6 ways Shopify merchants can prep now for holiday and BFCM email marketing
We’re more than halfway through 2022. How’s your email marketing program been performing, Shopify merchants?
Is it so solid that you’ve got confidence in what’s to come? Are your eyes on Q4 and hands already on the email marketing plan for those VIP months?
If you answered yes to the last two questions, then congratulations!
But I suspect you’re in the minority. It’s OK if you felt your head slowly shaking no in response, accompanied by thoughts akin to, “Who’s got time to think about Black Friday and holiday promos when there’s summer sales to execute?”
Trust us, it’s in your best interest to start getting your ducks in a row for holiday shoppers and the marquee event of them all, BFCM (Black Friday Cyber Monday). We want you to have your best Q4 yet. So we’re here to kickstart the self-assessment and planning needed, from the larger-scale tasks to the easily overlooked smaller stuff.
Why BFCM and holiday shopping should be on your mind
This year is presenting itself as an interesting one for ecommerce, to the say the least.
What does it mean for ecommerce merchants? We’re not saying that holiday sales will take a nosedive, but it’s anyone’s guess as to how much of an impact inflation will have. Therefore, any Shopify brand would do well to position themselves to capture the biggest portion they can.
And it’s in their best interest to be ready as soon as possible. Last year we saw things start early once again, with October sales growing 8% year over year as retailers pushed out deals mid-month.
Back then, supply chain woes and out-of-stock messages were driving forces. Now, worries abound around escalating prices. We wouldn’t be surprised if there’s a summer uptick in spending as consumers look to buy before costs rise further.
All the more need to start embarking on some holiday planning. Following are the steps that we prescribe you start taking now.
Step 1: Look at 2022 email marketing metrics
Our first recommendation is to do what the big dogs do: reserve time to review your email marketing metrics. Tracking performance is imperative to carving a better path forward.
I like to say that looking back is the best way to help your future self make smarter choices. It’s ideal to browse through key data points throughout the year to understand things like what needs attention and what may be a good candidate for replication. Once a month is good practice.
Hopefully you’ve been doing this all along and have a clear picture of the past six months. If not, I suggest you play some hurry-up offense by examining, at minimum, your Shopify store’s subscriber growth and email engagement.
Every email list needs an injection of new blood to grow a shop.
Log into your store’s Google Analytics, set the date range of January to June, and check out overall traffic to your site (under Acquisition). Jot down the number of total visitors.
Then in Shopify, navigate to the Customers tab and run filters for subscribed contacts, plus the same timespan for “Customer added date.”
Take this total number of new subscribers and divide by the total visitors to determine your conversion rate.
I typically see that 1% to 10% of site visitors turn into subscribers. But every business is different, so it’s best to compete with yourself.
Take note of your rate so you can compare it to stats from the second half of 2022. Better yet, as it’s more apples to apples, keep it on hand to see the difference once you have data for the second half of 2023.
Dig deeper into the data, and see where to find the stats in Seguno (including factoring in unsubscribes), with a primer on comprehensive email marketing metrics.
There’s so much I could talk about in regard to engagement. So for the sake of moving things along to next steps, I’ll just cover a few highlights.
Pull up the list of email newsletters from the last six months and take note of performance regarding:
- Open rates
- Click-through rates
- Best-selling products
Tip: If click rates are below 3%, it’s time to reevaluate your content. Take a look at our email design 101 course for ideas.
Put the pieces together — the great performers will emerge, as will the lackluster ones — and a “big picture” will formulate. You’ll see which newsletters have benefitted your business the most and, from there, the larger trends driving higher engagement and sales conversions. You’re looking to understand what motivates your user base to take action.
Step 2: Review 2021 BFCM and holiday marketing
While I’d like to leave behind the topic of metrics, there’s one more thing to mention before I do.
Dig out the data from the 2021 holiday season. Gather whatever email marketing metrics you have on hand from before, during and after BFCM.
Buyer behavior starts changing once summer turns to fall, so you might look at all of Q4. This is even true for brands not traditionally affiliated with the gift-buying season. I’m often surprised to see how many of them are affected.
Take the same path as our half-year review recommendations to identify the high performers, paying particular attention to your holiday promos, as well as the misses.
And while you’re at it, pull out metrics from the same period from 2020. Examining performance year over year is more valuable than trying to compare yourself against the competition. Do this and you’re establishing your own benchmark.
Search for the trends. Yes, Covid was in the mix both years and certainly had an effect — maybe good, maybe not so good. But I’m sure you can draw some conclusions to help guide you forward.
Step 3: Plan your offers
Scrambling to figure out your holiday promos when it’s crunch time is never fun. It’s stressful. Unless you’re someone who thrives under pressure, you’ll be thankful for more time to think things through and tackle the creative process.
Determine your big promos for BFCM marketing now. Use your research of email marketing metrics to define Shopify discounts for this year.
Did you hit the mark with a pre-Thanksgiving limited offer? Was a Cyber Week giveaway especially fruitful without hurting margins? Was a “percentage off” deal more attractive than a BOGO offer?
Remember that self-gifting is a thing, too. So contemplate messages that appeal to people who are on the looking for themselves (the example below from Erin Condren is quite straightforward) in addition to those shopping for gifts.
Dive into our BFCM Email Masterclass to truly get your email program ready for what’s to come.
Step 4: Prep product photography
Holiday emails need beautiful photography to sell your products. Get the photo shoots out of the way now so that your creative elements are ready to go.
If you’re doing it yourself, we've got a great guide for creating professional shots.
- Stick to simple merchandising aesthetics but add in a couple of gifting elements, like wrapped packages or sprigs of holly and pine
- Wrap a bunch of products together with a bow; sell them as a bundled package to raise your average order value
- Order a prototype if you don’t have your holiday-branded items on hand just yet
Anthropologie demonstrates how easy it can be. Sweaters stacked atop a tree stump slice, illuminated with a string of white lights, are enough to dress up the product.
If you work with a professional who has merchandised products for other brands, they’ll also have some ideas.
Step 5: Determine shipping deadlines
We’ve talked about how you need to be ready for the early bird shoppers. Equally important is remembering the last-minute shoppers. They will always exist, no matter the economic climate, and need your attention as well.
Carve out time from your schedule to look at shipping and logistics. Identify the last possible date you can ship purchases so that the customer receives it by December 24.
This can be tricky. Remember last year? Labor shortages, supply chain issues, and shipping delays threw some wrenches.
It’s anyone’s guess as to what will happen this year. As recently as May, shipping delays were making a comeback because of pandemic-related lockdowns in China. It’s best to err on the side of caution and avoid shipping deadlines that cut it close.
Work backwards from the date you land on to plan out your email marketing calendar. A deadline marker will naturally help inform the timing of some messages, such as last-chance emails like the one from Topo Designs.
Step 6: Give marketing channels a refresh
It’s so easy to keep trudging ahead in pursuit of crossing off the next item on the to-do list. We urge you to take a pause and give some of your marketing standbys a refresh.
No need for an overhaul. Just touches to freshen things up, like updating your shop’s homepage with new images.
Specific to email marketing, I recommend these two things:
- Implement different calls to action in your list growth techniques (website popups, static signup forms, etc.). Remember the importance of subscriber list growth. Especially now, it’s essential to put your best foot forward in attracting subscribers as we head into busy season. A slight change could make a big difference in motivating conversions.
- Update your email automations. It’s the perfect time to give automations a facelift if they’ve been running for a while and haven’t been touched since launch. There’s probably new products to highlight. Or maybe you’ve been contemplating a different messaging angle.
With the second tip, we’re assuming that you have automations in place. If not, get to them! They bring in sales over the long haul and are crucial to have during the holiday rush.
You’re going to have more people visiting your website, so absolutely need a welcome email to greet new subscribers. You’ll have people placing things in the shopping cart and never checking out, so an abandoned checkout message can help bring some people back to make the purchase. And of course, you’ll be ringing in greater sales — post-purchase emails are the opportunity to reconnect.
Get the lowdown on the three essential automations for all Shopify merchants: welcome, abandoned checkout and post-purchase emails.
If you already have automations, turn them into a series.
If you already have a series, step it up by customizing them with a holiday slant. Turn on the changes in October, and set an alarm so you’re reverting them back in January.
Our suggestions add work to what already may be a full plate. But it’s all about setting yourself up for BFCM marketing and holiday shoppers, and doing the things that will give you a great return on investment.
- Look at 2022 email marketing metrics
- Review 2021 BFCM and holiday marketing
- Plan your offers
- Prep product photography
- Determine shipping deadlines
- Give marketing channels a refresh
Follow these six prescribed steps over the next few months and I’m sure your future self will appreciate it. Your Shopify stores will be in the best position to reap the rewards of Q4.
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