Believe it or not, August is prime time for preparing the best Christmas marketing campaigns.

Co-authored by Tia Matsumoto & Jill Brittlebank

August 31, 2016

In the first post of our Christmas readiness blog series, I mentioned that providing timely access to top tips for breaking through the 2016 peak inbox clutter is Zeta’s early Christmas present to marketers who artfully address the individual consumer’s purchase path. In this post, I’ll examine the need for “above and beyond” creative execution using richer email experiences – the kind that get noticed and inspire purchases.

One of my favorite things about the Christmas is my family’s anticipation of opening beautifully wrapped gifts. I say this because my mother is a talented artist. Each year she outdoes herself with incredible packaging for the whole family. She does not believe in brown paper packages tied up with string, but delights in elegant yet whimsical treatments, thoughtfully designed to specifically intrigue her recipients – young and old. She starts by selecting the perfect wrapping paper from her abundant collection. After pristinely wrapping, she carefully selects the ideal wired ribbon that allows her to arrange and supplement each package with candy canes, pinecones, and small embellishments that add the perfect final touch (often with a hint at the contents within). We all admire her presents under the tree and eagerly anticipate the treasures she’s found for each of us.

How can we, as retail marketers, find inspiration from my personal story about well-dressed presents? In creative presentation, of course! This year let your “packages” stand out from the gift bag crowd by revitalising your communication with creative design elements that will entice clicks and lead to more conversions.

Let’s start by looking at expectations and predictions for the impending season. My favourites fall into two categories:

  • Richer email experiences with next generation animation and interactivity, and
  • Device-responsive email designed to inspire shopping behaviour from mobile devices.

Next Generation Animation Will Have Them Seeing Sugarplums Dancing in their Heads

We saw an incredible uptick in animation during the 2015 peak – so much so that it became an oddity to receive a promotional email without some sort of moving piece. Animation in the form of animated .gifs is somewhat effective on its own, but this area continues to grow as developers discover ways to improve the email experience further. The talented Justin Khoo from Fresh Inbox encapsulates it perfectly when she says that “true user interactivity within email and powerful animations beyond animated GIFs, sometimes called kinetic email, allows marketers to create eye-catching and engaging campaigns that stand out in a recipient’s inbox.” 

Instead of a typical batch blast equivalent to the brown paper package – this is the essence of the package embellishment necessary to attract and intrigue specific recipients. It’s not all bells and whistles, but rather appeal that makes your emails functional for getting the job of gift giving done.  

Choose the Perfect Presentation for Your Promotions

No matter how much effort you put towards kinetic email, the artistic flare is lost if it cannot be experienced across devices. As customers continue to become more comfortable shopping via their mobile devices, email design priorities must focus on aiding inspiration and shopping behaviour from any screen. An excellent article from The Atlantic, The Triumph of Email, states:

Email is no longer tethered to a computer; instead, it’s under most people’s thumbs practically all the time. And that change is driven, almost entirely, by the rise of mobile.

This is your gentle reminder that the time to get on the responsive design bus is NOW.

Which leads me to a quick discussion on responsive design and its superiority over other techniques such as mobile-friendly. Our resident creative expert, Daniel Clarke, has this to say when considering how to prepare for the mobile future of your email marketing program:

Executing truly effective “responsive” emails is both an art and a science…therefore I always recommend bringing your design and email development teams closer together. Truly aligning and synchronising these two areas of expertise is critical in guaranteeing email success. Like identifying that perfect gift for your loved one, know your audience and where they are truly engaging with your emails – mobile or desktop.

Next, look at your email program and ask what’s realistic to get done.  Don’t RUSH to get something out for this business critical season if you can’t complete it.  Most teams DO experience both design and operational challenges due to the additional effort involved. Alternatively, consider a more “mobile-friendly” design approach: reduced pixel width, single-column layout, large fonts, tap & touch buttons, simplified color palette and generous use of white-space.  Setting strong foundational parameters – both visual and technical will help improve efficiencies during this hectic – I mean “joyous” – time of year!”

A Few of Our “Favorite Things” You Can Do Now

My mum wraps for months before Christmas so she can dedicate the time needed to make each of her presents spectacular. Perfecting the art of packaging your festive promotions will also require lead-time and preparation.

Rachel Esola, another resident expert at Zeta, shares:

“I think we’re all aware that each email client has its own unique quirks regarding content display. The added challenge is that as each [email] client releases a new update, those quirks and how we work around them may change. 

If you plan to include interactive elements in your holiday campaigns, make sure to conduct rendering tests periodically between now and your target deployment dates so you can adjust your design or coding techniques as needed.”

 The good news is that many of these tactics work in Apple iPhone – which still generates the highest share of mobile opens – 60% per Litmus.

Start now so you have time to test these tactics before they impact your Christmas  calendar. Then allow additional time to optimise campaigns in time for the festive season! Rachel also reminds us not to forget to create fallback options so that the main message is received no matter what device or email client you customer uses. She adds that  “not only will those fallbacks help you reach a wider audience, but they could save you a lot of anxiety if an email client decides to send out a new release just before you hit ‘send.

Data hygiene is also crucial when planning and putting your campaign into effect. Regularly enhancing, correcting and expanding your data will help ensure your campaigns are as relevant and engaging as possible – and will work wonders towards achieving a Christmas marketing miracle.

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