. Share the reports with the team to determine if additional metrics should be added. A few dress rehearsals and an approved report format will help make this less of a chore when everyone on the team wants to see numbers. Be sure to include a screenshot of the emails in the report. Everyone will appreciate being able to match the metrics back to the visual. Get more info on what you should include and how to calculate the data in the “Helpful Formulas for Email Marketing Analysis” Bronto Blog post. October Review Transactional Messages The beauty of transactional and triggered messages is that they require very little attention throughout the year. This often means that these messages can be ignored. Revisit your transactional and triggered messages to make sure all customer service information, such as contact information and return policies, is up to date. Make sure the sending information like From Name and From Address match your non-triggered messages. Send tests to ensure the message renders properly and that all links are functional. Don’t forget the general rule that 80% of the message must relate to the transaction and 20% can be used for marketing purposes. Learn how to optimize your transactional messages in Bronto’s “Put the ‘Act’ in Transact” white paper. Create Emergency Contact List This document should include everyone on your team and related vendors as well as the reasons they should be contacted, especially outside of business hours. Having this information organized before the holiday rush can help to decrease panic in a crisis situation and allow you to more quickly resolve issues. Download a “Holiday Emergency Contact List” (Excel file) template and get started today.
  6. 6. 1-888-BRONTO1 Content Evaluation For this exercise, open your email in your email client and evaluate the following areas: Scanability: Now that the email is open, immediately close your email client. What do you remember about the email? That’s about as long as many subscribers will give for you to communicate your message. Were you able to comprehend the content? If not, optimize the above-the-fold space of your email and consider a font size or imagery that can be understood in a quick glance. From Name: Are the From Name and Form Address accurate and up to date? Don’t forget to check triggered and transactional messages. Pre-header: Are you optimizing the pre-header area to include super subject line copy that can be viewed in the inbox before the email is opened? Are you linking to a browser-based version of the email? Alt Text: Do you have alt text for images? This is especially important for new subscribers acquired during the holiday season who will not see images by default in their first email. Image to Text to Ratio: Are you balancing the amount of images and text in the email content? This will provide a better customer experience for subscribers who are unable to see images. Calls to Action: How captivating are your calls to action? Avoid using “click here” multiple times by making action words clickable like “Find your size” or “See the specs.” Social Calls to Action: Is the function of social icons clear? Ask yourself if a subscriber would know if the Facebook icon in your navigation would result in liking your brand, sharing the email, or sharing a specific item. Clarifying the expectation of what happens post-click can result in greater adoption of your social links. Mobile-Friendly Design: Your customers will be using a mix of traditional computers and mobile devices to research products, plan shopping trips and actually purchase during the holi- days. Your email designs should render and function in the mobile inbox to ensure a positive and productive customer experience. Find out how you can optimize your email messages in the two-part blog post “Tablets Are Taking Over! Are Your Emails Ready? - Part I | Part II” Fine Print: Make sure the following are up to date: Legal info Phone number Privacy policy Unsubscribe included in every email Postal address Learn more ways to optimize your creative in the “Find Your Email Inspiration: 4 Creative Tactics” blog post. Test of Email Content Create email accounts with the top ISPs and subscribe to your email program. See how your welcome email looks with images turned off. Send multiple messages to each account and make sure content is rendering correctly and that all links are functional. This test should be completed in all of the top web browsers on both PC and Mac platforms. As many subscribers will view your email on a mobile device, also check rendering and functionality on mobile phones and tablets. To save you some time, use this “Holiday Testing Grid” (Excel file) to comprehensively QA your email content. Happy planning and happy holiday marketing! 1-888-BRONTO1
  7. 7. 1-888-BRONTO1 USPS - US Mail Type 2013 Deadline Parcel post® 12/14/2013 Letters Cards 12/20/2013 Priority Mail® 12/21/2013 Express Mail® 12/22/2013 CANADA Mail Type 2013 Deadline Letters Cards (First Class) 12/09/2013 Prioritly Mail International® 12/13/2013 Global Express Guaranteed® 12/17/2013 Global Express Guaranteed® 12/20/2013 EUROPE Mail Type 2013 Deadline Letters Cards (First Class) 12/09/2013 Priority Mail International® 12/13/2013 Express Mail Guaranteed® 12/16/2013 Global Express Guaranteed® 12/19/2013 APO/FPO/DPO Mail Type 2013 Deadline Parcel Post® Service 11/13/2013 Letters Cards (First Class) 12/09/2013 Prioritly Mail® 12/09/2013 Express Mail® Military Service 12/17/2013 FEDEX - US Mail Type 2013 Deadline FedEx Ground® 12/13/2013 FedEx Home Delivery® 12/18/2013 FedEx 2Day® 12/20/2013 FedEx First Overnight® 12/23/2013 FedEx Priority Overnight® 12/23/2013 FedEx Standard Overnight® 12/23/2013 FedEx Express® 12/23/2013 UPS - US Mail Type 2013 Deadline UPS Ground 12/18/2013 UPS 3 Day Select 12/19/2013 UPS 2nd Day Air 12/20/2013 UPS Next Day Air® 12/23/2013 2013 Holiday Season Important Dates Shipping Deadlines Holidays and Events * Dates may change. Confirm dates wtih the service provider. Showing last date to ship to ensure receipt by Christmas. October 10/08/2013 Columbus Day 10/14/2013 Thanksgiving (Canada) 10/31/2013 Halloween November 11/03/2013 Daylight Saving Time Ends 11/11/2013 Veterans Day 11/27/2013 – 12/05/2013 Hanukkah 11/28/2013 Thanksgiving Day 11/29/2013 Black Friday December 12/02/2013 Cyber Monday 12/21/2013 First Day of Winter 12/25/2013 Christmas Day 12/26/2013 Boxing Day 12/31/2013 New Year’s Eve January 01/01/2014 New Year’s Day 1-888-BRONTO1 About Bronto Bronto Software provides a cloud-based marketing platform for retailers to drive revenue through their email, mobile and social campaigns. The platform is used by over 1000 organizations worldwide, including Party City, Armani Exchange, Timex, Samsonite and Gander Mountain. Bronto is listed as the leading self-service email marketing provider to the Internet Retailer Top 1000. Bronto is headquartered in Durham, NC with an office in London, UK. For more information, visit