Study finds brands sent 14.5 percent more emails to subscribers in Q4 2016 than in Q3

CHICAGO — Despite experiencing lower open rates than business-as-usual (BAU) emails (14.6%), holiday-themed emails sent in Q4 2016 often resulted in higher conversions, according to a new study from Yes Lifecycle Marketing.

“Holiday Email Marketing Guide: How Day of the Week and Offer Type Impact Email Performance” tracked almost eight billion emails sent in Q4 2016 through Yesmail360, Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s cross-channel marketing communication platform. The study found that brands sent 14.5% more emails to subscribers during the holiday season, indicating that brands had to compete more for subscriber attention using the same seasonal tactics, rendering them less effective. Fifty-five percent of brands capitalized on the holiday season with General holiday emails (emails that reference the holiday or winter season without specifying a particular holiday), yet those emails tended to have similar engagement rates as BAU emails and actually had 43% lower conversion rates than BAU emails

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Despite the lower engagement rate, a number of Q4 holidays experienced higher conversion rates than BAU emails. The study found that emails that addressed specific holidays tended to convert better than General holiday emails overall. In fact, Green Monday, which typically occurs on the second Monday in December, might be one of the most underutilized holidays for email marketing. Even though only six per cent of brands sent Green Monday-themed emails, those emails generated nearly three times the number of conversions as General holiday emails, at six per cent and 2.3 per cent, respectively.

“Data needs to be every marketer’s best friend, and it is most critical during peak seasons like the Q4 holidays,” said Michael Fisher, president of Yes Lifecycle Marketing. “More than ever, retailers need the right data and the right tools to support campaigns that drive engagement and conversions. Otherwise, they run the risk of being overlooked, or worse, irritating customers.”

The report found that customers opened General holiday emails without an offer in the subject line at a rate 16 percent higher than all General holiday emails and 10 percent higher than the BAU average. General holiday emails without offers only generated a 1.6 percent conversion rate despite a high open rate. This suggests that the lack of a distinct offer or strong call-to-action failed to drive conversions beyond the initial open.

“Sheer volume is not enough to get through to your customers during peak seasons,” said Michael Iaccarino, CEO and chairman of Infogroup, parent company of Yes Lifecycle Marketing. “Marketers should glean insight from customer data to understand what messages resonate most with each customer. By listening to the data and employing lifecycle messaging, marketers can send their customers the right message at the right time.”

Additional holiday-specific findings from the report include:

  • Only a quarter of marketers sent Thanksgiving emails in 2016, and those messages generated both lower engagement (11 percent) and conversion rates (1.9 percent) compared to BAU emails (14.6 percent and 4 percent, respectively).
  • Black Friday emails generated the highest open rates of all holiday-themed emails and converted at a rate 52.5 percent higher than BAU campaigns.
  • With an average conversion rate of 9.3 percent, Cyber Monday emails more than doubled the performance of BAU emails and outperformed Black Friday by 53 percent.
  • Christmas-themed emails experienced a 17 percent lower open rate than BAU emails but drove a 33 percent higher conversion rate.

To learn more about identifying tactics to stand out in a crowded inbox during the holiday season, download the full report here.

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