Part 1: Creating a winning 2020 holiday email strategy.

Sep 15 2020 | PayPal Editorial Staff

Holidays are always critical to the bottom line of any retailer. But with many merchants still recovering from lost revenue from earlier in the year due to pandemic closures, businesses of all stripes are relying on a strong 2020 holiday season to make up the difference. As an integral component of any marketing mix, email will be an essential tool this holiday season for reaching customers and driving sales.
Whether you're a long-time email expert or just starting to build out your email campaign, it can be tempting just to send out emails and hope for the best. But if you take the time to build an effective email strategy before the holiday rush, it will help you generate the results you need to make the holidays merry and bright.

We spoke with our email expert Samantha Cole to learn what businesses need to do to maximize their email marketing strategy for 2020 (check out part 2 of our conversation for advice about holiday email marketing tactics). Here's what she had to say.

It's never too early to plan holiday email campaigns.
Because you can send an email instantly, many businesses leave their email marketing to the last minute. But while email marketing is a science, it's also an art. And like any art, you don't usually put your first piece in a museum. You practice and experiment to learn what works, while also building your audience.

"You should be sending and testing emails all year long," says Cole. "Not only will this help you understand what drives conversions among your specific users, but it will also help you build your email list so you have someone to send your emails to during the holidays when it matters most."

Besides sending emails and optimizing your template based on A/B test results all year long, make sure you give yourself plenty of lead time for creating your holiday email content.

"Content for any email campaign should be created at least 4-8 weeks before you launch to ensure a quality rollout," Cole says.

This will help you create a thoughtful sequence with snappy copy and high-quality imagery, which improves your odds of driving action while reducing unsubscribes. It also gives you the time to A/B test your holiday campaign with a small subset of followers to optimize your offering.

Think outside the sales email.
The purpose of your email campaign strategy is to drive sales. But that doesn't mean every email has to be a sales pitch. Incorporate non-sales content into your overall email marketing campaign to help build your customer relationship.

"Content like coupons, birthday cards, news updates, holiday greetings, and product advice can make your emails feel more helpful overall," Cole says. "This makes your sales emails more likely to be opened."

Every marketer will have a different ratio for how many sales to non-sales emails they send. Keep in mind things like overall campaign conversion rates, the conversion rates of non-sales emails compared to sales emails, and even the extra time it takes to generate content for a non-sales email.

Test the right things.
A critical key to your email strategy is A/B testing. You can test everything from when you send emails to the design of your template layout, helping you better understand what works best for your specific audience.

But just because you can test everything doesn't mean you should test it all at once. A more effective approach is to test the elements that most drive openings and conversion.

"I suggest focusing A/B testing on the following elements: the subject line, super subject line, header image size, and the call to action," Cole says. "Pick one element to test, try two options, and then go with the winner. Every email you send allows you to test something different."

Keep COVID-19 in mind for 2020.
Your 2020 holiday email campaign strategy will be different than any other year because of the unique impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. While no one knows what the world will be like during the holiday season this year, it's safe to assume the pandemic will influence how we live and work.

It will also dictate the strategy of your holiday email campaign. For example, Cole expects that many emails may be opened on computers instead of phones this holiday season as people continue to social distance and work from home. If that's the case, you may want to consider tweaks to your template and content that take advantage of the extra screen real estate.

In addition, be thoughtful about your content. "I would avoid typical holiday messaging and visuals like holiday gatherings, traveling to see loved ones, and being together," Cole says. "Given how quickly different locations can go from open to quarantined, content that depends on close proximity to others can be insensitive to the moment."

Optimize your holiday email campaign template.

Strategy is just the beginning. Check out our article The 5 critical elements to optimize for your holiday email template for top tips from our email expert.
The contents of this site are provided for informational purposes only. You should always obtain independent, professional accounting, financial, and legal advice before making any business decision.

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