Email Thursday – A Look Back at the Holiday Season

By Exclusive Concepts


This holiday season was marked by record numbers of promotional emails sent by online retailers to their databases. I, for one, noticed the influx of emails starting in mid-November. I was getting emails from some retailers once and even twice a day.

All shoppers like promotions, but it was getting a little hard to keep track of all the different offers flying in to my inbox. Here are some stats that show that my Gmail wasn’t the only inbox being inundated.

  • On average retailers sent each of their subscribers 5.6 promotional emails the week of December 11th, showing an increase of 8% over the prior week and 26% over that week in 2010. This number matched the all-time high frequency that was recorded in November and in early December after Thanksgiving.
  • The week of December 23rd e- retailers sent an average of 5.7 promotional emails to their subscribers. Unlike last year, retailers were pushing promotions aggressively up until the holiday. This number grew 35% from last year.
  • Cyber Monday was the busiest day for email promotions. 87% of retailers sent at least one promotional email to subscribers. The next three busiest days was Black Friday (81%), Thanksgiving (75%), and Green Monday (73%)

Emails weren’t the only thing that was up this year. The discounts included in the emails were on the rise as well. Here are some terms that saw year or year growth:

  • 50% off saw the biggest YOY growth, with a 30% increase in use
  • 10% and 20% off saw a YOY decrease of 6.5%
  • You/your was in 18.7% of subject lines – a 3.4% YOY increase

Here are some of the top 25 words used in the email subject line this holiday season. Many of these won’t surprise you. They include: you, off, get, % off, new, free, save, ship, free shipping, only, now, today, holiday, gift, ends, order, and offer.

Conclusions – I read that the increase of emails may have been caused by a dip in sales from the huge gains in November. This makes sense. If you are up almost 26%, as the industry was on Black Friday, but you are not up year over year in December it may cause you to start pushing your promotions to your database more frequently to encourage shoppers to buy. However, these stats make me think – did people simply shop more in November then they did in December? Did all these emails benefit or hurt retailers? Time will tell as the final numbers for the year are released.

In terms of the discounts – according to these statistics, its pretty clear retailers were offering bigger discounts this holiday season. This could explain why the sales numbers were higher than seasons past. Were these results because of the great discounts or because retailers are getting smarter with email, and sending relevant messages, with great offers and content to engaged customers?

Another thing to consider – are these deals to good to be true for retailers? Yes, they increased sales by offering free shipping and bigger discounts, but how does that affect the bottom line? Hopefully we will learn more from this holiday season as time goes on.
One thing is for sure. If we see that this uptick in email sends helped online retailers across the board gain more revenue, we can expect just as many, if not more emails in our inboxes next holiday season. Remember, quantity is not always better than quality. If you are going to send emails make sure you are sending the right person, the right message, at the right time.

Sources: Internet Retailer, ZDNet