This year, retailers everywhere will approach the holidays with an increased reliance on email marketing and ecommerce. But it’s not just that marketers will send more emails than ever this year; people will engage with your messages at never-before-seen rates too.

If you’re looking for some fresh, new email marketing elements to experiment with for increased holiday engagement, you’ve come to the right place. Because this blog explores three exciting email tactics you can start testing now!

Give loyal shoppers even more reasons to celebrate the season

Holiday promotions definitely help you drive new sales, subscriptions, and website traffic, but to tap into the true business potential of your email marketing strategy you can’t leave your loyal customers out in the cold. After all, you already know how to reach them and how to motivate them to buy—so give your VIPs the gift of rewards and special events like this Grove Collaborative email does.

email marketing elements to experiment with

Obviously, a GIF is going to be the first thing that catches any buyer’s eye with this interaction. But the smart, value- driven messaging supporting this visual-fueled content is our favorite piece of the (pumpkin) pie. Rewarding loyal customers with their own holiday before the holidays is a fun, interactive way to escape the all- too-common sales push this time of year—and for Grove Collaborate—an optimal way to inspire new purchases and increased engagement as well.

By rewarding their most loyal subscribers and customers with a celebration-worthy personalized experience, we also love the brand’s way-above-benchmark results. In fact, this campaign resulted in the brand’s best click engagement booster the quarter it was sent—as well as one of its highest revenue-generating emails ever.

What This Means for You: Don’t wait; get ahead of your peak holiday marketing period and target your best, most loyal customers with a special incentive ahead of everyone else. You’ll be surprised to see how stress-free Q4 can be if you don’t have to meet sales goals by selling your brand to every buyer first.

Let your customers shop from anywhere

Just like last year, the pandemic will make 2021’s holiday marketing initiatives a little more complicated than usual. With economic uncertainty, shipping delays, and in-store traffic approaching a standstill, this year’s messages need to be every bit as quarantine-friendly as last year’s campaigns. And that means giving your shoppers a variety of ways to browse and buy—exemplified perfectly by this Signet Jewelers experience.

email marketing elements to experiment with

Incentivizing surprise discounts and sales promotions that allow customers to shop however, whenever, and whenever they want was our favorite thing about this email. Signet Jewelers’ flash sale campaign gives online buyers everything they need to make a purchase. Weekly best sellers, shop-by-category capabilities, guidelines on safe shopping during the pandemic, and more are personalized touches that really knocked our candy cane-print socks off.

What This Means for You: Use your collected customer data and previous purchase history records to target buyers with a single threshold offer instead of multiple ones. By doing so, you build more straightforward, clear, and—most importantly—effective holiday email experiences. Testing these tactics now can result in increased Average Order Value (AOV) and conversion rates for key promotions and exciting flash sales throughout the holiday season and beyond.

Give your customers choices and complementary options

This year, there will be more online holiday shoppers than ever before. But will they be reading your emails for their own benefit, or on behalf of someone else? It can be tough to identify individual consumers’ intent and who’s shopping for whom. So, give your customers the best of both worlds like Fashion Nova did in this featured experience.

email marketing elements to experiment with

Beyond a clever display that accurately summarizes life amidst lockdown via visuals and copy, Fashion Nova’s holiday PJ party-themed message targets a single product category that’s relevant and engaging to self-buyers and gift givers alike. With options to browse pajama categories and complementary products like slippers, this brand turned a potentially sad stay-at-home experience into a special holiday event for its subscribers.

What we love most about this email is that it offers something valuable to every holiday shopper—no matter their motivation or who they’re buying for. By combining thoughtful, stay-at-home holiday messaging with highly relevant product recommendations and dynamic category combinations, Fashion Nova created a convenient shopping experience that gave every recipient great last-minute gift ideas. And after experiencing more click engagement than any other end-of-year email campaign, it’s clear that thousands of new and long-time customers took advantage of their personalized PJ party invitation.

What This Means for You: Cozying up at home will be a theme you’ll see across holiday messages in retail and media in Q4 2021. If you haven’t followed suit, prepare imagery that can support a holiday at home and holiday party look and feel in order to relate to potential customer behaviors.

But these three email marketing elements to experiment with aren’t all—they’re just the start of how working smarter not harder this holiday season can lead to even more success in 2021. For even more fresh, engaging email ideas, download our Work Smarter Not Harder Guide now!

There are a lot of things to think about when it comes to your 2021 holiday email marketing effort. Will the fear of another outbreak keep your customers at home? Or, will the chance to shop your deals in-store be too hard for them to deny?

Nobody knows — and for a savvy marketer such as yourself, these trends truthfully shouldn’t make much difference anyway. Because the only way to ensure holiday email engagement this year is by providing stellar interactions online and through every brick-and-mortar engagement. 

Sounds easy, right? In many cases, deceptively so.

Before your brand can deliver the relevant, engaging email experience your 2021 holiday audience demands, you need to be moving at the speed they are. Otherwise, you won’t be able to pivot and take advantage of favorable changes by the time consumers are choosing to engage with your messages.

Fortunately, that’s where this post comes in. By focusing on the five key focus areas mentioned below, you can find a few new, last-minute tactics to maximize holiday email engagement and make even the biggest Grinch’s heart grow three sizes in Q4!

Make mobile a priority, then worry about maximizing holiday email engagement

The key to making your holiday promotions — or any email, for that matter — more engaging is to make your path to purchase easy. Any campaign that gives someone a one-click shopping experience in the same place they’re browsing your products dramatically increases your odds of conversion.

In 2021, consumers are responding well to the omnichannel approaches more and more retailers are taking, particularly when it comes to mobile shopping.
In fact, our 2021 Retail Personalization Index research found that nearly half of all retail consumers browsed products and made purchases on their smartphone this year — increasing total mobile website traffic by as much as 80% for some forward-thinking brands that prioritize omnichannel interactions.

This will only become increasingly important as trends like mobile move from afterthought to top-of-mind in 2021. In fact, 73% of all ecommerce sales will take place on a mobile device by the end of this year. So, if you’re not operating with a mobile-first mindset, start making changes now before you fall too far behind the rest of retail.

Build loyalty and long-term email engagement

Holiday promotions definitely help you drive new sales, but retailers need to continue building community and goodwill with their customers to tap into the true business potential of these sends.  And that only happens after you maximize holiday email engagement.

So, what better way to improve your Q4 2021 campaign results than by catering to the needs and wants of your most loyal buyers?

A loyalty program based on your long-time followers’ personal preferences and values is a huge advantage for winning more revenue this time of year. Especially if you add juicy incentives like extra loyalty perks, double rewards points, exclusive discounts, free samples, or a free gift with every holiday purchase into the mix.

Bonus points for building omnichannel flows based on buyer behavior changes to grow loyalty and build rapport with your audience directly into your holiday email campaigns. By providing these highly personalized experiences, you can even follow individual shoppers across every channel to interact on their terms — giving them a sense of control and personal connection with your messaging rather than a lump of generic marketing coal.

If you’re looking to turn last-minute engagement into long-term email results, take your loyalty program  to the next level by tracking each shopper persona that made a purchase during the holidays. Then, design targeted post-purchase email campaigns and triggered messages to turn one-time transactions into repeat purchases regardless of season.

Add flexibility to your in-store experience

This year, COVID-19 is still a serious consideration for retail shoppers — as are the ever-evolving safety protocols and in-store precautions you take to protect your in-store customers this holiday season. While the future may look uncertain, don’t forget about the important lessons you learned in 2020 — or how they can help you maximize holiday email engagement among these shoppers despite another unprecedented season.

Be prepared to adjust your communications approach at a moment’s notice so you don’t leave any potential buyers feeling left out in the cold. Tear down traditional boundaries by integrating your ecommerce and in-store environments into a seamless brick-and-click experience. Because we predict that this season’s most creative marketers will also be the most successful.

Take a page out of their playbook and include special holiday events, hours of operation, in-store promotions, and any other brick-and-mortar benefit in your emails to entice digital buyers to visit your store and engage with multiple marketing channels in a manner that enhances their overall shopping experience.

Remember: holiday marketing success is a two-way street. While you shift your priorities to the ecommerce environment in 2021, be sure to keep your brick-and-mortar interactions in mind. Train in-store staff members to ask for customer data and promote email subscription/marketing opt-ins across every customer engagement to maximize the impact of your omnichannel strategy without lifting a finger.

Offer fulfillment and flexible payment options this year

Holiday shoppers are like snowflakes — every one of them is unique. But here’s something that may not be so obvious: building unique subscription models for each audience persona you market to can deliver tremendous results. After all, 80% of marketers are using automation to increase leads, 77% to increase conversions, and 76% to realize ROI in a year or less (including 44% over just the first six months).

While the risks of COVID-19 are nothing new, many people will still likely be hesitant to visit your brick-and-mortar stores in 2021. Making hybrid fulfillment options like BOPIS and curbside pickup as appealing an offering — if not more so — than they were at this time last year. Because more than half of all consumers plan to continue using these more convenient, customer-friendly fulfillment alternatives even after the pandemic ends.

If your in-store purchases typically feature a high Average Order Value (AOV), it’s a smart idea to create incentives that tempt traditional shoppers to take advantage of your alternative fulfillment options. A free gift upon pickup or a discount off their next BOPIS purchase can be a simple-yet-satisfying holiday experience that convinces first-time buyers to stick with your brand long-term.

Another trend gaining massive momentum this holiday season is Buy Now, Pay Later (BNPL). Unlike traditional ecommerce and in-store layaway payment options, BNPL gives your buyers the benefit of instant gratification — and your brand the advantage of actualized revenue in Q4. 

Because someone doesn’t have to wait until payments are complete to receive their products, emails that feature BNPL financing options increase conversion rate by 79% and AOV by twice as much on average. No doubt a huge boon for any retail brand looking to better 2020’s holiday email engagement rate.

Prioritize trust and community in your holiday communications

If the past 18 months have taught marketers anything, it’s that transparency and honesty are more valuable than ever in your email messages. So, emphasize these values at every opportunity to maximize holiday email engagement in 2021.

After all, an experience that hides shipping costs, makes online purchases overly complex and time-consuming, or features irrelevant products and messaging usually scares away more customers than it converts.

While there’s immense pressure to perform and convert as many shoppers to paying customers as possible throughout the holiday season, keep in mind that not every email or promotion you send has to push a product. In fact, shoppers worn out from seeing the same holiday-themed communications for weeks or months on end are more likely to notice and appreciate your efforts for doing so.

Earlier this year, we found that two-thirds of today’s retail buyers believe a brand’s ethics and values are important — substantiating 5W Public Relations’ 2020 Consumer Culture Report that notes 71% of shoppers prefer to shop with brands that are aligned to their values.

But that’s not the only thing your customers expect from your holiday experience this year. Dig even deeper into the trend and tactics that can help you maximize holiday email engagement and take 2021’s results to the next level; download A Smart Marketer’s Guide to 2021 Holiday Success to get started.

For any digital marketer, building a highly engaged email list is a must. Because the more people you have converting into customers from it, the more money your organization makes. Considering the average ROI for every dollar invested into email marketing is $44, that’s a lot of potential profit at stake.

Assuming, of course, you can overcome one important hurdle: getting people to submit their email address and personal information.

In fact, many email marketers view this as their biggest barrier to building or growing their email list. Fortunately, the perfect lead magnet can make all the difference. By offering value (and making it clear to every website visitor prior to signing up) via a downloadable content piece, your brand can easily grow email engagement and positive list activity.

So, why should you take a closer look at your current lead magnets? And which lead magnets can grow your email engagement, subscriber count, and online revenue most effectively?

Why you need to pay more attention to lead magnets moving forward

With Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update rumored to be days away and the death of third-party cookies coming next year, first-party data is quickly becoming marketing’s most valuable resource. Moving forward, the personal insights you collect from your most loyal customers should be the foundation you build your email campaigns and experiences around.

But this is easier said than done—especially when someone is visiting your site for the very first time. Consumers are increasingly careful with the brands whom they choose to share their contact information with. Which is precisely why lead magnets are such an invaluable tool for your marketing team.

One of the best ways to convince on-the-fence shoppers to share their contact information is through incentives and immediate value delivered in return. And a free gift in the form of a downloadable guide, exclusive research, etc. for giving you their email address instantly builds rapport, credibility, and trust. Giving your brand a positive first impression that’s more likely to lead to long-term buyers and higher levels of email engagement in the future.

9 lead magnets to inspire email list growth

Okay, so you understand how important lead magnets are to your email list. Now comes the big question: which one(s) do you use?

While each of these nine lead magnet ideas have proven over the years to be your most effective options, carefully consider each depending on your niche and the value you intend to deliver to your visitors and subscribers. After all, not every lead magnet has the same relevance or impact from one audience to the next.

  1. Ebook

For years, Ebooks have been considered a primary lead magnet for business in virtually every industry. They’re easy to write and build, you can share as much (or as little) info as you desire, and they offer customers and prospects alike tremendous value by solving an important problem or answering a strategic question in return for providing their email address.

  1. Webinar

If you like the idea of an Ebook but prefer a more interactive format to gain subscribers, a private webinar can be the perfect lead magnet for your brand. Because it’s a message you’re devoting more resources to and putting an actual face of an expert in front of, visitors perceive the value of these experiences higher than almost any other option available.

Plus, it leaves a lot of potential for follow-up communications and future webinar experiences to go in-depth on more specific topics that are relevant to your targeted audience.

  1. Step-by-Step Guide

The best kind of content is actionable. So, short lists and step-by-step guides are an effective, easy way to get the attention of your website visitors and convert them into longtime followers.

  1. Free Trial/Demo

For brands that have products so good they sell themselves, a free trial or product demo upon email list signup can be a powerful lead magnet. While your competitors offer information and helpful resources to tempt new subscribers, a free trial or demo lets your customers know you’re willing to go the extra mile and deliver solutions instead of just data—instantly increasing your odds of conversion.

  1. Templates

Unfortunately, many companies lack the time and resources to create lead magnets themselves. Meaning that any brand offering time-saving templates and pre-built content can be a lifesaver for overworked marketers who want to stay focused on big-picture strategies—and a trusted resource that keeps your audience coming back for more.

  1. Free Consultation

Not every brand features an industry expert or authority figure. But if yours does, a free consultation is considered the most valuable lead magnet of all. While this certainly requires a significant time commitment compared to other options listed here, a no-strings-attached conversation with a thought leader rapidly expands the growth of your email list.

Plus, this lead magnet option allows you to pre-sell your solutions and services by positioning them in the context of each customer’s primary challenges and concerns—giving you new ways to make a significant sum in the process.

  1. Discounts & Coupons

While there are plenty of ways to get fancy with your lead magnets, a good, old-fashioned discount or coupon can go a long way toward luring more visitors to your email list. Chances are, visitors are coming to your site and browsing your online store with something in mind. So, it makes sense that giving them an exclusive price on the products they’re most interested in right away is a quick and easy way to grow your current list.

  1. Podcasts

In the age of multimedia, why not give your visitors something new to consume? Exclusive podcasts are an easy way to connect new subscribers with conversations they care about—without the need for you to design copy, graphics, or any photo/video elements.

  1. Video Tutorial

If pictures are worth one thousand words, then a video tutorial can be considered an invaluable lead magnet for any marketing effort prioritizing email engagement. After all, there’s a reason video marketing is in trend: compared to books, infographics, podcasts, and other traditional content types, video far and away holds the most value in the average consumer’s mind.

While in-depth video tutorials obviously require more resources to create, there’s no denying that these lead magnets will provide the best incentive for your visitors to submit their contact info and actively engage with your marketing messages.
Now that you have everything you need to make your lead magnets more impactful, it’s time to take your email marketing campaigns to the next level. Download our 2021 Holiday Marketing Success Guide to implement these low-effort, high-success tactics this season!

Let’s get the bad news out of the way first: Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update will change the email marketing landscape forever. But the good news? Any marketing team that gets ahead of iOS 15 and adapts now will be well-positioned to take advantage of any new opportunities that result.

What is Mail Privacy Protection?

A few months ago, Apple announced Mail Privacy Protection—which essentially gives any Apple Mail user the ability to opt into privacy protections that block email open-tracking pixels, location metadata, and other personally identifiable information from marketing email senders.
Considering that these recipients are responsible for anywhere from 10% to 40% of your total email engagement, this update is a big deal. Especially for marketing teams that use open rate or open-focused metrics to measure campaign success.

But—contrary to many headlines out there—the sky isn’t falling. In fact, this privacy-focused pivot creates more business potential than ever for the brands willing to adjust their email strategies now. So, which changes do you need to keep in mind?

How Mail Privacy Protection will change the way you work

In its official announcement, Apple states that “Mail Privacy Protection stops senders from using invisible pixels to collect information about the user. The new feature helps users prevent senders from knowing when they open an email, and masks their IP address so it can’t be linked to other online activity or used to determine their location.”

For email marketers, that means three new and important changes to prepare for:

Evolve your email marketing strategy

Mail Privacy Protection is going to artificially inflate your open rates, make tactics like geo-targeting more difficult to perform, and ultimately muddy the waters when it comes to measuring email campaign engagement. Fortunately, there are a few easy ways to overcome these challenges while simultaneously maximizing your results.

Move past opens. Measure your success using interactions instead.

Did your customer really see that email, or was Apple’s Proxy request responsible for the open? This is an answer that many email marketers will want to know once Mail Privacy Protection goes live. The question you need to be asking, however, is, “What happens next?”

Now more than ever, it’s important you focus on building an engaging email experience that’s impossible to ignore—so that anytime someone does see your message, they do more than simply open it. So, look past open rates to find out where you already have competitive advantages and iOS-optimized email elements before inserting these tools into every new campaign moving forward.

Mail Privacy Protection

If you’re a Liveclicker customer, things like embedded videos and LiveSlides with individual CTAs attached to individual images won’t be affected by these changes.

Focus your A/B testing on conversions

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection update will make it impossible to accurately measure open-focused metrics like time of request, open duration, or opener location/timezone among your Apple Mail audience. So, re-think your email marketing benchmarks by prioritizing stats such as clicks, conversions, and revenue generated instead.

If you haven’t revisited your messaging in a while, look for opportunities to A/B test across engaged and unengaged audiences with more fun, interactive offers and email elements. By focusing on user engagement and interaction instead of opens and sales with your email interactions, you’ll probably be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Mail Privacy Protection

When COVID-19 put Chipotle’s annual Boorito promotion in jeopardy, the brand turned to more interactive email promotions—and quickly uncovered unprecedented results. By including mobile messaging and social media contests in its regular email campaign, Chipotle was able to generate more than one billion online impressions, more than 500,000 social media engagements, and a click-to-open rate that was three times higher than the average industry benchmark.

Use first-party data for highly targeted personalization

With Apple’s major changes right around the corner, now is the perfect time to know exactly where your customer data resides and whether or not you’re making the most of these insights.

Any email you send that suggests a local store to visit or bases product recommendations on current weather conditions, for example, will be impossible to build purely from sender data received. Hide My Email and a host of new, privacy-focused Apple Mail features will mask recipients’ IP addresses and location metadata, meaning that unless you’ve specifically asked for and collected these data points from every customer, your automated targeting will need to be adjusted to capture them elsewhere.

Going forward, tools like ESP tags, CSV files, and API calls will only grow more invaluable to marketers looking to connect data sources and bridge the gaps Mail Privacy Protection causes. By combining fun email elements like embedded polls and surveys with previous stores shopped at, purchase history, and more, savvy email marketers will still be able to make location- and weather-based messaging personal. It just might take a little more work than you’re used to.

Mail Privacy Protection

To learn more about Apple’s upcoming Mail Privacy Protection update and how it impacts email marketers everywhere in greater detail, view our Navigating an Evolving Privacy Environment webinar now!

It’s one of the oldest maxims in the advertising business: People buy from other people, not from brands. 

But in the digital world, there’s no truth-telling best friend standing by with candid advice. So, who can your customers trust to give them the real scoop on whether or not a product lives up to your marketing hype?

The answer is easy: Other like-minded shoppers.

That’s why bringing User-Generated Content (UGC) like customer testimonials, images, and comments into your email content can more than double your conversion rate. People look to others like themselves to see what to buy, what to like and don’t like about a product, how to use it, and more. 

Adding UGC into your email messages has other benefits, too. It adds a human element to any marketing message, instantly building the opportunity for organic brand affinity. Because, let’s face it, social proof—the psychological phenomenon in which people look for guidance from the opinions or actions of others—and word-of-mouth advertising are two of the most powerful, well-known conversion motivators for a reason.

3 ways you can use UGC to increase email conversions

For major brands with high name recognition, a stable full of social media influencers, and a team that can keep tabs on consumer sentiment, finding and incorporating consumer-created content into an email sounds like pretty easy work.. 

But what about the majority of companies that lack a portfolio of glowing reviews or a major following and social media footprint?

With some strategic thinking and the right amount of automated technology in the mix, you can effortlessly pull UGC from review sites and social media platforms into your email experience. Giving even the most overworked one-person marketing teams out there the opportunity to satisfy shoppers and accelerate their path to conversion in three ways:

1. Customer testimonials, reviews, and recommendations

Honest, transparent communications like these should be at the heart of any customer-created content strategy. Because real-time testimonials, product reviews, and recommendations sourced from people actually buying from you aren’t just one of the most effective tools for increasing email conversions—they’re a great way to gain control over the market-driven narrative surrounding your brand too.

It’s no secret that most people like to feel heard and respected. In today’s ecommerce-driven business environment, millions of buyers enjoy rating and reviewing their purchases to help others out. So, appeal to this philanthropic instinct and elevate your customer experience!

Incorporating UGC into your email marketing efforts is as easy as making a simple request, whether that’s asking online shoppers for a 5-star rating at checkout or following up with a personalized email after the sale seeking a review of the product benefits most likely to convince like-minded, on-the-fence buyers to try it out for themselves.


To get started, add an automated review request to your post-purchase email flow. Set it up to trigger after customers have had a few days to receive their purchases and try them out. And don’t be afraid to follow up with a second request if testing shows people need a little extra prodding before they’re ready to give you an honest review.

That way, live content from customers’ social media profiles or ratings featured on a third-party review site can be pulled directly into your emails via data feed. Giving you the ability to create up-to-the-minute promotions and messages with highly persuasive, relevant pitches that feel less like sales-speak and more like a conversation between long-time friends.

If you really want to make the most of your UGC investment, you can review answers and customer responses manually to find the perfect content for your emails and product pages. Done well, customer-created content can even help you choose specific people for more in-depth interviews to uncover further trends and external thoughts about a specific product or marketing initiative.

2. Use UGC on social media to your advantage

By sourcing customer-created content from your loyal followers’ social media posts, you effectively expand your brand’s reach to create a community of like-minded, highly engaged customers. Compared to any one-size-fits all approach or generic sales promotion, adding user-generated social media engagement into your emails gives every recipient an experience that’s refreshing, reliable, and real—not one that was brainstormed in a boardroom or a marketing meeting somewhere.

And now more than ever, authenticity and honesty are values that matter to every brand and buyer. In fact, TurnTo Networks found that 90% of today’s consumers find this type of UGC helpful for making purchase decisions.


So, implement personalization technology that automatically sweeps any social media content your brand is tagged or featured in, meets your specific ratings criteria, and dynamically populates it into specific content modules within your email template to add the voice of the customer into your marketing strategy via social proof.

Once you’ve laid the foundation and started your brand conversation on social media channels, you can even run special promotions and exclusive discounts on these platforms to meet new audiences where they prefer to share their favorite products among friends, family members, and trusted influencers they follow. Making it more likely your brand receives the benefits word-of-mouth marketing brings.

3. Don’t be shy—share your favorite customers’ success

Believe it or not, customer-created content isn’t limited to consumer-facing brands—it has a place in your B2B email sends, too.  After all, many business buyers aren’t looking for a product. They’re searching for a solution to their most important problem. And a timely case study or impressive results achieved by a similar company can definitely be a compelling piece of content that convinces corporate customers you’re the perfect fit for them as well.

Too many email case studies or customer success stories, however, fall into the list of features trap where most messaging space is devoted to the mechanics and tech specs of your specific products instead of the customer benefits achieved by implementing them. Marketers want immediate, easy results—so use these unique perspectives to promote the destination, not the long, overly complex, and (frankly) boring journey it took to get there.

In other words, these emails shouldn’t be about you. Frame your customer-created examples in the context of the recipient’s mindset to answer the one question customers really want to know: “Can we use this product to experience similar results too?”


TL;DR: Authenticity matters, and customer-created content delivers

UGC is like the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval: An unbiased third-party source of information and support that shoppers prioritize when deciding whether to buy or pass by your store. So, take a step back, relax, and let your most loyal shoppers and brand evangelists do the talking for a change.

This article is part of a larger series that focuses on diversity and equity in marketing. As a company, we are committed to identifying actions we can take in the fight against racism and injustice, and elevating BBIPOC voices is paramount to inspiring change. Follow along and read other posts in this series here.

This post is authored by Anyssa Roberts, writer and journalist. 

For the last two years, I’ve witnessed dozens of families and individuals celebrate the most gratifying accomplishment of their lives—paying off their debt. 

I was a marketing copywriter for Ramsey Solutions, an influential personal finance company in Tennessee. I created content that made sales while improving our audience’s lives. I even followed the financial principles myself and celebrated my own debt-freedom in 2020, as a single, Black woman with an immigrant background.

Personal finance changed my life for the better and influenced the way I interact with marketing. That’s why it bothered me to read that Black people are most likely to consume products but are financially behind white and Latino counterparts, according to research. While most Americans report feeling as though they live paycheck to paycheck, minorities are most likely to face ongoing wealth gaps compared to their white peers. 

In marketing, we, of course, want people to buy from us, but we also want our products and services to improve the lives of the people who use them. But where does this financial discrepancy lie in the Black community and how can we as marketers better support one of our largest consumer populations?

Black Buying Power

Black people are major consumers in the American economy and spend more than $1 trillion a year on goods and services.

“At 47.8 million strong and a buying power that’s on par with many countries’ gross domestic products, African Americans continue to outpace spending nationally,” said Cheryl Grace, Nielsen’s Senior Vice President of Community Alliances and Consumer Engagement and co-creator of the DIS Report in 2019.  

We dominate as consumers in the beauty and personal care categories—a multi-billion dollar industry—and make up 90 percent of the consumers in the ethnic hair care category. We’re also 20 percent more likely than the total population to say they will “pay extra for a product that is consistent with the image I want to convey,” according to Nielsen’s report.

In short, our dollar matters. 

It’s unfortunate, however, to see so many dollars exiting the Black community only to leave us beautiful and broke. 

Why Black People Trail Their Peers Financially

The average white family has eight times the wealth of the average Black family and five times the wealth of the typical Latino family, according to the Federal Reserve

Let’s take a look at a couple of the reasons why Black people are behind when it comes to financial development and building wealth:

Lack of Access to Resources and Financial Education

Black people are more likely to face systemic financial challenges that limit their wealth-building ability. Some examples include having fewer financial resources, less access to employer-sponsored benefits and greater income volatility a TIAA study found. These challenges already limit financial advancement and are made worse by low financial literacy.

Financial literacy isn’t high amongst American adults in general. But in a study, Black people answered 38 percent of financial literacy questions correctly, and only 28 percent answered more than half correctly.

Low financial literacy also influences buying and investing habits. Black people have a tendency to get rid of assets too early or not acquire them at all, according to a TIAA research study

These barriers hinder sound financial decision making as well as good financial management.

Expensive Spending Habits

The data shows that Black people like to shop, and there’s nothing wrong with that. However, too much reliance on consuming products and services rather than producing them can hurt us more than help.

Nielsen reported that 52 percent of Black people find in-store shopping relaxing, compared to 26 percent of the total population. And about half of Black consumers say they enjoy wandering the stores looking for new, interesting products.

Currently, Black women trail behind Latino and white women in financial security, according to a research study by the Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America (TIAA). In their report, they found that 71 percent of Black women and 60 percent of Latino women had at least one expensive behavior in relation to the use of credit cards. Only 49 percent of white women had at least one expensive behavior.

The Role Of Marketing In Black Consumption Practices 

A Nielsen report stated that Black consumer spending is highly influenced by advertising. Black people reported being 42 percent more likely than the rest of the American population to respond to mobile ads. They’re also more likely to respond to ads on television, radio and the Internet.

This is good news for us in marketing, because it means our ads are working; however, when we zoom out and look at the big picture of our impact on an already vulnerable community, we have to pause and analyze the full impact.

Expensive cars, clothes, hair, jewelry and vacations are perfectly fine products and services to market to the Black community, but if our marketing departments are targeting a community solely to buy their products without thinking of how they can serve that community, then we’re doing more harm to our customers than good. 

Like many populations, Black people appreciate and almost demand to see themselves in marketing, but is our product or service helping or hurting? Are we selling a false image of success—something that makes us want to keep up with the Joneses rather than live meaningful and productive lives? As I shared earlier, we want people to buy our products and services, but we should also be concerned about the communities we are marketing to. 

So how can we better support them as marketers?

How Marketers Can Help

As marketers, we don’t have to stand idly by while we watch one of the main consumer populations in America struggle. We can do something. In fact, it’s expected of us. Nielsen reported that 42 percent of Black adults expect brands they purchase from to support social causes. That’s 16 percent higher than the total population. 

Here are just some of the ways we can support the financial advancement of Black people as marketers:

Support and Mentor Black Business Owners

By nurturing up-and-coming business owners, you support the growth and expansion of Black-owned products. This is important because it helps to balance the flow of money entering and leaving the Black community. It also creates more positive representation of Black entrepreneurs for the next generation to aspire to.

Support the Expansion of Financial Literacy Resources in Black Communities

Financial literacy is key to the advancement of the Black community. By sponsoring school financial literacy and entrepreneurship programs in Black populated areas, you’re helping to transform and uplift the Black community in a way that’ll impact generations.

Oppose Systemic Racism That Causes Financial Challenges

Racism is malleable and doesn’t always look as overt as it did during slavery or the Jim Crow era. Today, systemic racism affects Black people in many ways, including financially

Underfunded schools and lack of support for first generation college students hurts exposure to education that qualifies people for better paying jobs. Unfair hiring practices and poor employee benefits also negatively impact Black communities financially.

By taking a stand, being aware of your marketing practices and supporting social causes that positively impact the Black community, you’re helping to support one of the largest consumer bases in America and developing a better relationship between you and your customers.

Anyssa Roberts is an award-winning journalist, copywriter and editor. She has written for the USA Today Network, The Spruce, Ramsey Solutions, a Dave Ramsey Company, among other marketing and news organizations. Currently, she uses content to help customer-centric brands hone their unique voice and connect with their audiences.

Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Anyssa earned her B.A. in journalism from the University of Kentucky and resides in the Nashville, Tennessee area.

Anyssa is passionate about personal finance and helping people to take control of their money. When she’s not writing, she can be found researching tiny houses, experimenting with new cocktails or solo traveling. Connect with her on LinkedIn or reach out via email. She’d love to hear from you.

Visit this page to see more in the series, or check back in a week for our next guest post. 
Marigold is a family of global marketing technology brands including Campaign Monitor, CM Commerce, Delivra, Emma, Liveclicker, Sailthru and Vuture. By joining together these leading brands, Marigold offers a variety of world-class solutions that can be used by marketers at any level. Headquartered in Nashville, TN, Marigold has United States offices in Indianapolis, Los Angeles, New York City, Pittsburgh and San Francisco, and global offices in Australia, London, New Zealand and Uruguay.

Travel is back! According to recent research conducted by Criteo, 69% still plan on traveling before the summer ends.

For many travel brands—email is the primary vehicle driving every moment that matters. Whether it takes the form of a booking confirmation with every detail included, a last-minute reminder or notification that saves the family getaway, or a personalized promotion that shoppers just can’t pass up, your email marketing strategy has a lot of heavy lifting to do over the next few months.

Unless, of course, you switch up your messaging by implementing these three easy tactics to take advantage of the summer vacation trend:

Add flexibility into your fares

While any traveler’s plans are subject to change at the drop of a hat, travel conditions and geographic shutdowns outside of anyone’s control unfortunately are as well.

So, shift your messaging by introducing email campaigns promoting more flexible solutions. Things like refundable tickets, free cancellations and upgrades, and no-fee online booking are already helping travel businesses get back to their 2019 summer performance peaks—and will no doubt be something consumers demand long after things return to ‘normal.’

summer vacation

This seemingly small move can result in major rewards, whether your goal is customer acquisition or retention.  New shoppers who are welcomed by an easy, fast, and convenient experience are much more likely to make a purchase. And your loyal, long-term buyers always feel appreciated when they receive a travel option that doesn’t feel like it nickels-and-dimes them at every step when making a change.

Can’t forget about COVID-19

Did you know that 53% of consumers feel that it’s still very important for the brands they shop with to have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC-recommended guidelines.

By simply acknowledging this reality and communicating openly about any potential cautions, you enhance the impact and value your emails deliver because they contain everything someone needs to know before they even schedule their trip. Especially if you do so through a special message from the captain or an embedded email video.

summer vacation

TrustedHousesitters, for example, uses video messages to overcome its number one customer objection: trusting a stranger to take care of a traveler’s home and pets while they’re away. By sharing videos that include the perspectives of both pet owners and sitters, the brand is able to eliminate buyer hesitation by addressing this issue directly. Not to mention lift conversions, engagement, and open time duration across these emails too.

Make man’s best friend a priority

After being stuck at home the last 18 months, it can be understandably hard to abandon the furry friend that helped you survive it all. Which is why so many travel brands are experiencing unprecedented success by promoting pet-friendly summer vacation accommodations and travel options.

For anyone feeling especially clingy after spending 24/7 with Fido throughout COVID-19, a pet-centric email promotion can be the motivator that finally pushes them out of the house and into your care.

summer vacation

Beyond the allure of an animal-friendly vacation, however, this degree of personalization helps your brand stand out from the competition. It gives customers the impression that you truly care about their individual preferences and needs—as well as your business the chance to create more engaging and relevant conversations that keep travelers coming back whenever they’re ready to schedule their next summer vacation.

According to its latest blog post, Google is officially delaying its phase out of third-party cookies in Chrome from this year until 2023. For many marketers scrambling to find first-party data solutions, this announcement comes as a much-needed relief.

Because the loss of third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms will likely lead to massive challenges down the road where digital advertising and consumer targeting efforts are concerned. Especially if there’s not a widely adopted alternative in place by the time third-party data tracking finally comes to an end.

So, how does this unexpected delay impact you and your work?

Google and the Future of Data Privacy in Digital Marketing

While Google has been hard at work building its Privacy Sandbox, many marketers are skeptical of whether or not this toolset will be enough to make up for the loss of third-party cookies and insights. Even Vinay Goel, Chrome’s Privacy Engineering Director, admits that there’s much work to be done before the organization (and you) are ready to sunset third-party data tracking capabilities forever.

“While there’s considerable progress with [the Privacy Sandbox], it’s become clear that more time is needed across the ecosystem to get this right,” said Goel.

However, the organization isn’t simply looking for a quick fix or to replace third-party cookies with an equally invasive form of individual tracking approaches like browser fingerprinting, The Trade Desk’s Unified ID 2.0, or Lotame’s Panorama ID that have been growing more and more popular in media since Google’s original announcement.

Despite this delay, Google continues to develop its next generation of data privacy-friendly marketing tools. If all goes well, expect a new suite of first-party data-driven technologies to be deployed by the end of next year — giving you and marketing experts everywhere nine months to test these tools and migrate services before Google’s three-month phaseout of third-party cookies begins in late 2023.

3 Steps You Should Take Today

If it isn’t already obvious, it’s time to go back to the drawing board and start preparing now for life after third-party cookies. Unfortunately, that’s easier said than done for many marketers who don’t know where to start. So, here are three easy recommendations you can use to ready your future personalization strategies:

Focus on where you already collect first-party data

It’s never been more important to collect insights directly from your customers. But that doesn’t mean you need to reinvent the wheel — rather than building out new initiatives and campaigns, focus your attention on improving existing efforts like event signups, landing pages, newsletters, and digital subscription forms. That way, you’re able to capture new data points with minimal time and resource investment required!

Always keep consent in mind

This shouldn’t be a new concept after GDPR. But it’s nonetheless an important consideration that is only growing more vital to the ultimate success or failure of your personalized marketing strategy.

Be sure to check the first-party data you already have in order to gain a clear insight into what data you’ve got, and then update your privacy policy to shed light on how you are using this data moving forward to keep your company and customers protected.

Transition to People-Based Targeting

When you combine first-party data with real-time personalization, you’re able to target a desired audience across any channel they engage with. Because people-based marketing doesn’t rely on third-party cookies and tracking mechanisms, it’s an ideal solution for interacting with customers on their own terms.

If you’re interested in building your own people-based marketing strategy, consider these three key elements:

Long after the COVID-19 pandemic ends, it will leave behind a significantly altered retail environment. And we’re not talking about your daily operations, either. Shopper attitudes, behaviors, and expectations have changed forever.

Consumers expect more from the brands they choose to do business with now, whether it involves in-store health and safety standards or personalized, barrier-free online shopping experiences. 

Retail marketers can meet and even exceed organizational expectations by using three advanced personalization tactics that drive the greatest value for shoppers and brands alike.

What’s different for retailers today?

This high-level recap documents the retail landscape’s most important shifts over the last 12 months:

Retail marketers who give customers the most satisfying experience possible are the ones positioned for future success. If you’re not quite there yet, catching up may be quicker than you think.

Start with these three personalization priorities you can use to make your marketing strategy move as fast as your customers.

3 personalization priorities to tackle today’s retail challenges

1. Double down on omnichannel experiences.

Your channels are as unique as your customers. Identify a unique strategy for each of the channels you use—email, web, social, SMS, print, broadcast, ads, and out-of-home communications all require different approaches. 

Once those strategies are squared away, have a plan for how everything works together to satisfy the demands of both your customers and your company. One suggestion: Deep-link from your email messages to your mobile app for a seamless browsing session.

2. Be prepared to switch gears quickly. 

Although many local governments  have lifted mask mandates, capacity limitations, and other health and safety protocols, many businesses continue to use them. Use geo-targeting to segment your customer base by region so you can customize content to match local conditions and provide relevant guidelines wherever possible.

Beyond showing shoppers you value their safety more than making a sale, geo-targeting content in real time lets you swap in updated information and promotions  automatically—even between the time you press send and someone eventually opens the message. That way, you’re delivering engaging and relevant content without losing time or money constantly updating communications.

3. Create a personalized content strategy for promotional emails.

Advanced personalization generates an additional $20 or more in ROI for every dollar invested. And one of the most effective techniques to drive value through personalization is to populate email content with purchase recommendations drawn from real-time inventory—not a static product assortment or a shallow look at past purchases.

Another way to make your promotional emails stand out from the crowd is by adding targeted, non-product messaging to your sends. Almost all of the Top 25 brands in The 2021 Retail Personalization Index include content that can either influence a purchase or keep customers engaged until they’re ready to buy. 

Fabletics Men (#5 in the 100-brand Index) adds a geo-targeted weather forecast so customers can dress appropriately for outdoor workouts. By delivering consistent value throughout every interaction, your buyers are naturally attracted to your brand. And that means more loyal, valuable lifetime customers.

Want even more personalization strategies, tips, tricks, and insights?

Retail marketers can use these three priorities to engage new customers and keep their current ones loyal. But there are millions of options at your disposal if your goal is to make advanced personalization possible.
If you’d like to learn more about what your customers want in their omnichannel experience, check out Liveclicker and Sailthru’s 2021 Retail Personalization Index Consumer Survey. Unless, of course, you’re not interested in the insights, best practices, and data points we uncovered after talking to 5,000 retail customers…

After teaming up with our sister brand Sailthru, we painstakingly parsed through websites, email lists and mobile apps to evaluate retail’s best brands in terms of personalization across almost 100 different data points. And, as a result of all this hard work, the 2021 Retail Personalization Index is ready!

Like always, this year’s Index pays special attention to things like personalized product recommendations based on shopping cart and browsing history. But our research also takes the fact that we are living in an unprecedented time into consideration, too.

In 2021, personalization basics like product recommendations and triggered welcome emails aren’t optional—they’re an expectation. Yesterday’s differentiators are quickly becoming today’s table stakes because the current pandemic is forcing retail to adopt a digital-first mindset.

As consumers embrace mobile and cross-channel shopping experiences more and more frequently, the brands personalizing their customer interactions across every channel set themselves apart from the competition—and up for serious success going forward.

Last year’s edition surveyed 1,500 consumers about their retail customer experiences. This year, we helped Sailthru take this combined research to another level. Because the 2021 Retail Personalization Index includes findings from 5,000 online shoppers and their individual brand interactions throughout COVID-19.

How COVID-19 Changes Your Customers Forever

As the world adapts to a new normal, real-world safety concerns are understandably impacting online buyer behavior. According to McKinsey, in 2020, “Consumers vaulted five years in the adoption of digital in just eight weeks.”

Online shopping across all channels is on the rise. Your customers are taking recommendations from platforms and people they might have overlooked in the past. And almost two-thirds of shoppers are making permanent changes to their routine purchasing as a direct result of the personalized options out there today.

Of course, as your customers’ needs change in response to safety concerns and stay-at-home orders, your interactions with them must change — and the leaders recognized in our 2021 Index are taking advantage of these trends to drive unprecedented growth through personalization.

By offering buyers a satisfying, convenient experience that delivers exactly what they need, brands can make life a little bit easier. And that benefit has never been more valuable.

So, how did this year’s retail personalization leaders stack up in the mind of the average consumer? And which important customer experience trends surfaced in our survey results? 

COVID-19 messaging is top-of-mind

As consumers rely on digital offerings for most retail needs to survive stay-at-home orders, more than half (53%) of consumers feel that it is very important for the brands that they shop with to have a strategy in place for social distancing and staying within CDC-recommended guidelines. And 25% more rate it at least somewhat important.

Women are generally more concerned about brands having these measures in place than men (56% vs. 49%). Not to mention older consumers as well, who understandably place a much larger importance on these measures being in place. No wonder 78% of 2021’s Top 25-ranked brands make it a priority to incorporate COVID-19 messaging into their digital strategy. 

Personalized product recommendations are more important than ever 

One thing every Top 25 brand has in common this year is the fact that they pay special attention to the personalized product recommendations they offer on their respective websites. But they don’t stop there.

Because 96% also give shoppers the ability to like, rate, or star their favorite products, and 93% percent offer the option to create wishlists. 

The rise of non-product messaging

Many shoppers feel disconnected from the outside world as a result of the pandemic. Which means — for any brand working hard to fill customers’ social gaps with engaging content and personalized connections — non-product messaging has the potential to deliver tremendous business benefits.

By creating interactive online communities for followers, subscribers, and new customers across all digital interactions, these companies are delivering the personalized, non-product-focused content modern buyers crave.

For example, athleisure brand Fabletics offers fans of its Fabletics Men line geo-targeted weather reports in order to help users better plan their outdoor workouts. Most of our Top 25 list — 93%, to be exact — provide non-product content throughout their website, email, and mobile app experiences. And 100% of them are actively engaging these audiences on social media, too.

Many are missing the mark on personalized mobile

Your customers are pivoting to mobile as a means of browsing products, planning in-store visits, and making purchases. And they’re doing so at an unprecedented rate. So, it’s logical to assume that our top-ranked Index brands are focusing heavily on areas like push notifications and app interactions.

Despite this movement, the modern retail industry is still leaving lots of money on the table. Because — compared to web and email — the push to personalize mobile engagement is lagging behind.

So, it stands to reason that retailers who send relevant push notifications and create app experiences that take consumers’ personalized needs into consideration can gain quite an advantage over any competitor sending one-size-fits-all messaging moving forward. 

Online/offline integration is the wave of the future 

As your customers begin to trickle back into stores, they still want to take the ease and convenience of their online experiences with them. Thanks to the current pandemic, consumers are much more likely to shop on their smartphones now, and also much more likely to integrate their smartphones and other online interactions to their offline behaviors.

Download your copy of the results to start building your brand’s personalization roadmap, taking advantage of modern retail’s most important trends, and improving your customer experience across all web, email, and mobile interactions.