The season from October to December – which encompasses 29 global holiday dates - remains by far the biggest revenue driver for retailers around the world. Every year, marketers are looking for increasingly innovative ways to approach holiday shoppers with marketing messages designed to maximise revenue and customer engagement.
But not all markets are identical – and local nuances around key shopping periods can often be the difference between success and failure when it comes to marketing. Cultural differences can render different results in email marketing campaigns, and marketers need to take effective steps to better execute global marketing campaigns at a more regional level.
Experian’s first international holiday email performance study looked at the approaches of global brands to email marketing, across a variety of countries and found that there are significant geographical differences in customer behaviours and responses among the tactics that retailers employ.
Brands looking to operate on a global scale must carefully consider how local events and holidays are celebrated differently around the world. Experian’s study examined more than 100,000 email campaigns sent by more than 1,000 brands across Australia, China, France, Hong Kong, India, New Zealand, Singapore, Spain, the United Kingdom and the US.
The study found that timing is imperative and event and date significance vary greatly by region. For example:
Starting points for campaigns vary from market to market – In France holiday email campaigns begin in November, whereas in Spain they start in October to tie into Dia de la Hispanidad. In New Zealand, holiday emails are often linked to the start of the Summer season – significant volume peaks come at the start of December and are often accompanied by end-of-season campaigns. Asian countries showed pronounced volume variability as the region is less influenced by the Christmas calendar – in China and Hong Kong, for example, email activity slows down in early October due to National Day.
The basic rules of relevance and engagement still apply during the holiday season. Marketers are employing a variety of tactics to benefit from a “first mover advantage” at this busy time. These include:
Using existing customer data to personalise content is used to varying levels. France (37.5 per cent) and Spain (13.7 per cent) have some of the highest personalisation rates in their holiday emails, with Spain garnering a 21.2 per cent open rate and 4.5 per cent click rate using this technique. The Asia Pacific (APAC) region used urgency as a tactic to influence purchase decisions. In China, urgency campaigns achieved 12.5 per cent and 2.2 per cent for open and click rates respectively, compared with standard mailings that achieved an 8.8 per cent open rate and a 1.7 per cent click rate.
Triggered response emails such as ‘abandoned cart’ campaigns typically produce high response rates, especially in Spain where click rates during the holiday season reached 13.2 per cent. In France, the United States and the United Kingdom, social media messages achieved higher open rates than standard mailings. In Spain the results were slightly below standard mailings. This is consistent with the overall usage of social media sites across the world, especially Facebook within European countries.
Globally, the most popular types of offer sent by brands during the holiday season are percentage/ money off vouchers, yet response results vary significantly by country. China has higher open rates for percentage offer campaigns than standard mailings, but lower click rates. On the other hand, in Spain, the percentage off mailings performed worse than the standard mailings. In contrast, New Zealand and France rely most on money off promotions. Individual brands must experiment to understand which incentives work best for them.
Timing is always important when it comes to email, and this becomes even more important during the holiday season, when changing the day or even the hour of a campaign can have a significant bottom-line impact due to the increased volume of emails the subscriber is receiving.
Retailers should properly test timing options to determine the best approach for their own brand, customers, products and services. In our study, tests conducted on a weekday vs. weekend basis found varying results globally:
UK consumer expectations for ecommerce sites to have the best deals alongside the explosion of smartphones and mobile devices, may be contributing to higher response rates on weekends, as smartphones enable all shoppers to multitask and compare prices online whilst shopping in-store. During the holidays, India and France experienced lower opens and clicks for weekends than weekdays. In the United States the reverse occurred, with higher engagement on weekends. Australia, Singapore and New Zealand all have higher engagement rates during weekends, yet Asia Pacific markets such as Singapore, Hong Kong and China are not deploying a large amount of holiday emails on weekends
By understanding regional behaviours and reactions to different marketing techniques, brands can gain important insight into better execution of global marketing campaigns at local levels and will maximise revenue and ROI during the busy holiday period.