6 Holiday Email and SMS Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

8 Dec
6 Holiday Email and SMS Mistakes—and How to Avoid Them

Last year, holiday spending topped a trillion dollars. 

But getting a slice of the holiday spending pie isn't a given. If your holiday email or SMS campaigns miss the mark and don't grab your customer's attention, they'll look elsewhere. 

In this piece, we're going to run through 6 common mistakes marketers make when building and launching holiday campaigns—and how to avoid them. 

Mistake #1: Failing to plan

Holiday campaign plans are the easiest marketing campaigns to plan for. 

They fall on the same date every year. Customers save and plan to spend money on them. And past holiday campaigns can give you insights and data to use. 

But if you are a month away from a big holiday, like Christmas or BFCM, and you still don't know which campaigns are launching on what dates—you haven't planned enough. 

You need to know every step your customers will take when they make a holiday purchase, and each holiday is different. While BFCM purchases may be a spur of the moment, customers will probably research Christmas gifts for weeks. On top of that, they'll look closely at your shipping details to ensure their products arrive on time. 


All of this matters when building out a holiday marketing plan. Customers won't forgive a brand if they purchase a product they've been pushing on Instagram the week leading up to Christmas, only for it to arrive three days after the holiday. 

Once you know the customer's holiday journey and their buying expectations, build a content calendar around it. 

Plan early and plot every Tweet, blog post and email campaign on a calendar. 

Mistake #2: Sending campaigns at the wrong times

Your holiday campaign must hit your customers' inboxes at the right time to succeed. 

Unfortunately, many brands flood the zone during the holiday season with too much content like bulk emails sends and generic SMS deals. If they're sent to the customer at the wrong time, they risk getting lost in the chaos of their customer's inbox. 

More than 333 billion emails are sent and received each day, but during holidays like Black Friday/Cyber Monday, Thanksgiving, and Christmas, the number skyrockets. You are not the only brand trying to sell during the holidays, and you'll need to send emails and SMS at the right time to get noticed in a customer's inbox. 

The right time to send an email or SMS campaign depends on the holiday. People will shop for Black Friday sales on the day, while some customers skip Christmas sales and wait for bargains around Boxing Day and New Year. 

When GoDaddy tracked the best time to send holiday emails based on customer data, the results were surprising:

  • Email clickthrough rates peaked around Thanksgiving, and customers clicked on emails 5% more in early November compared to October.
  • Clickthrough rate remained steady throughout November and December indicating customers were ready to bargain hunt and thinking about holiday purchases for over a month leading up to Christmas.
  • When customers shopped for Christmas, they did it early. Traffic peaked on December 1st and 2nd, up 25% over the rest of the month

Here’s a peek at what your Black Friday promotional flow could look like: 

Send your holiday marketing campaigns at the right time and catch your customers when they're ready to spend.  


Mistake #3: Not segmenting customer lists or personalizing messages

Customers don’t want emails or SMS sent to them that aren't personalized or relevant to their holiday plans. 

A common email and SMS mistake for eCommerce brands around Christmas is to send out blast emails to every subscriber on their list with a bunch of sale items and coupons. In fact, 70% of millennials say irrelevant emails are frustrating. Customers don't want generic product recommendations, especially when they've purchased something from the brand in the past. 

The reality is, the brand should make an effort to send relevant content to customers. 

An overwhelming number of customers (91%!) say they're more likely to buy from a brand that sends them personalized product recommendations and offers based on their taste and style. The importance of segmenting your holiday email and SMS campaigns can't be overstated. And it can be done in a few different ways using:

  • Past buying behavior: Has the customer purchased something from you before? What did they buy? What was their average order? Do they normally recover an abandoned cart or need a discount code to entice them back?
  • Demographics: Are you targeting customers of a certain age or gender? Do certain products appeal to a specific demographic? Would it make sense to build out separate campaigns to target each demographic?
  • Holiday campaign engagement: Have they opened your email or liked a social media post about a certain campaign? Are they clicking on links to gift guides or coupons? Or have they stopped engaging with your campaign after so many days?

For example, if you've got a list of customers who purchased multiple gifts from your website last Christmas, target them with a VIP offer. Using a tool like Sendlane, you can send out an early marketing campaign and try to encourage them to shop for Christmas gifts with a coupon or product bundle offers. Just create a list for VIP buyers and decide how you want to segment them:

In the example above, everyone on the list has purchased at least four items in the past. This makes it easier to target your offer towards their average order value. These customers spent big last Christmas, so a coupon for 25% off orders over $200 could entice them back to the checkout while locking in some early revenue leading up to the holidays. 

Mistake #4: Missing the mark on your content

Don't ever send a marketing campaign just to increase clickthrough percentages or open rates. 

Sure, campaign metrics will look good. But are customers actually interested in what's actually inside your email?

Holiday marketing campaigns that use clickbait subject lines or rely purely on discounts to survive can hurt a brand's reputation. Forget about generic emails and SMS and focus on building a campaign around personalization and segmentation. 

This is a great example from Tarte. They preview their Cyber Monday sale to generate more members of their loyalty club before hand and with a subject line that reads, "Name, VIP access unlocked" you know there's something good inside!

Create automated campaigns using behavior-based segments to target customers based on past purchases. And using data from last year's holiday campaigns, build out campaign sequences that will land in your customers' inboxes when they'll be thinking about doing their holiday shopping. 

For example, use Sendlane's automation feature to send out a Christmas list full of gift ideas a month before the holiday. If they click on the link, you can follow up in the weeks leading up to Christmas with recommendations based on the products they looked at from the list. 

There are no rules on how to engage customers during the holidays. But if you don't want your campaign to send them to sleep—put in the work to create content they want to read. 

Mistake #5: Lack of goal setting and metric tracking

Holiday campaign metrics are just more than percentages and numbers to show to the marketing manager at the end of the month. 

It's evidence that a campaign earned revenue and customers responded to certain emails or social media posts. It proves customers shop at a specific time or read content like gift guides and product recommendations. Without metrics and goals, you are essentially in the dark, and you'll never know if your holiday campaign efforts were successful. 

The good news is, holiday marketing campaign goals don't have to be complicated. Aim to create specific goals that are easy for your team to understand and measure. Start with:

  • Your campaign goals: How many conversions do you want from each campaign? Based on last year's data, what ROI is expected from the Christmas, Thanksgiving and BFCM campaigns? Will you set metric goals? What about new subscribers and VIP customers who you’ll nurture post-holiday season? 
  • Your customers: How many new customers do you expect to reach? What is the average CAC for each holiday customer? What is the AOV for holiday customers? Do some customers make repeat purchases over multiple holidays? What % of repeat buyers will your campaigns reach?
  • Your revenue: What is your overall revenue target for the holidays? Is there a set number of items you want to sell for each holiday campaign? Does each campaign have separate revenue/spending goals? Will you track separate marketing strategies (e.g., cross-selling, VIP offers, early bird discounts) to see which one earns the most revenue? 

This may seem like a lot. But your past holiday campaign data should be filled with answers. For example, look back at the last couple of years of data and metrics to see when customers spent the most or what days they were more engaged in your marketing campaigns. 

This will give you a rough idea of what days you should plan to push out campaign content and a baseline for revenue expectations for this year's holiday period. 

Mistake #6: Not using and investing in the right eCommerce toolkit

Your store will see a lot more traffic over the holidays—can it handle it?

And no, we're not talking about your servers. It's your eCommerce infrastructure, like shipment and fulfillment notifications, product recommendation funnels and post-purchase nurturing that new customers will remember. 

For example, fulfillment emails should include basics details like: 

  • Product type/name, quantity and an image of the purchase
  • Order number, purchase date and delivery time
  • Shipping address, billed amount/invoice and payment method used

Without a system, customers won't be able to track order fulfilment and when their products will arrive.

As well as fulfilment emails, you should set up email campaigns that cover browse & abandoned cart automation, product recommendations funnel and post-purchase to make the most of every opportunity with customers. 

Let's say a new customer recently purchased something at Christmas from your store but also looked at different products without buying. Thanks to email automation, you can add this customer to a browse abandonment funnel that sends them discounts after the holidays to get them back to your site. 

Inside Sendlane, you can use the new pre built browse abandonment funnel that uses “abandoned product viewed” as a trigger. Then you can leverage dynamic content blocks to create emails that will automatically pull product info and remind shoppers what they’re missing! 

Sendlane abandoned cart automation

You can even set it to send after the holidays, so you don't flood your customer with emails. Ideally, you will send the follow-up email a couple of times before stopping it. If the customer reaches a set goal, like buying a product or spending a certain limit at the checkout, the sequence will automatically stop. 


Spot the mistakes in your holiday marketing plan before it launches

Most holiday marketing campaigns fail because they don't put the customer first. 

Clickbaity subject lines may increase your open rates, and heavily discounted products will get customers to checkout. But when New Year rolls around, you may find all that you have to show for your holiday campaign is a bunch of hollow metrics and disappointing revenue numbers.

The best strategy to make the most of the holidays is to think about what your customers really want: personalized product recommendations, clear communication about their order and most importantly—shipments arriving on time. 

Plan early, and your customers will thank you at the checkout. 

There's still time to avoid these holiday pitfalls - If you're ready to put these strategies to work for your business, start your free 60-day of Sendlane now!

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