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GUEST COMMENT Wrapping up your Christmas marketing this season

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by Simon Robinson

We have only just reached November, but already the countdown to Christmas has begun. As the nights draw in consumers will be planning their ‘perfect gifts’ for loved ones and retailers should be scrupulously planning behind the scenes to capitalise on this make-or-break period through effective marketing.

In today’s digital age, consumers are constantly plugged into the online world, connecting with retailers through a plethora of channels. While social and mobile have undeniably made a significant impact on how retailers and consumers are communicating with one another, unsurprisingly email remains the killer outbound channel for marketers. Thanks to the proliferation of mobile devices, email now has reach like never before.

With this in mind, it’s important for retailers to recognise the power that email has this festive season. Here we explore how retailers can optimise their email marketing this Christmas as part of the new integrated cross-channel marketing orchestration approach.

Early relationship building

We can’t hide from it; Christmas is being planned earlier each year. Research we conducted recently found that over 40% of consumers start their shopping before November. As a result, retailers need to step up to the mark to engage with forward-thinking customers.

To stand out from the crowd in these early months, retailers should opt for a personalised approach in their emails to start building a relationship with the consumer. Encouraging customers to update their preferences and delivery details can help to lay the foundations for a successful relationship in the run-up to Christmas. By optimising all emails for mobile, retailers can also ensure they are reaching customers while they are on the move

Black November

Although traditionally an American trend, the practice of Black Friday has now reached the UK as retailers use the convention to entice consumers to start their holiday shopping. However, in the UK Black Friday no longer stands alone. It is the finale to “Black November”, a month of special pricing and promotional offers.

Throughout November, seasonal messaging begins in earnest. During this period, retailers should use seasonal motifs to remind consumers of Christmas. Features such as gift-buying tips are an effective way to increase product awareness. Retailers with a smartphone app should consider promoting downloads in their emails to encourage customers to browse items and buy the best deals from their tablets or smartphones.

Countdown to Christmas

As November draws to a close, we are being assured that Christmas is just around the corner wherever we look. Retailers should be using this to their advantage, using incentives for customers to complete their shopping journey. Promoting ‘one-day-only’ deals and delivery options can persuade customers to buy that specific gift they had in mind. Including shipping deadline notifications in this will also invoke a sense of urgency to complete gift buying for their nearest and dearest as soon as possible.

Retailers should also consider using a ’12 Days of Christmas’ campaign in the direct run-up to Christmas to offer last minute money-saving offers. For retailers with a mobile app, push notifications supporting the email campaign can help them stay at the forefront of the customer’s mind in between emails.

Christmas and post-Christmas activity

Families have now gathered together and mince pies have been left out for Santa, yet this doesn’t stop us from some last minute shopping, Experian reported that in the UK last year 84 million people went online to do some shopping on Christmas Eve.

For a sales boost, retailers can send customers “last minute” best deals in the days prior to Christmas, encouraging shoppers to buy themselves something special for the post-Christmas period. Bear in mind customers will be spending the festive period with family and are likely to be using their smartphones to read and send emails, increasing the need for a mobile-optimised approach.

Once the presents are unwrapped and last cracker is pulled, consumers are already thinking of what they will spend their gift cards or Christmas money on. Messaging after Christmas Day should focus on the best deals in the sales, as well as offering party ideas for New Years Eve to encourage people to indulgently splurge on themselves after all of their thoughtful gift-giving.

Much like the perfect gift, effective Christmas email marketing takes careful planning and time; the same won’t work for all customers. By adopting a personalised approach and using the Christmas calendar as a guideline with these tips, retailers can ensure they won’t be on their customer’s naughty list in 2014.

Simon Robinson is senior director marketing and alliances, EMEA, Responsys

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