October 28, 2011, 2:04 PM

Holiday e-mail is getting more mobile and social, Responsys says

Overall, e-mail marketing is gaining in importance for the holidays.

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Smartphones and tablet PCs are proliferating, and consumers are moving many of their web activities to these devices. During the 2011 holiday season, around 20% of e-mail messages will be read on a mobile device, says digital marketing firm Responsys in a new report. For brands that attract younger or technologically inclined consumers, the percentage of e-mail messages read on a mobile device could exceed 30% during the holiday selling season of November and December, Responsys predicts.

In addition to going mobile, consumers are increasing their usage of social media—and retailers are responding in their e-mail marketing campaigns. 88% of 100 top U.S. online retailers Responsys tracks include links to their communities on Facebook, Twitter and other social networks in every promotional e-mail they send, Responsys finds. Retailers tracked include Brookstone Inc., Costco Wholesale Corp. and Target Corp.

Responsys believes e-mail marketing trends will follow the growth experienced during the 2010 holiday season. And one big number is e-mail volume. Last year 89% of the retailers tracked increased the number of promotional e-mails they sent during November and December as compared with earlier months. The average increase in volume was 47%. E-mail open rates were up 6% in the third quarter this year versus last year among the retailers, an indication that shoppers are paying closer attention to e-mail going into the holiday season, the firm says.

A trend toward early shopping in November has retailers responding by promoting “Black Friday” pricing and deals earlier. Black Friday refers to the day immediately following Thanksgiving when store shopping soars. The retailers tracked by Responsys are now promoting Black Friday deals as early as Nov. 1. The number of e-mails from retailers referring to Black Friday increased 68% between Nov. 1 and Black Friday in 2010 versus the same period in 2009. Driven by early November shopping messaging, the volume of promotional e-mail from retailers increased 24% in November 2010 year over year, the largest increase in monthly volume during 2010, Responsys finds.

“Retailers are always trying to drive holiday sales earlier in the season, so I expect more retailers to embrace ‘Black November’ this year,” says Chad White, research director at Responsys.

After Black Friday comes Cyber Monday, which refers to the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend when online shopping jumps. Responsys contends e-mail marketing is a key contributor to Cyber Monday success, with 77% of retailers e-mailing their subscribers on Cyber Monday in 2010, up from 71% in 2009. For the fourth consecutive year, more retailers sent promotional e-mails on Cyber Monday than any other day of the year, Responsys finds.

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