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Responsys Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season 2012

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Based on the holiday email activity of more than 100 top U.S. online retailers, provides tips and information to help email marketers meet the challenges, capture the opportunities, and make the most of the 2012 holiday season.

Text of Responsys Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season 2012

Trends, tactics and a content roadmap to maximize your email marketing revenue.

by Chad White

Laying the groundwork for successful holiday email

marketing campaigns begins during the summer

starting with a thorough review of your 2011 holiday

campaigns. Before helping you with that review, this

guide will discuss the newest holiday trends and

walk you through the 5 stages of the holiday

season, covering early holiday messaging all the

way through Black Friday, Cyber Monday and the

after-Christmas period.

Based on the holiday email activity of more

than 100 top U.S. online retailers tracked by

the Retail Email Blog and on the insights of

Responsys Strategic Services group, this

guide also addresses the new challenges and

opportunities that will require marketers to

adjust their holiday email strategies this year.

We hope the benchmarks, advice and examples

in this guide help you to maximize the holiday

performance of your email marketing program.

Happy Holiday Sales,

Chad White

Research Director


Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season 2012


The Newest Holiday Trends

The Five Stages of the Holiday Season

1. Pre-Holiday Period

Christmas in July campaigns

Other early holiday messaging

Holiday-supportive messaging

2. Black November

Core holiday messaging

Black November

Holiday headers & gift services footers

3. Thanksgiving Holiday Weekend


Black Friday

Cyber Monday

4. Countdown to Christmas

12 Days of Christmas campaigns

Parade of order deadlines

Free Shipping Day

Last Sleigh Day

eGift Card Day

Last-minute options

5. After-Christmas Period

Seasons greetings

After-Christmas sales

Gift card redemptions

Upsell & trade-in messaging

Review Your Past Holiday Campaigns

01 / 2012 Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season

The Newest Holiday Trends

Every year retailers approach the holiday season differently, looking to be more

responsive to their customers and to adjust to changing shopping habits. Last

holiday season there were a few big changes that you should be aware of when

planning your campaigns this year:

1. Thanksgiving has replaced Black Friday as the unofficial kick-off of the

holiday shopping season. Thanks to more retailers opening their stores on

Thanksgiving Day and the growing impact of mobile commerce, as well as

showrooming, sales and marketing efforts have increased rapidly over the

past couple of years. Last year, 75% of major retailers sent at least one

promotional email campaign to their subscribers on Thanksgiving Day, up

from 60% in 2010 and only 45% in 2009. That increase supported a huge

leap in online sales, which rose 39.3% compared to Thanksgiving Day 2010,

according to IBM Coremetrics.

While some may bemoan the creep of commercialism into the Thanksgiving

holiday, theres no putting the genie back in the bottle at this point. We expect

Thanksgiving to remain among the top 5 email marketing days of the year

again this year.

2. Express shipping went mainstream on Last Sleigh Day, which is the new end

of the holiday season. Retailers dramatically increased their messaging around

express delivery last year, with many retailers offering free or discounted

express delivery options. Their efforts were concentrated on Dec. 21a Last

Sleigh Day for Christmas deliverywhen 74% of retailers sent at least one

promotional email to their subscribers. That made it the fourth busiest email

marketing day of the year, ahead of Green Monday (No. 5), the day after

Christmas (No. 9), and Free Shipping Day (No. 13).

In the past, the end of guaranteed Christmas delivery with standard shipping

signaled the wind-down of the online holiday shopping season. Retailers sent

a very clear message last year that this is no longer the case.

That said, retailers willingness to push express shipping may have been

influenced by higher-than-usual inventory levels, in which case Last Sleigh

Day may not be as prominent this year if inventory positions are kept more

in check. And perhaps even more important, this year Christmas is on a

Tuesday, which stretches out the delivery time for express delivery, making

it less effective and less appealing.

3. Mobile will be more important this year, but especially on days when

consumers are on the move. By the end of 2012, more people will be reading

emails on mobile devices than on desktops or webmail, according to Return

Path. The readership habits of your brands subscribers will determine your

email design and messaging strategy, but you may want to pay special

attention to being mobile-friendly on days that consumers are more likely

to be away from home, such as: / 02

The day before Thanksgiving, which is the busiest travel day of the year;

Thanksgiving Day, when most consumers are with family with a smartphone

in their purse or on the couch watching TV with a tablet on their laps, or out

shopping with their smartphone in hand;

Black Friday, when many consumers are out shopping at brick-and-mortar

stores; and

Christmas Day, when consumers are flush with gift card cash and shop online

because stores are closed.

And those days are in addition to the weekends as well, which also see higher

than average mobile email reading. Weekends are particular important during

the height of the holiday season in December, when weekend email volume is

about 50% higher than at other times of the year.

4. Free shipping is now the norm for the holiday season. Fifty-five percent of

major online retailers offered free shipping all holiday season long. Half of

those retailers have adopted an Every Day Free Shipping policy, while the

other half offered free shipping just for the holiday season. The remaining 45%

of retailers offered free shipping for limited periods of time, offered it on just

a narrow selection, or didnt offer it.

More than half of major retailers offered free shipping for the duration of the holiday season.

03 / 2012 Retail Email Guide to the Holiday Season

Free shipping is the most popular and effective online promotional offer,

with consumers consistently valuing it more than it costs retailers to provide

it. Thats why were seeing more and more retailers move to an Every Day

Free Shipping policy, which is in turn forcing other retailers to keep up by

offering free shipping more often, including for the duration of the critical

holiday season.

The proliferation of free shipping is also driving more retailers to offer free

shipping with no minimum purchase, which a significant number of retailers

did on Free Shipping Day, and to offer free return shipping, which is a small

but growing trend. No longer requiring a promo code to receive free shipping

has also become more common this year.

Keep these trends in mind as you plan your holiday strategy and develop your

campaigns for each of the 5 stages of the holiday season.

Five Stages of the Holiday Season

Pre-Holiday PeriodSummer through the end of October

Black NovemberThe first three weeks of November

Thanksgiving Holiday WeekendThe days around Thanksgiving, Black Friday and

Cyber Monday

Countdown to ChristmasThe remaining weeks leading up to Christmas

After-Christmas PeriodChristmas through the end of January

1. Pre-Holiday Period

While some roll their eyes at Christmas in July campaigns and bemoan holiday

messaging that arrives before Halloween, many consumers begin their gift

shopping before Oct. 31. According to the National Retail Federation, nearly

40% of consumers start their holiday shopping before Halloween, another

40% begin in November, and the remaining 20% start in December.

Because of consumers willingness to shop early, the majority of retailers start their

holiday email marketing campaigns before Nov. 1and thats a trend that has held

firm for years now. Last year, 60% of major retailers mentioned the holiday season

at least once in their promotional emails before the end of October. And retailers

began their 2011 holiday campaigns 70 days before Christmason Oct. 18. Thats

one day later than in 2010.

And this year were off to the fastest start in yearsat least as of late August.

So while the holiday season doesnt kick into high gear until late November, most

retailers find it advantageous to start their holiday email messaging more than a

month before Thanksgiving Day sales and Black Friday doorbusters arrive.

Christmas in July Campaigns

A tradition with fuzzy origins, Christmas in July campaigns are often just an

excuse to hold generic sale during the holiday-starved summer months, particularly

during the last two weeks of July. Santas in sunglasses on the beach are typ

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