Zeta Blog

2016 Holiday is a “Wrap” – What Gifts Did Marketers Receive to Make 2017 Even Bigger?

Posted by Tia Matsumoto on February 09

The results are in and the 2016 holiday season was one for the [online and mobile] record books. The NRF reports holiday retail sales during November and December increased four percent over 2015 with online and other non-store sales up 12.6% unadjusted year-over-year.”

We’ve wrapped up our 2016 holiday Peak analysis – complete with our long-standing retail holiday benchmark study. We’ve analyzed our clients’ email performance from a variety of sub-segments within the retail industry from Oct. 16, 2016 through Jan. 7, 2017, and this is what we’ve learned:

  • The first week in November was WHITE HOT.  Many retailers widened their nets for holiday audience selections.  Two of our largest retail clients increased their volume dramatically -- +80% and +116%!
  • Mobile and table devices dominated opens and clicks. Seventy-five percent of all opens and 63% of all clicks for Zeta retailers during the Peak season were on mobile or tablet devices.
  • Sunday = Openday on the desktop. Despite the increased engagement for mobile devices, desktop click-on-opens consistently spiked on Sundays throughout the season.
  • Emails were flying Cyber Week through Free Ship week. Zeta retailers emailed at their highest frequency (December 4 – 17) when roughly 1/3 were mailing seven or more times a week.
  • In the New Year, volumes decreased as marketers returned to more segmented approaches stimulating a 63% difference in click rates when comparing Panic Saturday with New Year’s Day.

Savvy Consumers Told Retailers Free Shipping Wasn’t Enough

The 2016 season was unique in many ways that may become standard practice in the future. Perhaps unexpectedly, the “Holiday Discount” timeframe expanded beyond traditional key dates introducing deep discounts outside of Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  Free shipping was no longer a point of differentiation for marketers – consumers expected it. In a survey by JDA, one in four consumers claimed they did not shop anywhere that did not offer free shipping. Zeta retail holiday benchmark’s Unique Conversion Rate of Unique Click hit the highest point during the final days of free shipping – perhaps indicating that having a “deadline” was a conversion “closer” for shoppers scrambling to take advantage of free shipping cutoffs.

Unable to rely on free shipping to entice consumers, keen marketers needed to find other ways to position their brand in a competitive market during a season where subscribers were unimpressed by simple offers like free shipping. While price point remained a key factor, brands also distinguished themselves with value-add services like curbside pickup and self-serve gift wrapping stations to win the sale.

Marketers Relied on “Blasts” from the Past

There was a bit of a retro flair this season too. Batch & blast made a comeback with many top retailers reverting to the tactic. This intentional one-size-fits-all approach may have been a strategy for repeated impressions of brand and offer, but at Zeta we believe customer expectations are higher and that relevant and customized content in 2017 must be the goal. Similarly, creative design got a streamlined makeover reminiscent of early templates with large color blocks and lots of white space. This time around, the uncomplicated creative maximized visual information consumption and better accommodated the continued uptick in mobile and use of interactive email elements.

Reflections Drive Intentions

Reflection is one way to better shape the future. Our analysis tells us that next season marketers should find ways to create semi-customized, highly scan-able, yet memorable, messages featuring competitive pricing and value-add services throughout an expansive holiday season. We understand that’s a huge endeavor – even before coupling with the inevitable channel evolution we’re sure to see leading up to Peak 2017. To help manage the undertaking, we’ve identified three specific areas of focus that we believe require attention throughout the year to maximize subscriber retention and realize the ultimate Peak 2017 revenue. The turn of the calendar to introduce yet another shiny New Year got us in the spirit of intentions instead of predictions. In 2017, we’re committed to helping our clients:

  • Unlock the potential of email attribution leading to a more holistic measurement and application of the channel
  • Shift toward contextual messaging with real time customized content based on interactions
  • Empower email marketing’s agility with strategies that predict obstacles rather than react to them

These opportunities will help our clients maintain their competitive advantage and we will spotlight each of them as the year progresses.

Want to know more? Contact us at [email protected]

Topics: Holiday, Marketing, email, trends, shopping, mobile

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