December 4, 2013, 3:47 PM takes the prize for the earliest holiday e-mail

And Hayneedle went earliest with a Black Friday theme, Internet Retailer finds.

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If you are on time you are late—fine wisdom handed down by parents and grandparents.

The marketing folks at apparently remembered that advice this holiday season. The web-only merchant beat out 999 other e-retailers tracked by Internet Retailer to determine which one sent out the earliest holiday-themed e-mail marketing message.

The housewares and home furnishing retailer’s e-mail arrived in an Internet Retailer inbox on Oct. 19, nearly two full weeks before Halloween. “Get a Jump on Holiday Shopping,” the message told recipients over an image of a fashionable living-room scene that featured a black sofa, post-modern chairs and a sleek lime-green floor lamp. The e-mail encouraged consumers to shop by offering 20% off “design classics.” is No. 150 in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide.

While came in first for one race, Hayneedle Inc claimed a different victory: The home products e-retailer, No. 84 in the Top 500, mentioned Black Friday earlier than other merchants, in an e-mail that arrived on Oct. 25.  The e-mail promoted early Black Friday sales, “fall texture trends” and other deals.  Jewelry Television (No. 185), meanwhile, had the first Cyber Monday mention, in an Oct. 28 e-mail. “FREE shipping starts now!” the e-mail exclaimed.

Internet Retailer subscribed to and logged e-mails for retailers included in both the Top 500 and Second 500 guides to gain a picture of how those merchants were using e-mail to compete for holiday dollars. Combined with other online marketing efforts, the e-mails helped produced $3.558 billion in U.S. online sales between Thanksgiving and Cyber Monday—that is, the first Monday after the holiday—up 24.3% from the same period last year, according to figures from comScore Inc. (That holiday spending was even higher than that, as those figures do not include tablet and smartphone sales.)

The Internet Retailer Top 1000 holiday e-mail project also found that:

• Of the 5,942 e-mails received from those retailers in November, 4,357—or 73.3%—contained in their subject lines discounts or offers. By contrast, 5.7% of all November e-mails mentioned Black Friday or Cyber Monday in their subject lines. The retailer with the most Black Friday or Cyber Monday subject lines in November? That would be OverstockDeals LLC, a web-only retailer of home improvement products that is No. 579 in the Second 500. The retailer, which launched in 2009, had 14 such subject lines, or about 4% of the total holiday-themed subject lines.

• LivingSocial Inc., the daily-deal operator that is No. 119 in the Top 500, sent more e-mails in November than all other retailers (some of which don’t have e-mail marketing programs), with 68 messages. That compares with flash-e-retailer Inc. (No. 202), which sent 56, a figure also achieved by both (No. 674) and another daily-deal operator, (No. 550). Of that group, only crafted subject lines that mentioned Black Friday or Cyber Monday, with five messages doing so, or about 7.4% of its total e-mails in November as logged by Internet Retailer.

• At least 62% of Top 1000 retailers offered free shipping in their e-mail marketing messages in November. That compares with a mere 7.2% that offered free returns—with office supplies chain Staples Inc., No. 2 in the Top 500, the largest retailer with that promotion in its e-mail.

So what’s on tap for e-mail marketing in December?

First, take a look at November. E-mail volume averaged 20.5 e-mails per subscriber for the 100 major retailers tracked by e-mail marketing service provider ExactTarget and its principal of marketing research, Chad White. “While the early Hanukkah and late Thanksgiving did increase the amount of holiday messaging that retailers included in their e-mails in early November, it didn’t have a great effect on the volume of e-mail messaging they sent out,” he writes in a blog today reviewing the holiday season so far.

December should bring up that average to 24 e-mails, he says, with peaks yet to come. “E-mail volume is off to a strong start already this month, since Cyber Monday fell on Dec. 2 this year,” White says. “We expect volume to remain consistently high throughout most of the month, but that it will spike on Green Monday on Dec. 9 and particularly on Free Shipping Day on Dec. 18. There’s a significant chance that Free Shipping Day may actually dethrone Cyber Monday as the busiest email marketing day of the year.” Green Monday is another e-commerce marketing event.





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