Each year, as marketers gear up for the holidays, email marketing campaigns begin in anticipation of huge customer turnouts. In 2015, email marketing produced 20% of online sales in the United States, second only to organic search at 21.5%. This makes sense when consumer intent is viewed in confluence with each digital channel at the time of purchase. Organic search is converting at a slightly higher rate due to the purpose of the consumer at the time of the search; email marketing performs marginally less due to the nature of the intent when the opener receives the message. Even when the consumer is opted-in, an email needs to remind or convince the recipient to act on the promotion, which is a step back from the consumer proactively engaging a search engine to find a particular product.

Even so, as email technology matures, its effectiveness attracts more businesses to try email marketing yearly. The growth is especially noticeable during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holiday season as inboxes swell with streams of marketing messages promoting non-profit donations, online sales, or developing brick-and-mortar foot traffic. To sustain the growth and success of email, marketers have utilized known customer data to create content personalization, in an attempt to deepen the brand loyalty of each email recipient.

As we move into full-swing holiday marketing for 2016, marketers need better ways to stand out amongst the crowded inbox. Using known customer data isn't enough to wow subscribers anymore. Subject line, first name, and account level personalization have become a standard to creating heightened engagement. More recently, email innovators are utilizing real-time information with contextual technology - personalizing email content at the moment of open.

Here are some ways to stand above the traditional holiday marketing using contextual data.

Package tracking

  • During a busy holiday, customers rely on shipping information to help plan the hiding and wrapping of gifts for loved ones. Send emails with real-time shipping information, updating on each open, and removing the need for external tracking websites.

Location-based promotions

  • Promote local stores on a map or regional products for sale using contextual technology to identify the location of the opener as the email opens. Create personal, localized content using real-time geographic data.

Video in email

  • Engage subscribers with video to show in-depth product information or encourage donations to a non-profit. Video can carry a sales message or a short, heartfelt season greeting.

Live countdown timers

  • Including the element of time in an email, while simple, can have dramatic effects regarding inbox engagement. Inciting action on behalf of the email recipient with the universal understanding of a countdown clock applies to any email marketing offer.

Live inventory or web scrape

  • Automate email promotions with a live feed of available inventory to increase sales or display real-time website information with to keep marketing channels in constant sync.

Ultimately, the options with contextual email are endless. Each businesses unique needs dictate how contextual email marketing applies within the marketing strategy. The important thing to note is how contextual email marketing creates a new opportunity for improved personalization at scale. Real-time subscriber indicators allow marketers to segment messaging using unknown information before the email sends. As the indicator data is read the email is hyper-personalized as it renders in the inbox.

Elevating above the crowded inbox
Differentiating from the crowd requires a new approach; contextual email technology equips marketers with forward-facing segmentation and real-time personalization never before seen. Inboxes will fill this holiday season with massive amounts of email from small and large businesses alike. Elevating above the noise will require engaging, intelligently constructed messages that take inbox interaction to new levels.

Looking for more trends impacting digital marketing? Check out the 2016 Contextual Email Marketing Report.

About the Author:

Rory is the Manager of Content Marketing at Liveclicker, an industry leading contextual email technology provider.