Making a List and Checking it Twice

The Holiday Hustle

The holidays seem to arrive earlier and earlier with each successive year. While the Friday after Thanksgiving used to mark the unofficial start of the holiday season, retailers have set the clock ahead in recent years, beginning holiday marketing in earnest on November 1st.

According to Responsys’s “Retail Guide to the Holiday Season 2011” report, Black Friday might be more accurately described as “Black November.” Their survey of 104 top retailers revealed that holiday email campaigns are kicking off closer to Columbus Day: Oct 28th in 2008, Oct 19th in 2009, and Oct 17th in 2010. In addition, they found a 68% increase in emails mentioning “Black Friday” promotions, further demonstrating the power of email to drive sales.

Customers seem to be receptive to early-holiday marketing. According to Epsilon’s “Holiday Trend Report 2011,” email conversion rates peaked during the first two weeks of November, and email open rates reached their highest point of 2010 during the week of Black Friday. Apparently the early messaging paid off. comScore reports that Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, was the biggest shopping day of the year in 2010, breaking all past records with a total of $1.028 billion in online sales, an increase of 16% over 2009.

‘Tis the Season for Charitable Giving

For our nonprofit clients, the end-of-year focus is no less intense. With the majority of charitable donations clustered in the fourth quarter, nonprofits are currently in the midst of their busiest season.

According to a seven-year study by Network for Good examining their database of 1.9 million donors giving to over 70,000 nonprofits, Americans are procrastinators when it comes to online giving. The data is striking: 33% of online donations are made during the month of December, and 22% of online donations occur on the last two days of the year. Convio, the fundraising software company, found similar results among their clients in 2010 – excluding the Haitian earthquake response, December 31st was the highest dollar volume day for charitable donations.

Strategic marketing efforts carried out throughout the year help nurture donors and keep organizations top-of-mind. But December seems to be the month when those donors are most likely to open their wallets online.

Clean Email Databases Make Spirits Bright

Any end-of-year marketing campaign is only as good as the data behind it. Even the most compelling calls to action or promotional offers will fall on deaf ears if your list is riddled with inactive and bouncing email addresses.

To prepare for the up-tick in email volume, the best course of action is to clean your email database in the late summer or early fall – or better yet, on a quarterly basis throughout the year. If you’ve fallen behind on list maintenance this year, however, there’s still time to catch up. Email change of address (ECOA) and hygiene projects can get you back in touch with ostensibly “lost” customers and fight list attrition. According to national averages, 30% of your customer list changing email addresses each year. With that churn rate, even the strongest list will inevitably go stale without proper upkeep.

Put Your Best (Stocking) Foot Forward

So, build, clean, and update your email lists now to make the most of the upcoming holiday season. And when January comes around, put your program in place for 2012, as election years have perennially been good for the economy.

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