It’s never too early to plan ahead: Q4 email marketing tips

Re-activating previous holiday shoppers for the upcoming season


The holiday season is the most important time of year for many industries, especially retail. We work for months to prepare our clients for Q4, and we use a personalized, omnichannel approach to get there.

Our recent Coach email case study, for example, illustrates how we used machine learning to deliver unique subject lines and pre-header text, which drove traffic both online and in store. In our latest Q4 2018 email trends and benchmark report, we share insights about you can prepare for year-end campaigns based on what happened at the end of last year.

Notable trends from Q4 18

Because Q4 email volume is so high, open rates tend to dip in this quarter. It’s also the quarter that the most marketing emails are sent: 82% of emails were classified as “marketing” emails in Q4 18 compared to 74% in Q3 18. That means that all marketers are competing for attention in the inbox and need a better approach to get noticed.

Renewed focus: Re-activating holiday shoppers

You may have multiple goals throughout the year, including driving in-store traffic or increasing AOV (average order value). But when it comes to the spring planning season, you need to specifically outline your goals for Q4. One goal that is often overlooked is re-engaging last year’s holiday shoppers.

Re-activation tends to be the least sent type of message, usually accounting for less than 0.1% of all emails sent in any given quarter. While sending too many re-engagement emails may just end up annoying people, there is often a missed opportunity to re-activate holiday shoppers.

These individuals may only interact with your brand once per year, but their reliability as a gift-giver can be valuable. If you know how to reach them, that is.

So how do you re-activate these holiday shoppers?

Figuring out how to talk to your holiday shoppers doesn't have to be daunting. Here are a few thought-starters to kick off your planning: 

Develop a strong re-activation program specifically for holiday shoppers

The way your brand interacts with these individuals should be different than how you interact with your frequent and loyal customers. Have campaigns in place that are specific to purchasing in Q4 and are only going to those types of shoppers.

  • Tip: Get those shoppers into your audience earlier in the year so they aren’t surprised to hear from you when it comes time to start preparing for the holidays.

Personalize content and cadence

Developing a personalized approach is the best way to get through to your subscribers. When it comes to holiday shoppers, you have to understand their motivations and habits. Take a look at their purchasing patterns from last year. Are these shoppers more likely to shop with you if you send them a coupon? Are they going to come back to you no matter what because you have a specialty item that they purchase every year?

  • Tip: Send them a reminder to stock up ahead of time based on when they purchased last year, and you could even incentivize them to order a few extra items along the way.

Reach the right people, in the right way

They might be on a phone or laptop, checking Facebook or reading the newspaper. No matter where people are, you have to talk to a person like you know them.

  • Tip: Make sure that your emails can render well in both mobile and desktop versions, and deliver the offers that your subscribers want, when they want them.

Be purposeful

Take a look at your marketing calendar: Is what you’re sending worthwhile? Customers won’t return if you send emails for the sake of sending emails. This advice is relevant for all of your subscribers, but it is especially important when you consider how fickle holiday shoppers could be. When communicating with this type of shopper, your brand needs to deliver important and relevant messages. For example, it often gets more expensive to ship items as it gets closer to Christmas. To prepare the holiday folks, you could remind them about your holiday shipping rates and schedules.

  • Tip: Keep holiday shoppers informed about how you can make their holiday shopping process as smooth as possible.

Understand the data that you have, and use it to make better decisions

This is super easy when it comes to triggered messages because subscribers are expecting to hear from you based on an action they have taken, like signing up for your newsletter or including their birthday in their account with you. Data-driven decisions are especially important during the holiday season because people are getting an influx of information in their inbox.

  • Tip: Use your triggered emails to offer even more than your subscriber was expecting, like an extra discount when they sign up for your newsletter.

When it comes to Q4 marketing strategy, it’s always a good time to get ahead. And with a personalized, data-driven approach, you can be certain that the best gifts you receive this year are strong email performance and customer retention.