During our recent webinar with BounceX, Senior Relationship Marketing Strategists Jenn Horner and Laura Madden shared their 4-month Holiday Marketing Prep Guide to help marketers and brands win in the crowded inbox during the holiday season. Read some of their insights below, and check out the full webinar for in-depth email marketing strategies.

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Research and Planning

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One of the first things you need to do is check your sending reputation and do some deliverability audits to make sure you’re hitting the inbox. Also, check your IP addresses and make sure you have enough for the holiday season. If you’re sending more than 2 million emails per day, consider adding IP addresses.

Once you’ve verified you’re hitting the inbox, research what your brand did last year—what worked, what didn’t work, what you want to repeat or try—and look at your holiday acquisition methods to determine what type of follow-up is appropriate. For example, if you captured a majority of your subscribers during checkout, send them content that introduces them to your brand instead of sales emails, since they just made a purchase.

In addition to looking at what your company did, look at what your competitors are doing and consider current industry best-practices. MailCharts, eMarketer, and RetailMeNot are all good sources for industry trends and predictions.

If you’re sending more than 2 million emails per day, consider adding IP addresses.

Testing

Brands should be testing all year, and many brands use summer sales to test their Black Friday promotions. Review your past tests—creative, promotions, timing, send volume, subject line, length, etc.—to see what worked for your customers and what didn’t.

Next, set up a testing calendar. You can run tests during the holidays, but play it safe and don’t test during your Black Friday promotions and major shopping days.

Don’t forget to consider testing your from name. Inboxes are really full during the holiday season, and updating your from name can set you apart. For example, if there’s a specific promotion you’re marketing from an email, you can carry that messaging through to your from name. You can also opt for a more personal approach by pulling in a first name, or make the from name more seasonally relevant by changing it to something more holiday themed.

Related: How To Deliver Relevance With Your Email Marketing Strategy

The from name is especially important for transactional emails. Make sure the from name stands out and clearly marks the nature of the email to make it easier for your customers to find what they’re looking for in their crowded inboxes.

Use Your Data

Personalize your emails’ messaging by using explicit preferences from your preference center and inferred preferences from your purchase data. If you’re not confident in the data you have, now is a good time to ask your subscribers to update their preferences.

We have a lot of data and we’ve gotten really sophisticated about how we use it, but it doesn’t work out to operationalize that level of segmentation, which is why we recommend you look at what data is most useful for your brand. If you’re an ecommerce site with a lot of product categories, maybe it’s as simple as finding what categories people click the most in your emails and reordering content to make sure their relevant category is at the top of their email.

Regardless of how your personalize or segment your emails, it’s crucial that you use your data wisely. Be transparent about your data and tell your customers what you’re collecting and why. Also, if you’re going to segment, be sure your segment names are audience-appropriate.

Gift guides offer brands the opportunity to stand out and insert their voice, so be thoughtful and selective when curating your products and categories.

Create a Gift Guide

Most people will do some type of gifting during the holidays, even if it’s self-gifting. Make it clear that your brand is the go-to place for gifting this season by making a relevant, strategic gift guide. Gift guides offer brands the opportunity to stand out and insert their voice, so be thoughtful and selective when curating your products and categories. Consider making categories for four or five different personas instead of organizing products by type or price point. Make sure your guide is simple to navigate and makes it easier for your customers to shop.

Once your gift guide is done, put it in a prominent place on your website as soon as possible—many brands do this right after Halloween.

Holiday Automation

Usually with triggers and automation, you can set it and forget it—but you definitely don’t want to forget it during the holidays. Something as simple as including your holiday shipping calendar in your automated email journeys can create a sense of urgency and help your customers plan ahead.

You should also make sure your holiday automations are seasonally appropriate. You don’t have to go too over-the-top, but even just swapping out a summer photo for wintery imagery will keep your automation relevant—just make sure to update it again after the holidays.

For more tips and strategies that will help you build brand loyalty, test and optimize campaigns, create your holiday campaign team, and stand out in the crowded inbox during the holiday season, listen to the full webinar. For additional cross-channel holiday marketing strategies, download our free ebook.

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