Holiday 2017, One Last Look

Article by John Landsman CATEGORIES: eCommerce, Holiday/Event, Retail, Trends & Analysis TAGS: ,


Our previous Holiday deep-dive (posted early December), focused on activity supporting Black Friday and Cyber Monday.  We reported more related messaging than last year, strongly improved inbox performance, and a mixed bag of read rate trends, with Amazon — as usual — driving the strongest subscriber engagement.

This new analysis focuses on three periods of interest:

  • The two weeks ending Christmas Eve, December 24th
  • Christmas Day
  • The day after Christmas through January 2nd.

As with the earlier piece, we analyze three different sectors of the retail universe:

  • Online Retailers: Those identified by our platform as having ecommerce only.  We track more than 400 brands in this category.
  • (What we call) “The Big 14:” These are all high-profile national or international retail brands, including: Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy.
  • Amazon: A break-out of Amazon only.  Amazon is included in both categories above, but we also show it separately, in order to demonstrate its scale within the two others.

As with the previous analysis, we screened for related email campaign activity using associated subject line keywords.

Key takeaways:

  • During the pre-Christmas period, year-over-year activity and performance metrics increased for all reported sectors. Amazon continued to show the strongest inbox and read rate performance.
  • Significant mailing activity and strong customer engagement occurred on Christmas Day itself.
  • For Christmas and beyond, only the Online sector mailed more than last year and all sectors improved inbox performance. Read rate trends were inconsistent, depending on sector and mailing theme.
  • Of the ten best performing examples we saw:
    • Amazon takes top read rate honors.
    • Most of the subject lines focused on some combination of gifts and/or product.
    • Only two of the subject lines use the terms “deals” or “sale.”
  • Although Holiday-themed emails continued on Christmas Day and beyond, their volumes tapered off, while campaigns supporting year-end and New Year’s promotions began ramping-up.

For the Two Weeks Ending Christmas Eve

In the table below all sectors show:

  • Increases versus year-ago in the number of email campaigns deployed during the period.
  • Strong inbox performance improvements.
  • Consistently improved read rate performance.

(*)Amazon, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Toys R Us, Barnes & Noble, Target, Walmart, Kmart, Sears, Kohl’s, Macy’s, JCPenney, Staples, Office Depot and Best Buy

For Christmas Day

For those of you who’ve been curious about the timing of Holiday mailings, we can see emails being deployed across all sectors on Christmas Day itself.

  • Online Retailers mailed more than last year, but the other sectors mailed as many or less.
  • All sectors improved their inbox and read rate performance versus year-ago.
  • All sectors also drove better inbox and read rate performance on Christmas Day emails than for messaging deployed in the two prior weeks.

  • Also on Christmas Day, we begin to see the ramp-up across all the sectors of email supporting year-end and New Year’s promotions.
    • The Online group sent more related email, and also improved their inbox performance, but read rate performance eroded somewhat.
    • Notably, because Amazon is included in the Big 14 group, and their numbers are the same, none of the other major brands in the Big 14 deployed any related promotional email on Christmas Day for either year.

  • One might conclude from this reporting that the sanctity of Christmas Day evidently neither prevents retail marketers from deploying promotional emails, nor their customers from engaging with those emails.


For December 26th through January 2nd

  • Holiday-themed emails continued, but were tapering off.
  • More emails were deployed versus year-ago, and positive inbox performance trends continued.
  • Year-over-year read rate performance deteriorated somewhat for the Online group, but improved for the other two reported sectors.

  • Year-end and New Year’s themed emails predominated during this period.
  • But only the Online Retailer group increased the number of deployed campaigns versus year-ago.
  • Inbox positive inbox performance trends continued, but year-over-year read rate performance deteriorated for all three sectors.

Ten Examples of Strongly Performing Holiday Emails

  • Amazon, as is customary, owns the top read rates.
  • Four subject lines specifically reference “gifts.” One of those (Amazon’s top performer) offers a “Gift Guide.”
  • Product items, categories or features appear in five.
  • Only two use the words “deals” or “sale.”
  • Macy’s abandoned cart message drove the third strongest read rate on this list.