Did Email Marketing Offers Drive 2010 Holiday Buying Season?

Jeanne Hopkins
Jeanne Hopkins



retail email blog chart

Chad White , tracker of retail email trends and tactics, author of Retail Email Blog and research director at Responsys , answered three questions I posed to him last month immediately prior to Black Friday .

What is the outlook for online holiday sales this year compared with recent years?

The outlook for holiday retail sales in general is pretty good compared to the last two years, with the National Retail Federation forecasting 2.3% growth. As usual, online sales will grow significantly more quickly, with the majority of retailers expecting sales growth of more than 15%, according to Shop.org. Online sales—and offline sales to a lesser degree—will be spurred by higher promotional email volume from retailers. Currently, email volume per subscriber is trending about 30% higher year-over-year.

What is the mind-set of consumers and retailers this holiday season?

Despite the fairly rosy forecasts, retailers aren’t taking any chances. They’ve been pretty aggressive already this holiday season. In addition to higher email volumes, the biggest trend so far is the “graying” of Black Friday, where retailers are making Black Friday deals and pricing available in the weeks leading up to Nov. 26. Among the retailers that I track via the Retail Email Blog , references to Black Friday are more than double what they were last year at this time—and that’s after the number of Black Friday references doubled last year. So there’s been a bigger push to generate holiday sales in November this year.

With most consumers not feeling the recovery yet, their mind-set is similar to what it was last year. On the upside, for retailers, that means that the tactics that worked last year are likely to be effective again this year. For instance, the perennial favorite free shipping is already coming into play, with some retailers like Eddie Bauer and J&R committing to a single free shipping threshold for the entire holiday season. That consistent message may resonate with consumers who are frustrated by free shipping offers coming and going throughout the holiday season.

Why do ecommerce sales grow at a higher rate than total retail sales?

Shopping online is more convenient, provides greater price transparency, and gives shoppers far greater access to more products and brands than are available locally. Plus, during the holidays, free shipping offers make that additional line item a non-factor, and should the weather turn nasty, the convenience factor skyrockets. With consumers searching for the best deals to stretch their holiday budgets in recent years, more of them are signing up for retailers’ promotional emails.

Superior deals is the No. 1 reason consumers sign up for email offers. Email marketing is certainly one of the engines that’s driving ecommerce sales higher.

What do you think?  Did you buy something this season because of an email you received for a discount, free shipping, or other offer?

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