January 11, 2012

Holiday Wrap-Up: Email Trends & Tactics from the 2011 Holiday Season

by Jim Davidson, Manager of Marketing Research

It's never too early to start planning your Q4 holiday strategy.  One of the first steps is to understand trends and tactics from the previous year.  Bronto's "2011 Holiday Wrap-Up" features a detailed analysis covering volume and frequency trends, promotional mix, subject line strategies and, for a few unlucky brands, apology emails.  You can download the full "2011 Holiday Wrap-Up" report in our Resources Section.

Let's explore a few interesting trends for the season.

Volume Trends

Bronto 2001 Holiday Wrap-Up: Email Volume by Day

The email mountain range for the past 6 months is beauty to behold.  Saturdays were consistent valleys throughout the entire year even as we moved closer to the highest peaks of the season.  Email volume began to ramp up in mid-October which saw a 4.4% increase over September.  Sending reached it's peak on Friday, 12/16, and exceeded the second highest volume day, Monday, 12/19, by 8%.

Frequency Trends

You know that your email frequency will increase during the holiday season and you probably find yourself answering two very challenging questions: How much is too much? -and- Is it OK to send more than one email per day?  Our report finds that brands sent an average of 18 emails over the holiday season with the most frequent sender mailing 98 times.  Whew!  Someone clicked send quite a bit over the holidays!

10% of brands sent more than 1 message per day.  It was also not rare for brands to send 3 or more per day with the maximum of 5 per day. Each volume increment is broken out in the full report.

Bronto 2001 Holiday Wrap-Up: Brands Sending More than 1 Email Per Day

Promotional Mix

Barnes & Noble featured highest percent off at 90%.  Promotions featuring 50% off were seen most frequently while broken percentages and those ending with 5% were not overly common.  Offers featuring both percentage and dollar off promotions were less common that one would expect representing only 4% of holiday emails.  

Bronto 2001 Holiday Wrap-Up: Promotional Mix

Subject Line Strategies

Competition in the inbox is rough during the holidays.  A smart subject line strategy can help your email stand out in a cluttered inbox.  Various approaches (short, long, clever, etc...) may work for you and this year many brands went to the extremes to encourage an open.  It's a fun fact that the longest subject line of the season was 200 characters!  This isn't an outlier.  There were many brands tickling that 200 mark.  On the other side of the subject line stick, there were only 33 emails with subject lines 15 characters or shorter.  My favorite was Sephora's "Choose One..."  An expanded break out of the longest and the 33 shortest subject lines is included in the full report.

Apology Emails

It looks like many marketers were on the "nice list" this year.  Only 9 apology emails were received during the holiday season.  Most were related to website issues or corrections to featured promotions. Check out a previous post featuring best practices for sending an apology email.

Hopefully you had a delightful holiday season and made your numbers for the year.  Let me know any successful tactics you tried this holiday season.  

Check out the full "2011 Holiday Wrap-Up" report in our Resource Section to take a deeper dive into the tactics and trends we saw this holiday season.  You can request additional data points here and I'll let you know if they are available.

Jim Davidson
Manager of Marketing Research


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Jim Davidson, Manager of Marketing Research

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