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  • January 9, 2007

Season Finale: Christmas 2006

A look back on seasonal trends, email activity and standout B2C marketing during the Christmas season:

Start to finish: The first reference to the holidays was by Sam’s Club on Sept. 6. The last reference was by Sportsman’s Guide on Dec. 28.

First references by retailers: Instead of doing a distribution curve of holiday emails like I usually do, this time I’m giving you a chart indicating when 89 of the top online retailers made their first reference to the holidays in an email. The most popular days for first references were Nov. 13 and 7, followed by Nov. 17, 16, 14, 6, 3 and Oct. 31.

(And for those of you that want to get a good idea of the distribution curve for holiday emails, just look at the RetailEmail Index chart from this past week. You’ll see that email volume spiked in the weeks ending Dec. 8, 15 and 22.)

Most interesting email: Gloss’s Dec. 4 email (Make Your Holidays a Little Merrier with 2 EXCLUSIVE GIFTS! Only at Gloss.com) was the most interesting to me because it tries to tackle what has become an expected holiday giveaway: free shipping. Unfortunately retailers have now trained consumers to expect free shipping, which can seriously dent the bottom line. But to stay competitive, retailers now have to offer it. In this email, Gloss offers an alternative, giving customers the option between free shipping and a sample of Gloss Holiday Favorites and a makeup bag. Offering free shipping puts Gloss on par with every other retailer that's offering it, but then they offer them something else that's attractive but presumably less expensive. (We're assuming that the samples cost less than shipping on average, otherwise this is not a smart option to give shoppers.) The samples would have made a great stocking stuffer, so this offer should have been pretty effective during the holiday season, since small gifts like that can be hard to come by.

Jo-Ann tries some similar in an email on Dec. 14 (50% off coupon or free 2-day express upgrade), but this particular offer forces the customer to work out the math to figure out which is the better option for them, which may frustrate them or make them anxious about their choice. The genius behind the Gloss offer is that the sample set can’t be bought and therefore the price of it can’t be compared to the shipping cost.

Noteworthy trends: I was really intrigued by all the variation in the 12 Days of Christmas campaigns by retailers. Some started really early, like NFLshop.com, which started on Nov. 27; while others started really late. The retailer that was latest to the game was Blair, which launched its 12 Days campaign in a Dec. 12 email (Finish your holiday shopping with this special offer), leaving it very little time before shipping became difficult (see Dec. 13 post).

Recognizing that retailers need to time such campaigns to the shopping habits of their customers, I like Avon’s 12 Days campaign best (also see Dec. 13 post). Their campaign was timed so that it ended on the last day for guaranteed Christmas delivery, and unlike most other retailers, Avon ran its 12 Days campaign via email everyday, not just through its website. Avon usually sends an average of three emails a week, so sending an email for 12 straight days is about twice as much as normal, but since the campaign makes it clear when the extra emails will stop (after 12 days) and because it was the run-up to Christmas, I thought subscribers would understand and not be angry about the additional emails.

Akin to the 12 Days campaigns, were the holiday countdowns. A few counted down until Christmas, but most counted down until the last day for guaranteed Christmas delivery. JCPenney had the coolest countdown, in large part because it was a dynamic countdown. The email knew how many days left till Christmas and a cute little girl would pop up in the upper right-hand corner with a box showing how many days remained. If you opened the same email several days later, it would display the up-to-date number. And now that the holidays are over, the little girl has laid down her Santa Claus hat and left us with a holiday greeting. Very slick.

Standout subject lines:
Harry & David, 12/5 — We've got the Pears ... who really wants the partridge or tree?
RedEnvelope, 11/13 — Let's hear it for the wise men. [promoting gifts for men]
Gap, 11/15 — Gap Girl's Holiday Survival Guide: Solutions, Ideas & Tips
EBags, 11/21 — Deck the Halls, Avoid the Malls: 15% Off
Target, 11/1 — Got a list? We've got the gift
Old Navy, 11/6 — Fleece on Earth: Women's Jackets, Starting at $24.50
RedEnvelope, 11/29 — Make them go gaga. [promoting gifts for babies]
Lands' End, 12/12 — Great Gifts That Will Warm Their Hearts (and Their Toes).
Target, 12/19 — No time? No problem. Kiss your to-buy list 'Good-Bye.'
Orvis, 12/21 — Same-day delivery. Perfect last-minute gifts. [promoting e-gift cards]
Target, 11/15 — Just what you always wanted: Free shipping on 15,000 items
JCPenney, 12/7 — Just in the Nick of Time: Our Biggest Sale + Free Shipping

Previous posts about Christmas:
12/27 — Reportlet: E-gift card promotions
12/26 — AM Inbox: Reeling in gift card dollars
12/22 — AM Inbox: Guaranteed not to arrive in time for Christmas
12/20 — AM Inbox: First after-Christmas sale reference
12/17 — Week-End Trends: Massive surge in email volume as shipping deadline nears
12/15 — AM Inbox: Don't let your gift cards go naked
12/13 — AM Inbox: Belated countdown
11/28 — AM Inbox: Special Cyber Monday edition
11/15 — AM Inbox: Even Santa’s elves need extra time for these
11/9 — AM Inbox: Special holiday email series
11/4 — Week-End Trends: Santa dances on Halloween’s grave
11/2 — AM Inbox: Too much Christmas spirit
9/6 — AM Inbox: First Holiday and winter references

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