Monday Catch-Up: Holiday Open Rates, Email Performance Tips and Reducing Seasonal Stress

Monday morning has somehow already rolled around again, marketers! Always happens too soon, doesn’t it? Why not enjoy another sip of your wake-up beverage of choice and ease on into things by catching up on some of the latest email-marketing news? Here you go:

For higher open rates this season, avoid using ‘Happy Holidays’

Email marketers who want to boost open rates during the holiday season (and who doesn’t?) would be wise to stay away from using “Happy Holidays” in subject lines and instead opt for “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Hanukkah.”

Or so say the results of a study reported on last week in Media Post’s Email Marketing Daily by Jess Nelson.

Nelson reports that Sailthru, a personalized marketing communications company, studied nearly 90,000 subject lines its customers sent during the 2015 holiday season. The goal of the study was “to pinpoint the best-performing subject-line wording for retail marketers during the busiest season of the year.”

The results rather conclusively indicate that customers respond well to subject-line specificity during the holidays.

“Retail brands that send emails with the word ‘Christmas’ in the subject line see their average open rates jump 26 percent when compared to emails that simply use the word “Holiday(s),” Nelson writes.

The difference is even more dramatic when “Happy Holidays” is replaced with “Happy Hanukkah” (or other accepted spellings of the holiday). “Hanukkah email marketing messages saw average open rates increase 40 percent when compared to emails simply listing “Holidays” in the subject line,” according to Nelson.

Interestingly, emails did not perform well when a price, a percentage figure or the word “extra” was included in a subject line. “Retail emails sent during the 2015 holiday season containing a price or percentage number in their subject lines were nine percent less likely to be opened,” Nelson writes. “Emails that mentioned an “extra” percentage off in the subject lines performed even worse, with emails open rates 24 percent lower that the retail average.”

In addition, the study results indicate that email marketers would be wise to avoid subject lines that contain all capital letters or any exclamation points; however, subject lines containing special characters such as emojis “performed slightly better than average retail open rates during the study period,” Nelson writes.

Business leaders offer suggestions for improving email marketing performance

Jonathan Long, writing at Entrepreneur, shares the advice that eight business leaders have for email marketers looking to improve the performance of their campaigns.

The suggestions start with staying on top of your email lists. “When someone is adding his or her email address to your list it’s possible they make a mistake, provide a fake email altogether or they eventually change to a new email address,” says John Rampton, the founder of Due. “Run your list through a scrubbing and verification service on a regular basis to make sure you are always working with an accurate list,” he advises.

Matt Behnke, CEO of Orthotic Shop, suggests that every email should have a personalized touch. ““Think of how many promotional emails you receive every single day — the people on your list are no different. You need to understand that even if someone opens your email, they will most likely delete it before scrolling down unless you grab their attention. Personalizing the beginning with a simple, ‘Hi [recipient’s first name],’ can help to engage the reader enough to get them to at least begin to read your offer,” he says.

And Jim Rafferty, CEO of Wabash Power, suggests always testing multiple deployment times. “The worst thing you can do is send off an email to your list and just assume everyone is going to read it. You should constantly be experimenting with different deployment times. Start broad, sending the message to half of your list early in the morning and then to the remainder in the evening. From there, see what one had the stronger metrics and then start to experiment with closer deployment intervals,” he advises.

Other suggestions the leaders share include using emojis in subject lines, building a double opt-in list, segmenting your email list, using a custom responsive email template and including only one clear call to action in each email.

A focus on value can help email marketers alleviate holiday-season stress

Ryan Phelan, writing at ClickZ, thinks that email marketers could benefit with a pep talk in the midst of this hectic holiday season, and he was kind enough to provide one.

“This is a tough time of year for marketers,” he writes. “Everything is riding on this quarter. Everybody’s looking at you to deliver. Plus, you have your own lives to live, your own holidays to plan for with all the stress that can go along with this happiest time of the year.”
Meditation can help, he suggests.

“Any advice about optimizing your holiday email is going to be worthless now because you locked it down three months ago. So, let’s do something we don’t usually do this time of year. Let’s focus on you. Yes, you. The marketer who makes it all happen. Take the next few seconds to take a deep breath, hold it in, shut off the noise in your brain, and then let it out. Go on, go ahead. Nobody’s looking. You might not get another chance until the end of the year. Felt good, didn’t it? Want to do it again? Go ahead. I can wait…”

In addition to meditation, Phelan says focusing on the value of what you do can help alleviate stress.

“Remember that you work in the channel with the highest ROI in digital marketing. Your channel works and plays well with every other marketing channel. And, when you do email right, your subscribers and customers love you. Keep your chin up, and keep believing in the channel we have professed our work lives to upholding and growing.”

And he has some advice for email marketers hoping to make the most of 2017: “Buckle up, strap on your crash helmet, and get ready to have some fun. Maintain your focus until after you send your last post-holiday campaign. Exhale, and enjoy your own time with family and friends. Then, come back in January and say, ‘Okay, guys, what are we going to do differently in 2017?’ Good luck! May the force be with you, and don’t let the zombies win.”