Labor shortages, pent-up consumer demand and supply chain disruptions could have a huge impact on retailers this holiday season. And the addition of privacy changes on Apple’s new iOS 15 means email marketers face a perfect storm of uncertainty.
Holiday 2021 Email
Start early. I’ve emphasized over the years the importance of early preparation for holiday email marketing. This is particularly critical in 2021, given the likelihood of delays. Review email campaign dates from previous years and start at least a week early.
For example, in 2019, Black Friday took place on November 29. If you launched promotions a week before (November 22), start them two weeks in advance this year (November 12). Also, notify buyers of guaranteed delivery deadlines by December 25. Include these dates in emails and other marketing efforts, as well as on product detail pages. Vacation “final order” dates drive conversions in my experience.
Avoid delivery bottlenecks. Black Friday and Cyber Monday, November 26-29 of this year, are typically the highest volume for holiday email marketing. Apparently, every retailer is competing for consumer inboxes. An unfortunate consequence is the reduction in bandwidth between mail servers, which results in more soft bounces and delayed or undeliverable messages.
Beyond the early deployment of campaigns, consider these tactics:
- Use simple layouts with minimal dynamic messaging to reduce pre-send processing.
- Avoid large images and animated GIFs to reduce file size.
- Check your domain and IP reputation frequently.
- Avoid new sending patterns that could harm your domain or your IP reputation. One example is the deployment of a large reactivation campaign with inactive subscribers just before Thanksgiving, which could trigger spam complaints and thus lower reputation scores.
Synchronize with social and display campaigns. Email can improve the performance of other marketing channels such as social media, display ads, and even direct mail.
These channels can also help increase the number of subscribers. Take the example below from Grove, which sells sustainable household items. Grove’s Facebook ad encourages readers to “reach 2,000,000…” subscribers.
Offer a gift guide by email. Consumers often don’t know what to buy until they see it. Including a representation of a gift guide in the body of an email allows recipients to shop without clicking, at least initially. The guide could include gift ideas with reminders, again, of final order dates.
Emphasize loyalty and rewards. Loyal customers are the lifeblood of successful e-commerce businesses. Many rely on well-structured rewards or loyalty programs.
Take Old Navy, for example. After almost every purchase, Navyist Rewards members immediately receive $ 10 or $ 20 in “super cash” which expires, typically, within a week. Kohl’s uses a similar approach.
Apple iOS 15
Apple iOS 15 is available Monday, September 19. I touched on this update and its probably dramatic effect on email marketing. Apple will no longer automatically report tracking pixels (this is how email marketing platforms measure openness) without the recipient’s consent. Instead, Apple will report by default all emails as having been opened.
So, as the 2021 holiday season approaches, the open rates of emails reported by vendors – Mailchimp, Mailup, HubSpot, others – will likely be inflated. Marketers should reuse any automatic campaigns that rely on openings.
Additionally, iOS 15’s new “Hide My Email” feature allows users to sign up for offers with a different temporary email address, thereby hiding a user’s permanent address. The result could be an influx of new subscribers who could quickly unsubscribe or go to sleep. In the future, increase list hygiene and data cleaning to combat bad addresses.