December 12, 2016, 12:46 PM

Amazon goes on an email blitz this holiday season

Amazon sent out 56% more email campaigns from Nov. 29-Dec. 10 than it did in the corresponding period a year earlier. Those emails are helping the online giant dominate holiday sales.

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Amazon.com Inc. sent out 56% more email campaigns from Nov. 29-Dec. 10 than it did last year, according to data released today by digital marketing vendor eDataSource, which gathers email marketing data from a panel of about 1.4 million consumers around the globe.

Amazon, No. 1 in the in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 500 Guide, sent 1,691 email campaigns  from Nov. 29 to Dec. 10, up from 1,081 campaigns it sent from the corresponding days last year (Dec. 1 to Dec. 12). Amazon’s campaign volume is nearly four times the 427 campaigns sent by Wal-Mart Stores Inc. (No. 4) during the same period, more than seven times the 225 campaigns sent by Best Buy Co. (No. 12) and almost 11 times the 154 campaigns sent by Macy’s Inc. (No. 6) and Target Corp. (No. 22).

Amazon’s marketing efforts appear to be paying off as the retailer has accounted for 38.6% of holiday spending from Nov. 24-Dec. 3, according to Slice Intelligence data. That's despite the online retailer being less aggressive in its use of dynamic pricing this holiday season, according to an analysis by price monitoring firm 360pi Corp. Dynamic pricing refers to a retailer changing product prices based on market demands, competitors’ prices, targeted profit margins or other factors.

Examining more than 23,000 electronics products, 360pi found that Amazon, as well as Wal-Mart and Target, became progressively less price dynamic over Thanksgiving weekend. The price monitoring firm also found that on Black Friday, Amazon was less price dynamic on the products listed as best-sellers within its home goods section than it was in 2015. 

Those changes likely reflect the lengthening holiday season, says Joleen Wroten, a senior retail strategist at 360pi. "Amazon, Wal-Mart and Target are likely less price dynamic this year because the deals started earlier and have held out longer than in years past," she says. "It's likely they hit margin bottoms early on and no one wants to be the one to end the 'sale' first. It's relatively easy to justify lowering the price to match competition but being the first to raise it back up is scary stuff." 

While Amazon hasn't been particularly aggressive in its use of dynamic pricing, its marketing efforts have been extremely bold this holiday season. During the 14-day period that began 10 days before Thanksgiving and extended to Cyber Monday, Amazon sent 271 Black Friday-themed email campaigns, up 40.4% from 193 a year earlier. It also sent 148 Cyber Monday-themed email campaigns, up 26.5% from 117 in 2015. That large growth reflects Amazon’s push to tailor its messages based on what customers have bought and looked at on its sites and apps, says John Landsman, eDataSource’s director of strategy.

That approach seems to be working as Amazon posted the top read rate among the retailers that eDataSource evaluated. 19.8% of consumers read Amazon’s emails, outpacing Macy’s at 17.2%, Wal-Mart at 16.3% and Kohl’s Corp. (No. 19) at 15.8%.

Amazon is hardly the only retailer to boost the number of email campaigns it is sending this holiday season, according to the analysis, which examined eight major retailers’ email campaigns. EDataSource says six of the eight retailers sent more email campaigns than they did last year (only Toys R Us Inc., No. 35, and Wal-Mart sent fewer campaigns).

Moreover, five of the retailers—Toys R Us, Macy’s, Wal-Mart, Kohl’s and Target—all increased their read rates compared to the previous year.

Macy’s sent 154 email campaigns from Nov. 29-Dec. 10, a 31.6% increase from 117 it sent a year earlier during the corresponding time period, eDataSource says. Those emails were one factor that helped the retailer attract 109 million visitors to Macys.com during November, a 13.2% jump from 96.3 million visitors in November 2015, according to digital measurement firm SimilarWeb Ltd. 

Traffic surges to Macys.com prompted big slowdowns on Black Friday when a “temporary shopping jam” screen greeted online shoppers, who were then put in a countdown queue to enter the site, and many later had trouble checking out. Macys.com’s 109 million visitors made it the clear traffic leader among clothing retailers, outpacing the second-most visited site, Shop.Nordstrom.com, which attracted 39.7 million visitors, by 69.3 million visitors. VictoriasSecret.com was third with 39.1 million in November, SimilarWeb reports. That dominance is in line with recent trends. Since December 2014, Macys.com had a monthly average of 69 million visits; no other domain within the top 10 clothing retailers has surpassed 35 million monthly visitors during that time frame, SimilarWeb data shows. And Macy's share of clothing retailers' traffic is growing. In November Macys.com accounted for nearly 35% of traffic to the top 10 clothing retailers' sites, up from 32% a year earlier.

Beyond emails, Macys.com's traffic growth is largely due to a 145% jump in paid search traffic to its site, SimilarWeb data shows. 

Macy’s massive traffic is helping it attract a sizable share of holiday shopping dollars. Macy’s accounted for 2.9% of holiday spending from Nov. 24-Dec. 3. While that’s well behind Amazon, it is ahead of Wal-Mart (2.8%), Best Buy (2.6%) and Kohl’s (1.8%), Slice reports. 

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