4 Ways to Turn Around a Tanking Holiday Season

If you are in need of a holiday miracle this season, consider these four tactics.

You spent months planning for a fun and festive holiday season that would make your shoppers feel warm and bright and add some shine and sparkle to your sales. However, it looks like you all you're getting this year is a crumbling lump of coal. The holidays will make or break numbers for many retailers, and the stress of an underperforming Q4 causes panic at the overwhelming challenge of getting the season back on track.

For retailers and marketers there are still ways to bring some much-needed cheer into such a mid-season calamity, but most importantly avoid the trap of making rushed, uniformed decisions. Before jumping in, take a calm levelheaded, thoughtful look at what changes need to be made. The holidays are a crucial time, to tackle decisions that dramatically affect your bottom line. But it is not necessary to completely reinvent the wheel. Trust your instincts and allow yourself to course-correct strategies, paying mind to not invest the same amount of effort that went into your original holiday planning.

If you are in need of a holiday miracle this season, consider these four tactics:

Identify Operational Issues

Sending timely, targeted emails has become such an everyday task that it can be easy to overlook technical issues that could affect your ability to send messages or prevent your subscribers from viewing them. If your sales are low, check engagement metrics such as open and click rates to see if you can trace poor performance back to a specific issue. Answering the following questions could also help to pinpoint a problem.

  • Do your emails render and function properly on all devices? Send messages to your team and ask them to open, click, and purchase using a variety of mobile devices. While you may have spent time optimizing your site and emails for mobile devices, frequent OS and browser updates could mean that part of the shopping experience is no longer rendering or functioning properly.
  • Are there deliverability issues? Increasing your mailing frequency can lead to an increase in spam complaints and a blow to your email deliverability. Monitor your delivery rates for any dips and reach out to your email service provider if you have concerns.

Vary Promotions and Discounts

The inbox is a busy place during the holidays. Many shoppers will start to experience some email fatigue amidst the flurry of messages. If you have relied on one promotion, such as free shipping or 20 percent off everything, it may be time to switch up your promotional strategy and show your subscribers a new way to save.

A Bronto consumer holiday preference survey asked shoppers to share which promotions make them want to buy and which ones they simply hate. A few highlights that might help you get out of a promotional rut include:

  • Most Popular Holiday Promo: Free Gift with Purchase (59 percent of online shoppers love them)
  • Most Divisive Holiday Promo: Door busters (70 percent of marketers find them effective while 28 percent of holiday shoppers hate them.)
  • Most Hated Holiday Promo: Limited Inventory (46 percent of holiday shoppers hate them.)

Shift the Segmentation

If your sales are in a slump and open and click rates are tanking, consider a more targeted approach to the subscriber segmentation strategy. Email frequency has probably increased, but the additional emails could be causing some subscribers to start ignoring your messages. Consider an engagement-based remailing strategy in which you exclude certain groups from some of the emails promoting one particular sale. For example, if you have planned a five-email weekend-long free shipping promotion, consider excluding those who purchase from the first message from some of the follow-up emails. Subscribers who ignore your first two emails could receive a targeted message with a clever subject line aimed at getting them to open. The reality is that there is no magical number of messages to send during the holidays, but trying to gauge when your subscribers have had enough will help decrease the potential for shopper frustration.

Listen to the Buzz

If your sales are suffering and you are still stumped, review your social sites for customer concerns that could be frustrating your shoppers. Reach out to your customer support team to see if they are hearing about issues on your site or in stores. Waiting until the season is over to address these issues could mean you end the year in the red.

The holidays are always unpredictable. Even the best-laid plans will encounter a few twists and turns, so be flexible and prepared to adjust your strategies. If these adjustments fail to revive your holiday performance, you and your team may be forced to make major decisions in a hurry. Should the time come to get your holidays back on track, consider some of these strategies as a starting point for these discussions.