Think summer is way too early to prepare for the holiday sales season? Think again!
If you’re selling products online, you don’t have to wait on that Q4 sales spike to carry you into 2019. But it does help! That’s why it’s so important to plan ahead–to know what you’re selling, how and to whom. And the one online marketing strategy that’ll put it all together is email.
Email marketing, even during a busy holiday season, is the best way to get your message directly to customers who are actively looking to shop. But how do you stand out in an inbox full of deals, steals and promotions–and actually crush your sales goals?
Here are six ways to make sure your emails get opened and your products fly off the virtual shelf.
1. Build your email list
If you don’t have a large email list, growing it is your first priority. Whether through a giveaway, influencer activation, or press about your business, you want to drive traffic and build a list of opt-in subscribers who you can market to during the holiday season.
The reason is twofold: you won’t have to pay an arm and a leg for ads when they’re most expensive during that crucial promotional period and you can start building customer relationships now so it’s not a ‘cold’ email come Thanksgiving.
You want to nurture as many new subscribers as possible so they already have a positive experience with your brand before they are bombarded with promotions from every business under the sun. Sending a weekly newsletter is a great place to start. That’s one way to ensure you’ll stand out from the crowd and make choosing you just a bit easier.
2. Diversify your offerings
Traditionally slow summers can be the perfect time to bolster your product line and increase average order values. For products that sell well year-round, add a low cost no-brainer to bump purchases up a few bucks or take some of your customer favorites and turn that into a bundle.
If customers love your scented candles, add a wick trimmer, candle shade or tray to your product lineup. Or why not offer a three scent bundle with a trimmer and tray included? It’s all about exchanging value. Customers pay more because of how they feel when they get more. By bumping up the value of the offering, you can add to your bottom line while creating another successful SKU.
It’s all about knowing your customer and providing logical upsells. You don’t have to think outside the box, you just have to see things through their lens.
3. Build anticipation
Don’t wait until Thanksgiving Day to finally announce your offer! Build anticipation by letting your subscribers know exactly what will be going on and when (and to keep an eye on their inbox for exclusive details). That’s how you incentivize subscribers to actually open your emails when it counts instead of hoping and praying they choose you from the pile.
Prime your list a week earlier with the initial announcement, then send a reminder a day or two beforehand to increase the impact. It’s a simple strategy but highly effective when you’ve built a rapport with your subscriber list.
4. Switch things up
If you’ve been shopping online for any amount of time, you usually expect a smaller promotion right after Thanksgiving and just wait as the discount steadily gets steeper until a Cyber Monday blowout. Why not do something different?
Train your list to take advantage of offers now instead of waiting until the end of the holiday weekend. Forego the ascending discount ladder and go the other way to get their attention.
If you’ve ever watched The Profit with Marcus Lemonis, you might’ve heard him say something like “my first offer is my best offer.” He sticks to his guns, the business owner loses leverage and instead of risking the deal altogether, they shake hands and Marcus signs the check.
So in the same manner why not start with your biggest offer first and then decrease the incentive? You’ll immediately stand out from competitors that start more conservatively and make a larger chunk of your sales earlier in the promotion period. Then you’ll have additional leverage on subscribers who missed out as you go down the ladder and recoup the rest of your sales as they see discounts going away. A tiny shift in strategy can pay huge dividends.
5. Leverage email marketing automation
Which email offer has the highest open rate? Order confirmations! Depending on your shopping platform, transaction emails are sent immediately after purchase.
Transaction emails usually include the items purchased, total order price, shipping method and address. But here’s the best part: they generally have a high open rate and click rate. In fact, “64% of consumers consider transaction confirmations the most valuable messages in their inbox.” Online shoppers are just waiting for this email to hit their inboxes which makes it the perfect opportunity to get customers to convert again—before they receive their order!
Don’t just let them know what they bought, show them what else they should buy! Adding relevant product recommendations and even another exclusive promotion code is a great way to encourage repeat purchases. You can even use your copy to direct them toward particular items with phrases such as “makes a great gift” or by including positive online reviews from previous customers.
6. Don’t stop selling
This is the most active buying season throughout the whole year. Don’t be satisfied with just one or two orders. Don’t be afraid to come up with creative promotions or incentives to bring in more sales.
Remember, it’s an exchange in value. If customers view your offers as relevant and enticing, you won’t get the flood of unsubscribes you’re probably afraid of. That’s why planning and having a system is so important.
A shopper who takes advantage of the first promotion will receive an order confirmation with more relevant product recommendations. Then they’ll get another offer that catches their attention and then shop from it too. And then another…you get the drift. The cycle can go on and on if you put all six of these steps to use.
You can use this holiday to not only increase your average order values but the lifetime value of those same customers. Your best Q4 is only a few clicks away!
Thierry Augustin is the co-founder of Stellar Emails, a low-cost, no commitment done-for-you email marketing service for ecommerce businesses. He’s also the creator of Inbox to Income, an online course for self-starting entrepreneurs to learn email marketing from a pro. Thierry shares practical branding and marketing advice on his business blog. Tweet questions to @taugustin_.