Planning for holiday 2013

Holiday seems to be miles away, but let’s be honest, now’s the time to gather what we know about holiday 2012 so we can prepare for a successful holiday 2013.

Experian Marketing Services Strategic Accounts team monitored the email activity of 40 brands (primarily multichannel retailers) from September 9, 2012 through January 5, 2013 with the goal of finding email themes, frequency and volume trends leading up to and during the holiday season.

Let’s get right into the key findings:

  • Holiday-themed emails began hitting the inbox in full force in mid-October, peaking during the week before Christmas.
    number of emails by type
    A holiday-themed email is defined as an email with holiday specific mentions or wording, such as Christmas, Cyber Monday, gifts, stockings, Santa, etc., or imagery such as wreaths, candy canes or wrapped gifts. Standard marketing emails in this study are defined as any other marketing email received that did not have holiday wording or imagery.
  • The top theme among holiday emails was gift guides, the theme for 22% of all holiday emails. I won’t dig into this one here; see my previous blog entry: Gift Guides 2.0.
  • Frequency and volume of emails also increased during the holiday season; starting in mid-November, the weekly frequency per brand increased from four to six emails per week and maintained that level throughout December until the week beginning December 23.weekly frequency across brands

Other standout findings from the study:

  • The most heavily mentioned dates within email this holiday season were Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday/Week, Christmas Eve/Christmas and New Year’s Eve/Day.
  • There is very little overlap between the marketing of Black Friday and Cyber Monday; the two dates are not marketed concurrently.
  • The time of day that emails were received did not significantly change during the holidays; An average of 87% of emails were sent out between 4AM to 4PM throughout the study.
  • Percentage off offers were the most popular offer type, and among these, 50% off was the one that appeared most often in marketing emails.

Taking these findings into consideration, we have three recommendations when it comes to planning for holiday 2013.

  1. Make mobile optimization a priority
    According to Litmus, mobile open rates reached an all time high of 43% in December 2012. The continual increase in mobile adoption will impact email in the upcoming holiday season. And with the way mobile open rates are trending, I definitely see them peaking again in December 2013. So what does that mean for your program? For starters, we recommend email template optimization (think big fonts and a clear call to action), short subject lines and offering incentives for first time mobile shoppers to help build a new habit. Also consider responsive design to create HTML email layouts that adapt for different devices and screen sizes.
  2. Incorporate gift guide emails into your mix
    The data shows that recipients are interested in (and transacting from) gift guide emails. Get creative in how you present this in email.
  3. Test your timing
    Our data shows that not many brands are sending emails in the afternoon or evening, so we recommend to test sending to a cleaner inbox at that time. This can especially make an impact when the inbox is being flooded with emails during the holidays. Mobile plays a role here as well, since many people leave their desks and are checking email on a mobile device in the evening.

You can get more on holiday 2012 by checking out the recording from our latest Webinar on the subject. Let us know what you’re thinking for holiday 2013.

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