Segmented messages are key to holiday email marketing success

January 29, 2016 06:00 AM

Email marketing experts say they noticed a trend during the 2015 holiday shopping season: Retailers are getting better at addressing the interests of individual shoppers.

“We saw more emails being sent to tighter segments, which is always a smart thing to do,” says Ross Kramer, CEO of email marketing firm Listrak. “Gender segmentation, recency or frequency segmentation, I saw retailers using segmentation to dig deeper in their file. Retailers I hadn’t heard from a lot during the year, I was hearing from more during the holiday.”

Some retailers adapted their email strategy to reflect the reality that some shoppers who visit retailers’ sites during the holidays to buy for others don’t necessarily shop those sites for themselves during the year.That’s a lesson online lingerie retailer Adore Me learned after the 2014 holiday season.

“Our strategy last year was more about using the holiday season to create new customers,” says Adore Me marketing associate Josselin Petit-Hoang. “We did an analysis and found that most of the people we acquire during the holidays don’t stay very long with us.”

Many holiday shoppers only visiting Adore Me’s site once a year, and the e-retailer found that those shoppers also buy a completely different set of products than those who shop the site with greater frequency.

“Most of our (year-round) customers are buying for themselves because (lingerie and sleepwear are) an intimate thing,” says Camille Kress, Adore Me’s business development associate. “These holiday shoppers are buying for other people, so when we’re sending them a message, it has to be gift-guided.”

This year, Adore Me’s team used Salesforce Marketing Cloud's email marketing tools to segment its lists so that those who only shop during the holidays received different messages than those who shop the site year round. Adore Me, No. 634 in the Internet Retailer 2015 Second 500 Guide, began reaching out to everyone on its email list around the same time just after Cyber Monday but with language tailored to each group of consumers.

In emails targeted to holiday-only shoppers, Adore Me used such  language as “Because your squad deserves more than pumpkin spice lattes this year” and “For the friend who would flirt with a doorknob” to try and drive seasonal shoppers to click through to its site.

“What we focused on for December is what you can buy for your family members or your friends, so not so much sexy items but maybe sleepwear and PJs,” Petit-Hoang says.

Adore Me says the email campaign targeted to once-a-year shoppers boasted an open rate that was 21% better on average compared with emails sent to other customers. The conversion rate once those shoppers got to the e-retailer’s site was 39% better.

Yoga apparel and accessories retailer Sivana Inc. took a different tack.

Sivana co-founder Benn Mendelsohn says he invested heavily in email acquisition in the months leading up to the holiday shopping season, running a campaign promoted largely through social media.

A paid Facebook campaign in particular helped Sivana more than triple its email subscriber base, going to around 85,000 in December 2015 from 27,000 in 2014. Sivana’s Facebook campaign was aimed at getting shoppers to download background wallpapers for their mobile phones with a variety of themes, including Sanskrit mantras, chakra symbols and Hindu deities. Shoppers had to give Sivana their email address in order to download wallpaper.

“Based on which ones they picked, we had an idea of which (types of products) to market to them,” he says. “If they downloaded a chakra wallpaper, they’re interested in the chakra stuff, so we’d send them emails about chakra jewelry.”

Those personalized emails paid dividends.

Average order value grew by 15% year-over-year as a result of those efforts, while shoppers were converting at a rate of 3.5%, up from a 2.5% conversion rate last year, something Mendelsohn credits in part to the increase in size of the company’s email list.

“Our focus after we got those email addresses was on bringing people to the site,” Mendelsohn says. “People were obviously purchasing once they got to the site.”

Kramer says with 10 months to go until the 2016 holiday shopping season, retailers have plenty of time to do what Sivana did in terms of growing their lists.

“Now is the time to really test and focus on doubling your list size,” he says. “That’s (at) every touch point. Stores, call center, social media.”

Mike Karanikolas, co-CEO of online clothing retailer Eminent Inc., which does business as Revolve Clothing, says revenue from emails grew 185% year over year during the 2015 holiday shopping season. While those numbers are good, he sees room for improvement in 2016.

“We do not currently have a separate segment for customers that like discounted merchandise,” he says. “I think there are a lot more segments that we can get smarter about.”

While hypersegmenting email lists can pay off, retailers have to be careful not to go overboard. “A segment has to be big enough to be meaningful,” says Andrew Pearson, vice president of marketing with online marketing technology provider Windsor Circle.

For more on what retailers did to improve email open and conversion rates during the 2015 holiday shopping season, check out the February issue of Internet Retailer magazine.




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