Three Common Holiday Mistakes Online Retailers Should Avoid

The holiday season occurs at the same time annually, but for retailers, holiday marketing campaigns start earlier every year. Retailers do all they can to get consumers in a holiday shopping mindset as soon as possible, trying to be the first to win business.

This approach creates a lot of noise for consumers, and being ahead of the pack does not necessarily ensure success. Consumers don't like the one-size-fits-all campaign push from every retailer that starts prior to Halloween and lasts through Christmas Eve. They want to be treated like individuals, meaning it's no longer effective to think of consumers as one group. Instead, it's important to create personalized interactions that are of value to the consumer.

How can you have success with a personalized marketing campaign especially during the craziness that comes with the holiday season? Avoiding the following three things is the first step.

Email content: personalization vs. same message to all
Technology has made the online shopping experiences more personal, and consumers expect this to translate to email.

Personalizing an email is more than just including a name in the subject line or the initial greeting. The actual email content should be tailored to each and every customer. Think about the effectiveness of hand-written note compared to a form letter.  An email that comes across as the former is far more successful at connecting with the recipient.

I know what you're thinking - it's impossible to "handwrite" hundreds of individual emails.

There are, however, software solutions that help retailers send customers individualized messages with personalized product content. Every email can be unique and designed specifically to the reader's tastes. While this sounds very time consuming for the store it's actually simpler than traditional methods of email campaign design, as it uses the software to automatically determine which products should be displayed in each customer's email. Another recommendation is to use customer list segmentation to tailor the message. For example, it makes common sense that you should treat your top sending "VIP" customers differently from customers who are low spenders. One group might respond better to higher discounts to entice them back while the other group might prefer an advanced  "sneak peek" at new merchandise. The point is: don't treat every customer in the same manner as their needs are individual and unique.

Delivery: optimizing and responsiveness on mobile and desktop
Common mistakes are often made in the concept of responsive emails. We've collected data that shows well over 50 percent of emails are opened on a mobile device and for many stores, that number is as high as 75 percent.

Our data also shows that while customers often open and view the initial email on a mobile phone, when it comes time to purchase, a significant percentage of those viewers switch to a desktop computer to carry out their purchases. This is where the concept of fully responsive emails needs to occur. It's imperative that the user be able to view, with ease, both the copy and images on a mobile and desktop.

Much has been written about mobile responsive design but in many cases the design is sorely lacking. Yes, the images might resize but can you actually read the text? Often not, which leads to user frustration and ultimately, missed purchase opportunities.

Email frequency: avoiding email blindness
The third mistake we see a lot, especially during the holiday push, is email fatigue. Many stores still live by the philosophy that sending frequent email blasts will keep them top of mind during the holidays. In actuality, our data shows the complete opposite. Customers often have very uniform buying patterns; specific times of the day/week where they like to shop. All our data shows that better results can be achieved for the store recognizing these buying patterns and delivering personalized email to align with the recipient's habits.

According to the Radicati Group, more than 100 billion emails are sent and received daily. It's the digital equivalent of a personal conversation, and the best chance to get the message through – if done right.

It's tempting to send email with greater frequency during the holidays, but even personalized, responsive email can lose its effectiveness if sent too often. There's also the risk of increased unsubscribe rates and even spam complaints.

Ensuring a successful holiday season in no way means being the first out of the gate. Online retailers can distinguish themselves in a number of ways, and we're certain they'll see the biggest impact on sales when they create a personal touch for their customers.

Gone are the days of constantly filling the inbox to remain top of mind as it now has the opposite effect. Instead, today, we have a whole world of software and technology that will allow all online retailers, no matter the size, to provide that personal touch even during the craziest, busiest, most wonderful time of the year.

Rob Lane, founder and CEO of, the automated email marketing solution for online retailers on Shopify and Spree.

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