This blog post is part of Forrester’s Holiday 2019 retail series.

Of course we have to talk about email marketing as we enter the 2019 holiday season! It is still the workhorse of the retailer’s marketing toolkit. Retailers account for 22% of all email marketing spend. Fifty-one percent of retailers expect to increase investments in email this year. And retail email marketing spend will grow at a nearly 8% compound annual growth rate between now and 2023. Retailers’ love affair with email is for good reason: Email is still by far their most cost-effective marketing channel, earning on average $40 for every $1 it costs. So let’s talk about how to make it work the best it possibly can for you this Q4.

  • First off, make it as easy as possible for people to register to receive your emails. We mean invite subscriptions everywhere, especially on your website. The best practice here is to capture email addresses front and center on your home page. Don’t be one of the 64 out of 100 emails we reviewed this summer that fail to do this. nails it, and Boston Proper and pass, too, if you need some inspiration.
  • Then, use emails to create value for your customers. It’s easy (especially around the holiday months) to use email to push out the deals you need to close to hit sales numbers. But sustainable growth comes from solving customer problems. Our research finds that customers respond to four types of value: economic, functional, experiential, and symbolic. Etsy’s emails solve user gift-giving challenges with recommendations that also offer reasonable prices and connection to community.
  • Practice some retail-specific database marketing. Some email marketing best practices apply across industries. Apply these, and consider some solutions developed specifically for retail concerns. For example, retail-dedicated email vendor Bluecore can trigger personalized recommendations that will be both relevant for your end buyer and meet your margin goals. And Paper Mart saw average order rates increase 30% when it used Cordial to link offline store and sales behaviors to email offers.
  • Emphasize deliverability. We know — deliverability feels like the plumbing of your email program when what you want to think about is the design and content. But many emailers see fewer than half of their sent emails actually making it into subscriber inboxes. Shoring up deliverability best practices will make sure your hard work reaches the right users. And improving deliverability (which starts with list hygiene, frequency, and preference management) can give you a leg up on higher-level customer data management concerns.

How far along are you on some of these best practices? What else works for you to make your email programs sing? We’d love to hear your questions and plans for this holiday season. And check out the other posts in Forrester’s Holiday 2019 blog series to think about how email should work with your other digital tactics and commerce developments.