Small businesses have a lot of competition around the holiday season and a lot of pressure to make sure that the customers are ready to purchase even when they are reluctant to do so.

‘Big guys’ can afford to wait until the end of November and then spend huge chunks of their marketing budget on TV commercials, billboard advertising, radio jingles, newspaper advertisement, digital marketing channels and sponsorships.

However, small businesses may not have multi-million dollar budgets but they do have the power of social media and email marketing.

According to a Forbes survey, 82% of the consumers said they’re likely to buy online as compared to 77% people who prefer in-store shopping. Let’s take a look at the 2017 online shopping trends during the holiday season:

  • Desktop beats mobile in terms of purchasing behavior. Amazon’s 72% of sales in December 2017 were made through desktop devices.
  • Amazon is still the king in US eCommerce scenario but other competitors are making huge gains. About two-thirds of total purchases made during the holiday season were made on Amazon. However, Macy’s improved its desktop conversion rates by 7-8 times.
  • It is no longer about a specific day during the holiday season but over an extensive period of time. November 2017 generated $33bn in sales which is 17% more than the previous year according to Adobe.

When it comes to marketing, one of the most important things to be aware of is the demographics of your Target Audience.

According to a report by Business Insider Intelligence earlier this year, millennials remain the key age demographic for online commerce, spending more money online in a given year than any other age group. Millennial consumers–especially those between ages 18 and 29–are also interested in adopting alternative ways of gift-giving, such as loyalty points/rewards, gift cards, etc.

Therefore, as an eCommerce business owner, you must make sure to come up with email marketing strategies that cater to this segment i.e. the infamous millennials!

Before we get into the tips and tricks on how to get most of the holiday season, let’s take a look at some of the most important dates in the Holiday season:

  • Nov. 23: Thanksgiving
  • Nov. 24: Black Friday
  • Nov. 25: Small Business Saturday
  • Nov. 27: Cyber Monday
  • Nov. 28: Giving Tuesday
  • Dec. 11: Green Monday
  • Dec. 12: Start of Hanukkah
  • Dec. 15: Free Shipping Day
  • Dec. 24: Christmas Eve
  • Dec. 25: Christmas Day
  • Dec. 26: Start of Kwanzaa
  • Dec. 31: New Year’s Eve
  • Jan. 1: New Year’s Day

Now that you’ve memorized the above-mentioned dates, here are a few tips and tricks to use to make sure that you stand out from the ‘big guys’ during the holiday season.

1. Start Early and Maintain Momentum

For many customers, the holiday season begins before Black Friday or Cyber Monday and they’re lining up their purchases before that. Most of the customer purchases are now well-researched as customers make the purchases after comparing several offers and products.

Making an email marketing strategy and sending out a holiday teaser email is a great way to get the attention of your customers. Sending out an early email makes sure that your email arrives before the major inflow of the marketing emails from other brands and gives you the edge. Teaser emails also build excitement and momentum among the customers for the business.

Fulcrum Tech, for example, sent out teaser holiday season emails in 2016 and witnessed a whopping 238% increase in revenue from over the previous year on the Cyber Monday deals.

2. Leverage Urgency

Using urgency is a great way to boost your revenues. A limited offer in an email that is sent out to your customers would prompt them to take action now instead of later. Nobody likes to miss out! We’ve all had to deal with heartbreaks where we liked something and when we came back to buy it, it was sold out!

You can leverage urgency in the following ways:

  • Promotion of early bird discounts for some of your products and services.
  • Including the cut-off time and dates for the products to ship so that your customers know that they will have to make a purchase before that
  • Displaying countdown timer on your email driving urgency among the customer to buy the product.
  • Sending out emails with a limited product quantity or creating flash sales.

Below is a good example of Optinmonster executing the idea of leveraging urgency without a cluttered design:


3. Personalize Your Holiday Email Campaigns

A vast usage of predictive analytics can help your business personalize the content of the emails that you are sending out. Customer engagement can be generated through the recommendation of the products similar to the ones that they recently purchased or the ones that they browsed through your website. Businesses can also leverage other demographics such as age and gender to design and send out their email marketing campaigns. This makes the emails more personalized and the customers feel connected to your brand, developing a stronger brand loyalty with it.

4. Pay Attention to What Your Users Want This Year/Season

If I ask people what they want for the holiday season in the context of shopping, they are most likely to say nice warm clothes and discounts. Their needs and wants change with every season, and you, as an eCommerce store owner, have to keep a keen eye on their changing needs and wants.

If you check Google Trends for the topic of sweaters, you will see:

Google Trends

Upon analyzing the graph Google has generated for us, we understand that the trends for Sweaters in the USA in 2017 rose between the colder months (which also include the holiday season) i.e. September to January. Again, in August 2018, the graph has begun to rise. As an eCommerce store, you need to prepare for the rising trends by starting early.

When I typed women’s knitwear USA on Google, the first organic link to appear was Boohoo’s, an online fashion store based in the US.

Boohoo SERP

This shows that they know exactly what the customers will be wanting and hence searching for around this time and in the upcoming months, and have prepared their eCommerce website accordingly. Also, they have made 7 categories for knitwear to make it easy for the customer to navigate and find exactly the kind of knitwear they are looking for.

Upon visiting the website, I am taken directly to the sale section in women’s knitwear, which again shows they are catering to both the things their customers currently want: warm clothes and hot sales.

Paying attention to your customer base’s needs can be very helpful. A business needs to deliver content that the customer cares about. The question is, “shouldn’t I always deliver content that my customer cares about?”

The answer to this is ‘YES!’ but since the customers are bombarded with content over the holiday season, the best way to get a response from them would be by providing them the content that they really want to see. You can use customer feedback collection forms to get a fair idea of what your customers want and then build your eCommerce website around these insights. The survey would help you in following:

  • Improving the content that you’re sending out in your emails
  • Targeting your messages through segmentation of the email lists.
  • Creating and defining offers/discounts for the holiday season

While segmenting the email lists, please take into account the open and click through rate factors. Also the purchase behaviors of the customers and their preferences when they chose to sign up for your email list.

5. Growing the Email List Through Pop-Ups

Did you know that a recent Listrak study found that pop-ups help achieve an average email list growth of 20%? In addition to this finding, Listrak also reported that the revenue of the welcome/sign-up email is 23% higher for the new subscribers who join your email lists through pop-ups on your website.

Pop-ups are an excellent way to gather email data of the users. An excellent strategy would be to offer a discount on sign-up for the website. Sophie and Trey use pop-ups on the home page of their website and offer 10% off on the next purchase. The cost of acquisition of the customer is 10% of the order but in the long run, it can translate into more sales and remarketing opportunities. Once the user is within your email list, you can reach out to them with the latest products, promotions and offers.

Sophie & Trey popup

6. Exclusive Content

The people in your email list signed up for exclusive content.

They became the readers/receivers of your emails in order to get exclusive content. Offer them something extra. Treating the people on your email list the same way as the ones on your social media accounts is not going to help them feel exclusive. Tell your readers about the upcoming holiday deals in advance. Offer them extra discounts or free shipping. Give them early bird deals. Another way of reaching out to them is by making sure that they are the first ones to know when the holiday deals are live.

Exclusivity can be a great tool for generating brand loyalty. Providing customers with content that can be helpful for them in the shopping seasons like tips for the busy holiday season or family traditions can help you make a personal connection with your customers.

Wrapping Up

Remember, improving your sales by improving your website is one of the best things you can do for your brand.

With October (hint: Halloween!) and November just around the corner, we’re sure you can make use of some of the tips mentioned above and make your holiday email marketing campaigns a great success. Let me know what techniques you use during holidays in the comments below!