Seven tips to reclaim email subscribers ahead of the holiday season

Seven tips to reclaim email subscribers ahead of the holiday season Headshot

By Tom Ricards, Accounts Director

Retailers are facing their first Christmas season under the GDPR standards. For anyone doing business in the UK/EU, or for global companies selling into these regions, it is time to re-examine your email list with an eye toward staying compliant and driving revenue.

First the bad news. If you have an old email list you typically dusted off and put to work before Cyber Week in November, and you didn’t re-permission from email subscribers before the GDPR took effect in May, you need to purge those email addresses immediately. You can’t send an email to this list asking for permission now. You can, however, request permission using other channels, such as personalized banners and pop-ups on the website.

For other companies, the problem isn't with a list that will fail the new personal data standards requirements; it's with generating revenue from a thinned subscriber base post-GDPR.

You’ve got some rebuilding to do.

Here are seven tips to get your list back to where it needs to be before the Black Friday/Christmas rush.

Capitalize on every touchpoint. If the database took a hit due to GDPR, retail marketers should focus on re-growing their email list. Use personalized banners and pop-ups on your website to re-permission contacts with an unverified GDPR status. Make it easy to sign up for your emails by adding a link or small subscribe form to your footer, add calls-to-action to transactional emails and reach out on social media. To attract new subscribers, consider adding an incentive. This doesn’t have to be a discount, a first-look at new products or the specials you plan to offer for Black Friday/Cyber Monday can work just as well.

Choose the timing on your pop-up. Ditch the pop-up that covers the page and comes up immediately when a visitor clicks on your site. That is poor practice and possibly invalid under GDPR, because visitors may believe they must complete the form to proceed. This means their consent is not "freely given." Allow the visitor to experience your website before displaying the pop-up.  And never display the pop-up to visitors who have already made their decision. And here is a good overview of how pop-ups can impact SEO here.

Be transparent. Retailers need a transparent mindset. You want to be helpful and customer-centric when seeking new email sign-ups. Be clear about what you are offering and the benefits. Don't trick people into subscribing with formats like pre-ticked checkboxes. Since the GDPR has banned this practice, a good way for visitors to respond is by a pair of radio buttons, e.g., "I'm in" vs. "I'll miss out." Explain how you use the data and link to the Privacy Policy. And never, ever buy third-party data.

Don’t set yourself up for another purge. In crafting language to encourage subscriber sign-ups, you have to be explicit with shoppers. Don't say this:  "Do you want to sign up for our weekly newsletter?". Say this: Would you like news about special offers, member-only events and the latest products by email?".  

The non-technical language meets the GDPR requirement that "any information addressed to the public or the data subject be concise, easily accessible and easy to understand, and that clear and plain language" be used.

Pay particular attention to transactional emails. Order confirmations, e-receipts and shipping confirmations, get two to three times the open rates of your regular emails. Transactional information should remain the main focus of these messages, so you can’t turn them into marketing banners, but you can add a sign-up link for marketing emails.

Rethink the refer-a-friend campaign. The old-style refer-a-friend campaigns, where you encouraged a shopper to share a friend’s email address, are not legal under the GDPR (and they were never a great idea). But you can still achieve similar results, legally, if the shopper does the sending. One simple example is to offer a single-use coupon which the shopper can send to their friend. If you consider expanding your referral program, consider using a dedicated refer-a-friend platform like Mention.me.  

And a final tip to help you make the most of your current list

While this next tip isn’t related to building your list or avoiding another list purge, it can’t be repeated enough.

Don’t Abandon Your Cart and Browse Email Programs. GDPR didn't outlaw cart abandonment and browse abandonment email programs. Merchants still can and should collect data to personalize the web and email experience and send shopping recovery messages to shoppers that have opted in by providing an email address. For most companies, these marketing tactics fall under 'legitimate interest,' meaning no consent is needed. The marketing is happening because the shopper actively requested marketing, e.g., by clicking on a link on the website.  

Don’t let a thin subscriber list wreck your holiday

The GDPR might have thrown a wrench into your holiday plans as you start planning for the season with a smaller email database than you would like. But you've still got plenty of time to build the list and engage the customers on your list.

Disclaimer: this is informed advice but not legal advice. You can find the text of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) here.