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6 tips to prepare for the 2020 holidays during the COVID-19 era

24 November 2020Reading time: 6 min.

Without a doubt, the Christmas holidays are one of the most profitable yet challenging periods for companies. In an anomalous and critical year like 2020, they must review their traditional digital strategies to fit the current times. Now let’s look at some tips to create effective holiday campaigns despite the COVID-19 emergency. 

The COVID-19 impact on the 2020 holidays: is it really a crisis Christmas?

The coronavirus pandemic and lockdown have radically transformed people’s habits, especially when it comes to purchases. This has significantly influenced market trends. 

One of the main effects was a “forced” acceleration of the digitization process: people who had never made an online purchase before March had to adapt to technology and the world of e-commerce. From the perspective of companies, this meant new audiences to be conquered. 

On the other hand, however, the advent of COVID-19 has also caused a labor and economic crisis. This may portend a hostile and disastrous scenario during the Christmas holidays which, starting with Black Friday, are the year’s most profitable months on the global market. 

Data, however, eliminate any reasonable skepticism. The Global Web Index projects a scenario of hope. Its study shows that 44% of consumers plan to spend (approximately) the same amount as previous years on Christmas 2020 purchases. In fact, many consumers are unwilling to give up on normality when it comes to the Christmas holidays. They intend to preserve the traditions linked to gifts and preparations in response to the negativity of these times, albeit with some changes in the purchasing methods. 

Actually, in its annual holiday forecast, Deloitte predicts that e-commerce sales will grow by 25–35% compared to 14.7% in 2019. This growth is widely due to the greater amount of time that consumers spend online. 

Further, the Deloitte study says that 70% of consumers don’t expect a decrease in expenses for this time of year. Indeed, purchase orientation and method will change—but not the expense: 75% of users declared, in fact, that they want to make purchases for up to 5 people, focusing on gifts for family members and the most loved ones. 

How to prepare for the 2020 Christmas campaigns

So despite the difficult situation, consumers seem to not want to give up gifts and decorations. This gives hope to companies, which never had been fighting so much against the unpredictable and the uncontrollable. 

The predisposition to consumption is still present among consumers. Therefore, don’t get caught unprepared. Be sure you have all the tools to design crisis-proof campaigns and follow the right strategy to emerge in your users’ “crowded” inboxes.

Here are our tips to get ready for the most anticipated time of the year!


1. Maximize your deliverability 

You can’t organize a successful email campaign without starting from good deliverability. Designing beautiful emails with a striking subject is of no use without the guarantee that those messages will reach the users of our database. Good delivery is, in fact, an indispensable and key factor—it’s a ticket into the most important event of the year.

To ensure optimal delivery, you must focus on improving your reputation as a sender by implementing a series of best practices:

  • Start from the database. Get ready for the holidays: check the status of your database and make sure it’s clean by removing unknown users and suspicious addresses. Focus on the quality of the contact rather than the quantity: a database full of unresponsive, uninterested, or—even worse—non-existent contacts would damage your performance, as well as your reputation as a sender. The MailUp platform allows you to automate this cleaning activity. It unsubscribes by default (first temporarily and then, if the user doesn’t answer—permanently) all contacts with consecutive bounces for the same reason. 
  • Boost your new leads acquisition through promotions designed to attract, drive subscriptions, and facilitate conversions. As a matter of fact, holidays are the best opportunity to increase your contacts and intercept new users. Develop a reactivation strategy to reconnect with users that aren’t on the ball. Revive the interest they showed when signing up. Message them with engaging content to encourage and trigger interaction. 
  • Use authentication methods that improve deliverability. A good reputation as a sender involves email authentication protocols. These certify the authenticity of a message and who sent it, thus helping improve your reputation. There are so many authentication methods to use, such as DKIM, DMARC, or the latest BIMI. These methods help in checking the sender’s identity and to prevent spam or phishing attempts, as well as all kinds of abuse that went up during the COVID-19 emergency due to greater user vulnerability. MailUp’s Deliverability Chekup function lets you automatically diagnose the authentication status of your emails, plus verify and solve any issues that could damage deliverability. 

2. Analyze behaviors and create personalized campaigns

In order to structure effective Christmas campaigns, it’s important to evaluate what type of email to send once you’re sure of their deliverability. Key for your communication success, especially in this anomalous historical period, is studying your audience’s behavior. How have the buying habits of your target changed? How and what is your target going to purchase during these holidays of uncertainty and instability? 

Start from the data and analyze the purchasing habits and behaviors of your database. For instance, take advantage of a Predictive Marketing strategy. Analyze your users’ preferences based on past actions or by surveying them. Then, target email campaigns based on their interests and offer promotions that can align with their preferences, increasing the chances of conversion. By having this data at hand, you’ll be able to segment your audience and start designing custom email campaigns.

Go beyond the “Hello [name]” dynamic field—consumers are more than accustomed to this kind of personalization tool. Rather, focus on content that truly interests your audience, where your users can really benefit. The customization methods are endless: go from abandoned cart reminder emails to messages promoting the products that have enticed the interest of your contacts the most. Check out the following examples:

example sephora abandoned cart

example amazon preferences

3. Boost e-commerce and Buy Online, Pick-up In-store services

Given the current restrictions on mobility and the opening hours of many stores, a trend of these 2020 holidays will undoubtedly be online shopping. Since consumers are more available, they’ll spend more time than usual on social media, websites, and in email inboxes. Take advantage of a multi-channel communication strategy and boost your e-commerce to facilitate online purchases. 

In fact, data from MailUp studies carried out during the first phase of the pandemic  show that e-commerce sector growth at the end of 2020 should reach a total value of 22.7 billion euros with a 26% relative increase over the previous year. This growth rate is certainly higher than in 2019 when product e-commerce registered a +21%. 

If you have an e-commerce, then it’s essential to not get caught unprepared. Enhance the platform as much as possible and provide users with an effective, easy, and positive online shopping experience. Be ready to face the surge of traffic and requests, optimize your stock management, and set precise and timely assistance communications with transaction and shipment notifications. If you expect a delay, then prevent disappointments by updating potential consumers with the items’ arrival times right from the start.

An efficient e-commerce can play in your favor during this emergency situation. Give your audience the most positive and comfortable shopping experience to encourage a return, even after the holidays. Focus on:

  • free shipping, perhaps limited to a certain period of time to trigger a feel of urgency and facilitate conversions
example free shipping for christmas
  • “back in stock” communications to better manage more orders on your site and encourage users who haven’t finalized the purchase to return
  • Buy Online, Pick Up In-Store (BOPIS) strategies that demonstrate brand flexibility and willingness to meet the needs of those who want to overcome the problem of home delivery. Don’t underestimate this strategy in the current situation. Benefits for your company include making the load of orders and shipments easier to manage; reducing the risk of system failure; enticing customers to purchase more when visiting the store; increasing customer satisfaction, and facilitating their shopping experience. 

4. Analyzing the sentiment while attuning content and tone of voice

Besides analyzing the behavioral habits of your users, you should identify what kind of content entices them while analyzing the sentiment during this specific historical period. This analysis will allow you to not only create the exact content that users want to receive, thus facilitating purchases, but also adapt the tone of your communications to the sentiment of your audience. This means that you can find out if your audience is more inclined to receiving ironic and funny communications to temper the current moment, or if they’re looking for empathy and sensitivity through messages of comfort and solidarity. 

example bestsellers christmas

A survey of favorite 2020 holiday content showed that consumers ranked product reviews first, with traditional gift guides as second. Take advantage of the potential of User-generated Content (UGC) for your email design. Include reviews on products that the user has viewed in the past, or a selection of best sellers and community votes for top items.

example christmas gift guide

Also, create informative gift guides to optimize and facilitate the user’s shopping experience. This type of content has always been highly appreciated when it comes to the holidays. Gift guides are a great way to save consumers time when finding the perfect purchase since it supports them in their choices. Why not converge this type of content with the importance of personalization? Create personalized gift guides based on user preferences, tastes, recipient types coming from the purchase, or his/her budget. 

example customized christmas gift guides

In addition to UGCs and gift guides, don’t forget that content related to promotions, discount codes, and last minute or limited offers always win. This is even more true in an economically difficult year like this one. According to the Global Webex Index, 31% of users are willing to buy more gifts on sale than in previous years. Unleash your promotions accordingly. Always provide your communications with a reference to the offer duration to give a sense of urgency and incentivize your contacts to finalize the purchase. Alternatively, overcome your competitors by creating offers in advance.

example fossil christmas campaign

5. Call attention right from the subject link in the inbox

Effective content that meets your audience’s needs perfectly is useless if your message isn’t first delivered, as seen above, then opened. 

Users are bombarded with communications and messages every day over the holidays. Hardly anyone opens every email. Emerge from the communication avalanche in your contacts’ inboxes and make openings more likely by focusing on the subject. This is the first element that your recipient is going to see, together with your brand. So besides enhancing your reputation, work on the subject line. Make it effective so that you can capture the recipient’s attention in a few characters: 

  • immediately insert a reference to your offers and their limited duration while pushing a message of urgency;
  • take advantage of the visual potential of the emoji to create a subject line that makes your email stand out in the user’s inbox, and don’t forget about mobile devices and email client compatibility
  • be concise and clear: you must convey your content simply and immediately within the limited number of characters in the subject line; and
  • create expectation and curiosity to encourage the recipient to open a captivating, interesting message. 
christmas subject line example

6. Integrate SMS into your email campaigns

Our last tip for these 2020 holidays is to integrate SMS into your email campaigns. Why? Because the following data is key: 

  • 63% of those users known as Gen X and boomers said they have spent much more time using their smartphone since the lockdown began;
  • 75% of consumers, according to TechJury, don’t object to receiving SMS and seem to appreciate this communication channel;
  • SMS messages have an average open rate of 98%;
  • the incidence of mobile use on total purchase volumes went from 50% in 2019 to 56% this year; on the other hand, if we consider the value of purchases, then e-commerce from smartphones grew from around 9 billion euros in 2019 to around 12.8 billion in 2020 (+42%)

According to these data, SMS have the great advantage of an excellent opening rate. Further, they’re highly appreciated by consumers and represent a more immediate, faster, and easier communication channel than emails. 

Now, there are many ways to use SMS for increasing the efficiency of your campaigns. For example, you can use them within a a re-engagement strategy to promote discounts to those contacts who haven’t opened your emails by trying to reach them through a different channel. 

Alternatively, you can take advantage of the power of transactional SMS, as 64% of users consider them very useful in bettering the shopping experience. Use them to thank the customer for a purchase, send order notifications (order receipt, shipping/delivery notice, etc.), request feedback on on your e-commerce shopping experience and, lastly, provide assistance as a Customer Care method.

In summary

Christmas holidays represent one of the most important and profitable occasions of the year for most companies. Despite the current coronavirus crisis, even this year, consumers don’t seem to want to give in to the traditional race for preparations and gifts—albeit with some changes in purchasing habits and methods. 

This article has summarized some tips to make you ready and sure that your campaigns are effective and meet the expectations of consumers in this historical period. For further advice, don’t hesitate to rely on the MailUp team of experts: ask for advice and get assistance.

This article was written by

Paola Bergamini

Paola Bergamini

I was born in 1993 in Como and I escaped from this little town to study in Milan, where I graduated in 2017 in philosophy. I've always been interested in marketing and communication and I love writing and reading. As Content Editor at MailUp, I try to keep up to date with Email and Digital Marketing news, in order to share trends, theories and tools about this constantly evolving sector.

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