As the long-awaited summer of 2021 continues to brighten our days and spirits across most of the country, it’s likely that you’re more focused on squeezing in time at the pool or the beach than preparing your Q4 email marketing campaigns. But—we encourage you to find time for both!

While advanced planning for upcoming promotional periods is always recommended, it’s important to start even earlier this year for two key reasons:

  1. Shoppers are likely to start making their holiday purchases earlier
  2. Privacy changes on the near horizon may impact the insights you rely on for planning and measurement

Let’s take a closer look at each of these reasons, and how to best prepare with them in mind…

Holiday Shopping Starts Earlier in 2021

 

We all know how crucial a successful holiday season is for retailers of all types and sizes, with some bringing in more sales in 3 months than they do during the other 9 combined. But this year—like the tumultuous year before it—those 3 months may be closer to 5 months. Here’s why:

 

 

Shipageddon 2020

How could we forget the Great Package Delay of Holiday 2020? As we all hunkered down in our homes last winter, our fingers were quite busy at the keyboard, ordering everything from groceries to stocking stuffers online. Naturally, carriers sometimes struggled to keep up with the increase in demand—particularly as they were simultaneously juggling the impact it had on their workforce when their own employees contracted COVID, and they were working hard to distribute vaccines quickly and safely.

Carriers weren’t the only ones experiencing delays; retailers themselves were also working overtime to maintain stock on the most desired items of the season. While many were able to restock highly giftable items ahead of the usual shipping deadlines, last year, “the usual” went out the window.

Even when retailers could get stock filled in time, once it left their warehouse en route to the customer, the order arriving “on-time” was largely out of their hands. It was a perfect storm where everyone was working harder than ever to accomplish more, but there was so much to be done, and ever-increasing obstacles in the way.

Impressively, USPS, UPS, and FedEx all managed to maintain on-time delivery rates between 93% and 98% during the “Cyber Five”—Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday Eve, Cyber Monday—and the week before Christmas. But those whose packages were late still remember.

If COVID-19 has taught us anything, it’s that the unexpected can quite literally happen at any time, and the impact may be global. With vaccines being much more widely available across the country, and many returning to a somewhat “normal” life after more than a year, we are anticipating fewer shipping hiccups this holiday season than last. That said, many shoppers were ‘burned’ by how things shaped up last year, and plan to start their shopping earlier just in case.

 

Apple iOS 15 Privacy Changes will Impact Email Marketing

As we’re all aware, Apple has been hyper-focused on users’ right to privacy throughout 2020 and 2021, and that focus is apparent in planned changes for iOS 15, expected to launch later this year. While email marketing wasn’t greatly affected by the first rollout of privacy changes, iOS 15 will have an impact in a few areas.

“Privacy has been central to our work at Apple from the very beginning. Every year, we push ourselves to develop new technology to help users take more control of their data and make informed decisions about whom they share it with. This year’s updates include innovative features that give users deeper insights and more granular control than ever before.”

Craig Federighi, Apple’s senior vice president of Software Engineering

 

Open Rate Tracking Going Away for Opted-In Apple Mail Users

The most significant changes that will impact email marketing relate to Mail Privacy Protection. A new feature will prevent email “senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user,” meaning that for Apple Mail users who have upgraded to iOS 15—and opted in to the related privacy setting—we will no longer have accurate open rate tracking insights (when they opened their email).

So what to track instead?

“Tinuiti recommends that advertisers learn what they can now while open rate tracking is still available for Apple Mail users, while starting to focus more heavily on email clickthrough rates and conversion rates—metrics that will still be available once open rate tracking has gone away.”

Kait Cummings, Email Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti

Kait Cummings

 

While we aren’t certain when Apple will rollout iOS 15, it could be during their fall event, which typically occurs in September. That means that you should be running open rate tests now so you know the best times to send emails.

“Typically, we launch open rate tests for our clients in September or October to prepare for December. This year, we know that may be too late. If Apple does launch iOS 15 at their fall event, and we waited until late September or October to begin testing, we will have missed our window of opportunity. With that in mind, we’re starting testing now to ensure our clients have the information they need, and can send emails to their subscribers at the most optimal times.”

Kait Cummings, Email Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti

 

iCloud+ Enhanced Privacy Features

Another iOS 15 update that will impact email marketing is Hide My Email, part of Apple’s enhanced iCloud+ (iCloud Plus).

As noted by Apple:

“iCloud+ combines everything customers love about iCloud with new premium features, including iCloud Private Relay, Hide My Email, and expanded HomeKit Secure Video support, at no additional cost.”

 

How Does Hide My Email Work?

As its name suggests, this feature will hide users’ actual email address from brands and ESPs (email service providers) while still allowing them to receive email updates.

Apple will enable users to create unique, random email addresses that aren’t visible to the sender. These addresses will “forward to their personal inbox anytime they wish to keep their personal email address private.” Hide My Email will also allow “users to create and delete as many addresses as needed at any time, helping give users control of who is able to contact them.”

Tinuiti encourages advertisers to look into how many of their current subscribers are using an iCloud email address to help gauge what the impact may be. Once iOS 15 is launched, take note of that number again so you can use it as a benchmark. This will allow you to better track how that segment of contacts grows in relation to other segments.

“The latest feature allows users to essentially create ‘burner’ emails to sign up/register for new accounts. Emails to the burner address will forward to the user’s real email address to limit personal information shared with advertisers and to limit spam.”

Leah Lloyd, Group Director, CRM & Email at Tinuiti

Leah Lloyd

 

Brands Will Still Be Able to Send Emails to ‘Hide My Email’ Users

It’s important to clarify that advertisers will still be able to send emails, including promotional emails, to ‘Hide My Email’ users. They just won’t know exactly who they’re sending that email to. We’re not yet sure if users will always have the same ‘pseudo email address’ ingrained into their profile, or if it changes every time they opt to hide their email.

 

Q4 2021 Holidays to Plan For

US Top 10 holiday season shopping days ranked by retail ecommerce sales in 2020

Image Source: eMarketer

While many of us immediately think of Christmas and Hanukkah when we hear “holiday season,” the holiday push actually begins in the fall, and encompasses more than a dozen key celebrated and/or retail holidays. Some of the most important for brands to consider in their Q4 email marketing plan include:

  • Halloween – October 31, 2021
  • Single’s Day – November 11, 2021
  • Veteran’s Day – November 11, 2021
  • Thanksgiving – November 25, 2021
  • Black Friday – November 26, 2021
  • Small Business Saturday – November 27, 2021
  • Hanukkah – Begins in the evening on November 28, 2021 and ends in the evening on December 6, 2021
  • Cyber Monday – November 29, 2021
  • Giving Tuesday – November 30, 2021
  • Green Monday – December 13, 2021
  • Free Shipping Day – December 14, 2021
  • Christmas Eve – December 24, 2021
  • Christmas Day – December 25, 2021
  • Boxing Day (CA) – December 26, 2021
  • New Year’s Eve – December 31, 2021
  • New Year’s Day – January 1, 2022

 

Email Marketing Strategy Tips for 2021

 

While navigating the changes we’ve discussed that will impact subscriber insights is important, it’s also crucial to consider fresh approaches to your email content itself.

Kait Cummings, Email Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti, shared three key areas of consideration advertisers should focus on this year, and moving forward:

  • Leaning more heavily into personalization
  • Being very strategic (and data-driven) in your email design and structure
  • Giving your email subscribers the VIP treatment

 

Personalized Email Sends

Many advertisers have been incorporating some degree of personalization into their emails for years. However, there are options that go far beyond <subscriber name here>.

 

Partner with a Dynamic Content Vendor

There are a number of dynamic content vendors that are capable of populating live, curated, highly personalized email content based on available, first-party data insights regarding user actions, including users’ browse and purchase history, and more. Lean into your CRM to find the data points that will make the most personalized emails possible come to life. Some dynamic content vendors to consider include Zembula, Movable Ink, and Liveclicker.

 

Leverage Category Affinities

Don’t want to partner with a vendor? Not a problem! You can also focus on email personalization by building segments within your email platform based on category affinities.

  • Category Level: Personalize emails based on previous categories that a customer has browsed or shopped
  • Product Level: Personalize emails based on a previous product that a customer has viewed or purchased

Chances are good that just about everyone reading this has received personalized emails based on this type of information in the past. These emails can take many forms, but often include language like:

“We hope you’re enjoying the <insert product here> that you purchased last month! We’ve just rolled out a new <insert complementary product> that we think you will love, as well.”

 

Other popular personalization options include:

  • Emails alerting subscribers that an item they viewed is on sale, or back in stock
  • “Reminder” emails about items someone has viewed, or added to their cart

 

It’s important to remember that your subscribers do want to hear from you, but they don’t want to receive an onslaught of emails that may not be of any interest to them. They are more likely to engage with you, and not hit the dreaded ‘unsubscribe’ button, if they truly feel like your brand understands them as a person, and uses the available first-party insights it has to tailor content toward what they are most likely to have an interest in. This can help in getting people to click more often even if you don’t have those open rates.

 

Email Design and Structure

 

Pele Soccer email example

You want to design your email in a way that is on-brand and aesthetically pleasing, while also making the action or actions you want subscribers to take as clear as possible. Perhaps you want them to shop now, explore more options, discover a new lineup, or build on an existing purchase they’ve made? Whatever the scenario, be clear and concise in your CTAs (calls to action).

Speaking of CTAs, are those easy to find as soon as the email is opened? Is at least one CTA above the fold? Be sure not to bury the action you want users to take; Statista estimates that in 2021, nearly 320 billion emails will be sent and received every day. All those emails make for very crowded inboxes, and you have to provide value for yours to even be opened.

You’ll also want to be sure you’re providing the expected experience with your internal email links. Is your site merchandised correctly based on the content you’re populating in your emails? Are users taken to the appropriate product or category page with every click? Showing someone an item personalized to their interest is a great start, but be sure that when they click that item, they’re taken to the product landing page, or at least the appropriate category page. Don’t make securing a sale “feel like work” for the potential customer. Ensure your links get them as close to where they want to go as possible.

 

Always Have a Contingency Plan

 

This isn’t a new recommendation for 2021, but it’s important enough that it bears repeating. A contingency plan is always a good idea, in life and in email marketing.

 

Oops Emails

“In regard to contingency plans specifically, we typically create an “Oops” email template for our clients early in their campaign. This is a dynamically coded email that is already designed and ready for the appropriate messaging. If a coupon code breaks, the site goes down, inventory goes out of stock—or any of a number of unexpected events occurs—we can just plug in whatever the message needs to be and send that out to whomever was impacted quickly.”

Kait Cummings, Email Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti

Kait Cummings

 

Sale Extension Emails

In addition to creating a well-designed “Oops” email template, it is also important to have backup sale extension emails created that you may or may not decide to send based on real-time data.

Have a specific threshold you’d like to reach with your promotion in regard to number of purchases, total revenue, or another metric, and are open to extending your sale another day or longer if that threshold isn’t met? Design that email ahead of time so you can alert subscribers that a sale has been extended as quickly as possible, and aren’t left scrambling to craft one at the last minute, risking lost sales.

 

VIP Offers for Email Subscribers

bryan anthonys holiday email promo

 

While most brands utilize the same sales across their website, social, email and SMS programs, there are still opportunities to provide extra incentives as a “thanks” for your email subscribers.

Some common promotions of this type that we’ve run for our clients include:

 

  • VIP early access for email subscribers. This promotional type gives subscribers access to a sale that will eventually be open to everyone. This ‘edge’ is especially valuable if you’re low in stock on popular items, colors, or sizes. This promotion is very popular for Black Friday sales. A common scenario is a Black Friday sale launching to the public on Friday itself, with email subscribers having access starting Thanksgiving evening.

 

  • Bump promotions. Email subscribers also often receive a bump promotion. An example of this promotional type would be a site-wide percentage-off sale that didn’t require a code, with email subscribers also getting free shipping by using an exclusive code just for them.

 

Leverage First-Party Data Insights for Cross-Channel Segmentation

Email marketing allows you to directly communicate with people who have made a purchase with your brand, or expressed interest in your products, and that relationship brings with it an abundance of first-party insights.

Your email team has access to essentially what your CRM would be. Some of the brands Tinuiti works with have a formal CRM program, but many use their ESP as their CRM system.

“Our email team can build segments within the ESPs based on a ton of different criteria and historical knowledge of your subscribers, and share those segments with paid channels.”

Kait Cummings, Email Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti

 

Your ESP has all the historical data on your customers, including, but not limited to:

  • Products they’ve viewed
  • Products they’ve purchased (and how many total purchases someone has made over time)
  • If someone hasn’t made a purchase in a specific amount of time
  • If someone has subscribed but has never opened an email, or hasn’t opened one in a specific window of time
  • Products they’ve added to cart
  • Products they’ve subscribed to be notified about when they’re back in stock

 

There are some ESPs that have integrations. For example, Klaviyo has an integration with Facebook that enables us to build out those segments on the CRM side, throw them into our integration, and they get passed over as audiences in Facebook. This allows the Paid and Social teams to utilize those audiences on Facebook to retarget specific subscribers based on engagement.

Remarketing on Social & Google Ads

We can also build out segments for the Paid and Social team for intelligent remarketing. One example might work like this:

Scenario: Our client is running a sale on a specific product that is also available in new colors

First Steps: Create 2 segments

  • The first is a segment of people who have purchased this product in the past, and might be interested in the new color selection
  • The second is a segment of people who have browsed this product in the past, but have never purchased it, and might finally take the plunge thanks to the sale price, or a color they like better than what was previously available

Next Steps: Email segments and serve them ads on Social and/or Google

  • First, we will send a promotional email to subscribers who fall in both segments, alerting them of the sale and new color options
  • Next, we will share those segments with the Social team so they can also deliver ads to those same segments. Ideally, subscribers will see the ad in both locations, with the social ad serving as a reminder if they were interested

“There are also capabilities of sharing those custom audiences on the Google Ads side of things. The CRM and Email team is truly equipped to support not just sending email, but also building out audiences you can use for remarketing on other channels where you wouldn’t necessarily have the data to do so, unless you have access to their CRM to build your own audiences. The email team has that information at their fingertips and can easily pull that information for other channels.”

Kait Cummings, Email Marketing Strategist at Tinuiti

 

Want to learn more? Check out these helpful resources, or contact us today to chat with an expert:

The 2021 Email Marketing Guide
Experts Share Email Marketing Trends and Predictions for 2021
The Rising Value of Email Marketing and First Party Data [in a Cookie-less World]
Email Marketing Loyalty Programs
The 8 Email Campaigns Your Business Needs To Generate More Revenue
SMS & Email Marketing: Strategies to Drive Engagement
How To Build Email Marketing Campaigns That Get Results
Exclusive Holiday Email Design Lookbook

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