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Holiday Marketing Quarterly: Seasonal Automated Campaign Adjustments to Stay Relevant

Chad S. White
Head of Strategic Research

The holiday season doesn’t have an off-season, which is why Oracle CX Marketing Consulting provides year-round advice through our Holiday Marketing Quarterly reports. Our fourth quarter checklist for holiday readiness covers six areas:

  1. Engaging seasonal buyers

  2. Automated campaign adjustments

  3. Leveraging new capabilities 

  4. Cross-channel coordination

  5. Incremental A/B testing

  6. Finalizing your plans 

This post focuses on the second step of making seasonal automated campaign adjustments.

“Automated campaigns—whether sent via email, SMS, or mobile push—perform so well that they’re often overlooked as not needing attention,” says Jennifer Lancaster Dana, Vice President, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “However, it’s because of their high engagement and conversion rates that we should be constantly giving automated campaigns extra attention and trying to make them even better. This is especially true during the holiday season.”

Here are several areas to focus on:

Make your automated content seasonally relevant

Find ways to bring the holiday season into your automated campaigns. Keeping in mind that seasonal design changes should be coordinated with those that you plan to make in other channels, consider the following changes:

  • Seasonal messaging. Acknowledge in your copy that your subscribers are getting these messages during the holiday season by speaking to their seasonal needs and how your company can help. Acknowledge your customers’ desire for great gifts and a great price. Promote major upcoming sales, like those on Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday. Also, highlight your seasonal and limited-availability products.

  • Seasonal imagery. Add snowflakes, holly leaves, snowmen, Christmas lights, and other visual motifs to your automated campaigns. Also, consider using the classic Christmas colors of white, green, and red selectively in your designs. Don’t forget about Kwanza or Hanukkah, either. Tap into multiple holidays for multiple audiences.

  • Seasonal navigation bar links. Add a “Gifts” or “Holiday” link to the nav bar in your automated campaigns.

  • Secondary seasonal messaging. Add secondary messaging that speaks to shoppers’ needs during the holiday season, whether it’s promoting gift guides, order-by deadlines, gift wrapping services, financial options, or other helpful content.

“If you’ve created these kinds of creative assets in past years, pay extra attention to what’s new and different this year,” says Jennifer Lancaster Dana. “For example, many brands have introduced curbside pickup since last holiday and will want to promote that in their messaging. The pandemic has also potentially affected your planned holiday store hours, holiday return policies, and order-by deadlines for Christmas delivery. Be sure all of those are accurately reflected in your automated campaigns and stay updated throughout the holiday season.”

While nearly every automated campaign can benefit from seasonal updates, the ones that benefit the most from them include welcomes, shopping cart abandonments, browse abandonments, back-in-stock notifications, order confirmations, and shipping confirmations. 

Adjust the behavior of your triggers

The triggers, suppression behaviors, and other aspects of your automated campaigns may need tweaking going into the holiday season to maximize your results.

For example, outside of the holiday season, it can make sense to delay the sending of shopping cart abandonment messages for hours to avoid disrupting normal buying behaviors. However, during the holiday season, decisions are typically made much more quickly. Because of the time-sensitive nature of many holiday deals—particularly on days like Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Green Monday—you’ll likely want to adjust cart and browse abandonment messages to trigger more quickly, if not immediately.

Similarly, if you’re using an abandonment series, it may not make sense for the second or subsequent touches in that series to be sent after you can guarantee Christmas delivery, says Roald Ansano, Senior Art Director for Creative Services, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting.

“Consider adding rules for ‘Last Ship Date’ to your cart and browse abandonment triggers,” he says. “These rules can accelerate triggered timing or add banners or other messaging within the body copy that encourages shoppers to purchase by a certain date to ensure on-time delivery.” 

Outside of the holidays, it may also make sense to ease new subscribers into your promotional messaging by having suppression rules in place to limit frequency for a period of time or for the duration of a welcome series.

“However, your seasonal shoppers may appreciate a quick and relevant welcome program with full promotional message frequency, as that’s most likely why many of them are signing,” says Dana. “They want to get your promotions and want to know what is hot. For new subscribers at this time of the year, holding back may do more harm than good.”

QA your automated campaigns

After you make those adjustments, do some quality assurance testing, because this is the time of year when you least want your automated campaigns to break. Hopefully, you’re also QA’ing your automated campaigns at other times during the year to ensure that they are communicating what you want and functioning as intended.

At whatever points during the year that you QA your automated campaigns, we recommend at least checking your:

  • Text. Is it still communicating what you want? Is it still on brand? Is it free of typos? Are the fonts (and font fallbacks) correct?

  • Links. Does every button and link work? Do they take your subscribers to the most appropriate and efficient landing page? Be sure to check your navigation bars, recovery modules, and the administrative links in your footers and headers.

  • Mobile version. Mobile optimization is as important as ever. While more people are both working and vacationing at home, the pandemic has not changed mobile email reading behavior. Plus, we expect mobile to play a bigger role this holiday season because of the reduced role of stores. 

  • Rendering. Inbox providers change their code support periodically, and rarely announce changes. Take this opportunity to run a thorough rendering and functionality check before heading into the holiday season. For instance, our Campaign Deployment & Monitoring Services team uses Litmus to test every campaign they send on behalf of our clients to ensure that they’re rendering and functioning as intended across all of the email clients and devices that are used by their subscribers.

  • New content. While all of your automated campaign content should be reviewed as part of the QA process, give new content modules, text, images, and links extra scrutiny to ensure they are correct.

  • Trigger logic. Check the rules that govern when each of your automated campaigns will be sent. As previously mentioned, it may make sense to tweak these at various times of the year.

You may find that additional checks are necessary based on your program and the channel your automation is running in, but giving attention to these six areas will serve you well and greatly reduce errors and missed opportunities.

Ensure your automated campaigns are working their hardest for you this holiday season by focusing on those three automation campaign adjustments. However, to make sure that you’re setting your company up for the best possible holiday season, look at all the issues covered in the 14-page fourth quarter edition of our Holiday Marketing Quarterly.

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Need help with your holiday marketing campaigns? Oracle CX Marketing Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including a Campaign Automation Services team to help you optimize your triggered campaigns.

To learn more, reach out to us at CXMconsulting_ww@oracle.com.

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