The holidays are still in full swing, but many business owners and marketers may already be wondering how this season will impact the year ahead. Rightly so: The winter holidays can make up more than half of a small business's total annual revenue, and more than 7 in 10 businesses say that this year’s busy season is more important to the overall financial health of their business than last year's. At Mailchimp, we see the bustle firsthand: From Thanksgiving Day through Giving Tuesday this year, Mailchimp customers sent more than 8 billion emails—and 400,000 brands marketed with Mailchimp on Black Friday alone. With so much added marketing and commerce activity in such a short period of time, the learnings from this crucial season can be essential in crafting a strategy for the year ahead.
Earlier this year, our friends at Intuit Quickbooks crunched the numbers on what the holidays mean for businesses and the customers they serve, surveying more than 12,000 respondents (9,000+ consumers aged 18+, and 3,000 businesses with up to 100 employees) in the US, Canada, and UK. Here, we've shared 4 key action items inspired by the data—and the ideas, tools, and success stories that might help your business turn these insights into results.
Own your marketing analytics
Up to 8 out of 10 businesses surveyed say marketing is a challenge, with about a quarter of respondents citing a lack of expertise. But you don’t have to be an expert to build smart marketing decisions into your routine. Take Mailchimp's Content Optimizer, available to users on a Standard plan or higher: This AI tool gives you time back by analyzing millions of data points from top-performing campaigns to give you personalized suggestions on improving copy, imagery, and layout in future emails. Or consider Send Time Optimization, a feature that uses Mailchimp’s insights about engagement patterns to automatically send your email at the best time possible.
After your campaigns are out the door, quantifying the value of your marketing is incredibly important. But 1 in 3 businesses surveyed say they can't measure the impact or return on investment (ROI). Mailchimp's reporting tools can help you monitor which efforts pay off, whether you’re measuring the revenue from a particular campaign or tracking audience growth over time. “I can say we earned [approximately] $52,000 on email [in 2021],” says Kelly O’Connell of MCA Denver, an art museum that recently leveraged integrations, advanced templates, and automations to lean into the power of their owned channels. “Having that hard stat has been so easy for me to prove why email is so vital for the museum.”
Take back your time
On average, businesses surveyed were looking to add an extra 10 to 12 seasonal workers per business—equivalent to an almost 50% growth in the average workforce. But almost all of them, up to 99%, said they face hiring challenges. As businesses continue to do more with less, valuing the time you do have is more important than ever. And your marketing strategy may be ripe for an automations audit: How much time could you save if some of your campaigns were sent automatically? With automated emails created in Customer Journey Builder, Mailchimp customers saw up to a 127% increase in click rates (and up to 4x more orders for users with connected stores) compared to bulk emails.*
Email automations aren't just for traditional retailers or product-based businesses, either. A travel company, like Pack Up & Go, may send automated reminders about adding "Peace of Mind" insurance to travelers who have just booked a trip. A farmer, like Brie Cassadei of Terra Firma Farms, could set an automation nudging subscribers to purchase add-ons for their weekly produce delivery. “The orders come in on their own," says Brie, who uses Customer Journeys and a Barn2Door integration to keep her business humming along. She pours the time she saves back into her business and her family; she jokes that her kids say they’re eating dinner much earlier lately.
Celebrate and grow your community with in-person events
‘Seeing customers in person again’ is what the most businesses surveyed were most looking forward to this holiday season. And customers, in return, said that they expect to spend more money in stores when those businesses organize special in-person experiences. This is good news for retailers who can cash in on consumers' renewed appetite for experience gifts this holiday season. If your business operates in multiple locations, consider using geolocation to identify where your audience resides. Plan events near your biggest fans, sending segmented campaigns to reach subscribers in the area or using predictive demographics to learn more about who they are.
Plant nurseries might consider hosting a series of classes for aspiring gardeners, while a candle shop could find success with a scented candle-making workshop. Restaurants and bottle shops, too, can get in on the fun. "The best way for a restaurant brand to really stand the test of time is to be synonymous with the community," says Femi Oyediran of Graft Wine Shop, which hosts weekly pop-ups from other local businesses on what they've dubbed Good Neighbor Sundays. The shop promotes these events on social media as well as in newsletters, often alongside featured bottles. "The newsletters are the only opportunity that we have to really talk to our customers," Femi says, noting that he often sees an uptick on in-person sales for specific items featured in campaigns. "When we're on Instagram, our audience is going through thousands of photos a day. They give us about 2 seconds to read and hit like and then move on. For wine, that's not always enough."
Create a hands-off discount strategy—without hurting your bottom line
Less than half of the businesses surveyed plan to offer special promotions for this holiday season—despite the fact that consumers say this is one of the best ways to get them to spend money. It's not hard to imagine why a business, especially one specializing in services or handmade products, might not be keen to mark down their prices. But discounts and promotions don't have to be an all-or-nothing game.
Instead of site-wide sales or mass-marketed discounts, consider targeting your promotions to more specific groups of customers. Italy-based QuyCup, for example, has seen success with welcome discounts: From May 2021 through May 2022, the sustainable cup brand’s 5-email welcome sequence yielded an ROI of 850%. The first email in QuyCup's series, which shares the promo code, averages a click-through rate of 42.3%.
Targeted discounts can help you engage customers long after the first email, too. Modest offers in abandoned cart automations, for example, could nudge an indecisive shopper toward a quicker purchase. And re-engagement campaigns, in which you contact email subscribers who haven't opened or clicked one of your emails in a certain time frame, can use targeted discounts to entice customers you might otherwise have lost forever.
No single statistic can predict the future. But as we approach the close of another unique holiday season, you can use these learnings from consumers, business owners, and marketing experts to optimize your plans for the new year. Whether you’re building an email list for the first time or testing out more advanced marketing tools to increase ROI, set strong 2023 resolutions for your business and start working to make those goals a reality today.
Published: December 16, 2022
*CJB only available on paid plans. Features and functionality of CJB vary by plan.