Email marketers expect 2011 holiday season to top last year

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With this year's email click and open rates outperforming 2010's numbers by 23% and 11%, respectively, marketers should prepare for a stronger holiday season than last year, said Chad White, research director at email service provider Responsys. Brands should begin to plan their holiday email campaigns now, given those expectations, he said.

“The smart marketers, frankly, have already started planning for the holidays,” White said.

Planning should involve pre-holiday messaging to streamline end-of-the-year campaigns, such as asking subscribers to update their email preferences and sending surveys to gauge interest in segmented holiday efforts, White said. Marketers can also use pre-holiday emails to sign consumers up for holiday print catalogs, he added.

“Because of print prices and postage being what they are, it's a more tactical advantage in terms of cost savings,” he said.

August and September are the key months for email marketers to conduct their pre-holiday preparations and clean up email programs, because consumers may not unsubscribe in November after being inundated with a higher volume of marketing emails, White said.

“You get into ‘last straw' territory in November,” he said, noting that the consumer would likely have considered unsubscribing prior to a holiday campaign.

The average retailer began its holiday email campaign on October 17 of last year, according to Responsys' “Retail Guide to the Holiday Season 2011report. The average start date was October 19 in 2009 and October 28 two years prior.

“Retailers are trying to move forward, trying to be first,” said White. “Last year, we saw that Black Friday deals and offers were made available much earlier in November than in past years.”

The volume of emails sent between November 1 and the Friday after Thanksgiving that mentioned “Black Friday” increased 68% year-over-year, according to the report.

The study was based on the responses of 104 top retailers.

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