The holidays are such a critical time for marketers—particularly if you work in retail. A large chunk of the year is spent preparing for those last couple months that can make or break your annual revenue goals.

On top of this regular pressure, holiday ecommerce sales for 2017 are expected to increase up to 4 percent over last year. So, it’s never been more important to nail that holiday marketing strategy.

To help retailers properly prepare for the upcoming season, email marketing platform SendinBlue conducted a survey of 750 U.S. millennial consumers to remove the guesswork. Questions focused on uncovering key insights like how and when consumers plan to do their shopping, and which communication channels and types of marketing content they prefer to receive from retailers.

Is timing everything?

Timing emails for certain hours of the day is less important for the younger generation of consumers. With 68 percent of millennials checking email at least 2-5 times a day, they’ll see your message.

When asked about the specific times they check email, 33 percent of respondents (more than any other category) indicated that they check email at all times throughout the day—from when their alarm goes off, to when they’re at work, all the way until they’re about to get some sleep.

As for traditional shopping holidays like Cyber Monday and Black Friday, millennials indicated these terms don’t mean much.

The largest group of respondents (31 percent) are planning to do their holiday shopping in the first half of December rather than during these specific promotional periods.

Online shopping—so hot right now

Here’s a new twist on the desert island question: If millennials had to choose only one method of shopping this holiday season—between online and in-store—they’d ditch the in-store experience to keep their digital options open.

And that makes sense, since the majority (66 percent) of millennials noted that at least half of their holiday shopping will be done online this year.

How to use email to engage millennials this holiday season

While more millennial consumers prefer to shop online than in store, at the end of the day, it really depends more on what their buying needs dictate. For example, how soon can they get the item they need, and will the shipping costs outweigh the convenience? If it’s too expensive to ship, or more convenient to buy in person, they’ll likely opt for in-store purchases.

How to use email to engage millennials this holiday season

In fact, that scenario plays into another survey insight: millennial shoppers want to see email perks such as free shipping or two-day delivery from brands in their marketing promotions. While they may prefer online shopping in most cases, millennial consumers still like immediate satisfaction (or close to it!).

Seal the deal

Millennials may be more skeptical when it comes to marketing than generations past, but they still appreciate a good deal. The majority of millennials (almost 60 percent) said they will take action from email marketing content that promotes site-wide or product category sales or promotions.

Retailers also shouldn’t hesitate to send coupons via email—it’s the number one way millennials will leverage the email you sent them when in a physical store. In short, when it comes to the Internet, it may be out of sight, but it’s never out of the millennial mind.

How to use email to engage millennials this holiday season

Email—a missed opportunity

Email was the overwhelming winner when millennial consumers were asked about their preferred channel to receive marketing communications from brands, receiving over 60 percent of the vote. The next two channels, text message and social media, were neck and neck at 13 percent apiece.

How to use email to engage millennials this holiday season

So, despite millennials being blamed for the death of all things good, email should not be added to that list.

But, those numbers aren’t just good news for email marketers—they also pose a massive opportunity for retailers. The largest group of respondents (35 percent) said they’re currently only receiving 1-5 emails from retailers each day. That’s not per retailer—that’s the total number they receive across all businesses they engage with via email.

So, brands need to find better ways to encourage younger consumers to sign up for their emails so they can start sending messages more frequently—and avoid missing out on this valuable channel.

Find the sweet spot

We know that the modern consumer is quick to pull the plug on a business that does them wrong. In fact, their tolerance for customer service and marketing mistakes is nearly zero. So how do you ensure you’re not walking, or crossing, that thin line?

By knowing the email marketing sweet spot. Millennials want you to engage with them in their email inbox, but they also don’t want you to abuse the channel. Otherwise, you’ll come off looking like spam. Fifty-five percent of millennials said that the number one mistake retailers make is sending too many emails. So, if you flood their inbox, it’ll be a quick trip to the trash bin, or worse, the spam folder.

How to use email to engage millennials this holiday season

What this means is you should use email, but use it wisely. Give them what they want—promotions, coupons, and the occasional free shipping—but be upfront about frequency and always monitor engagement and make adjustments if your recipients aren’t happy.

Now you’ve got the knowledge, so use it as a power tool and smash your 2017 numbers out of the mark. Happy holidays!

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Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel

Richard Carufel is editor of Bulldog Reporter and the Daily ’Dog, one of the web’s leading sources of PR and marketing communications news and opinions. He has been reporting on the PR and communications industry for over 12 years, and has interviewed hundreds of journalists and PR industry leaders.

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