December 22, 2011, 10:05 AM

E-mail marketing plays a major role in holiday sales efforts

Promotional e-mails surged last week as online sales leveled off, Responsys says.

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As online retail sales dipped in December from sharper gains in November, retailers reacted with a record number of promotional e-mails, according to a study of more than 100 retailers by Responsys, a provider of e-mail marketing services.

On average, retailers sent each of their e-mail subscribers 5.6 promotional e-mails last week, reflecting increases of 8% over the prior week and 26% over the year-ago period, Responsys says. It adds that the 5.6 e-mails per subscriber matched the all-time high in e-mail frequency Responsys recorded last month and early this month during the week following Thanksgiving.

Responsys also notes in its study:

● The single busiest day so far this year for retail e-mail promotions was Nov. 28, the Monday after Thanksgiving also known as Cyber Monday, when 87% of retailers sent at least one promotional e-mail to subscribers. The next three busiest days have been Nov. 25, the day after Thanksgiving also known as Black Friday, when 81% of retailers sent at least one e-mail to subscribers; Nov. 24, Thanksgiving Day (75%) and Dec. 12, dubbed Green Monday by some online marketers (73%).

● Although many retailers e-mailed offers of free-shipping with no minimum purchase required, few referred specifically to Free Shipping Day, Dec. 16, a day promoted by Free Shipping Day was referenced in only 1.6% of e-mails last week, even though online sales were up that day 14% over the same day last year, according to web measurement firm comScore Inc. “Despite not wanting to promote Free Shipping Day by name, a record number of retailers offered free shipping with no minimum purchase required, looking to stand out at a time when the majority of major retailers were already offering free shipping for the duration of the holiday season,” Responsys said.

While retailers increased e-mail volumes in December, other reports note that online sales growth rates have slowed this month from late November. While online sales rose year over year by 14% on Dec. 16 and 19% on Dec. 12, those gains were off the increases of 26% on Black Friday and 22% on Cyber Monday, according to comScore.


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