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How email helps solve holiday shopping supply chain issues

Supply chain issues are changing the way consumers shop this holiday season. Find how how email marketing helps retailers overcome problems!

Hermes riding Santa's sleigh in front of presents



Forget holiday shopping; it's supply chain issues that are making headlines. While email marketers will still mark those big dates in the holiday marketing calendar, the real winners will be the ones who take a more agile approach to the season.

This year at Mailjet, we're telling our clients to go early, forget discounting, and keep their customers in the loop.

What’s causing the supply chain crisis?

If you’re looking for something to blame for the crisis, you’ll find many different culprits. From the global pandemic causing delays in manufacturing to an acute shortage of truck drivers causing bottlenecks at ports and contributing to shipping containers being in the wrong place at the wrong time, it’s been described as the perfect logistic storm.

Drill down even further, and you'll understand how interconnected the world has become in recent years. A shortage of microprocessors, caused by factory shutdowns and increased demand for computers and other electronic items during the pandemic is leading to shortages of everything from gaming consoles and smartphones to automobiles and trucks.

The only thing there is no shortage of this year is headlines about how the supply chain crisis will impact consumers this holiday season. Whatever you do, don’t say “panic buy,” — whoops, too late.

Navigating supply chain issues with email

Worried about missing out on those "must-have" holiday gifts this year, consumers are hitting stores and websites early. Ironically, this puts additional pressure on retailers and couriers (also battling pandemic-related staff shortages) and adds to the problem.

Companies like Amazon have taught consumers to expect next-day delivery. In the new normal, this level of service might not be universally available. However, in times of crisis, email marketing has the opportunity to shine — so let’s get to work.

One of the biggest challenges facing email marketers during this holiday season is setting customer expectations. Just because people are panic buying doesn't mean they don't anticipate the same excellent levels of service they expect in more normal times.

The early bird marketer catches the worm

The sooner customers place holiday orders, the more time retailers have to get products delivered in time. Email is the perfect tool for encouraging early holiday shopping in 2021. But email marketers also need to communicate with supply chain professionals to be sure messaging is accurate.

When everyone is encouraging their subscribers to shop early, there is no point in waiting for those more traditional holiday dates to get your message out. Even if you have access to those essential festive gift items come the holidays, there’s no guarantee that your customers will have any money left after starting their holiday shopping earlier than usual this year.

Use email as a customer communication channel that explains the supply chain issues in terms they understand. Let people know why it’s smart to place orders early this year. When shoppers know what to expect, there’s less of a chance they’ll be disappointed.

For example, health tech brand Withings tells subscribers it’s “important to shop early” and promotes special packages for those who do just that.

Inventory updates via email

This holiday season, the perception of scarcity or fear of missing out (FOMO) will be an incredibly powerful call to action.

When consumers know there will likely be shortages of popular items, they may be more inclined to consider alternative products. It may also be the first holiday season in which product availability trumps discounts. In fact, price increases are a certainty in popular categories with depleted stocks.

Marketers must keep in constant contact with the various teams across their organization to ensure campaigns remain relevant and don’t promote products that are out of stock. Reputationally, it’s always better to pause or stop a campaign than risk promising what you cannot deliver.

To prevent this, you can experiment with dynamic content, which updates every time an email is opened to reflect stock availability. There is no better call-to-action than an ever-decreasing allotment of stock.

It works the other way as well! When popular items are back in stock, let holiday shoppers know with an email announcement. Get bonus points if you can personalize the experience as Huckberry did in the email example below:

Nothing is more disheartening than clicking on a link and finding that an item has been sold out. When promoted products go out of stock, use your website landing pages to highlight when new stock will be available, allow subscribers to join a waitlist, and offer alternative products.

The right email designs for holiday marketing

Email marketing is template-driven, so it’s easy to create a bank of alternative email marketing campaigns ready to go in case-specific products are unavailable. Need some eye-catching holiday email templates to ease your workload during this busy season? You’re in luck!

Mailjet’s free holiday marketing email templates are a great place to start building your campaigns. Created using our own open-source mark-up language, MJML, these email designs are ready for you to use and easy to adapt to match your own brand identity.

Transactional emails and dynamic order tracking

According to logistics experts, 78% of consumers anticipate slower delivery speeds than they have enjoyed in previous years. An equally high number of consumers say they expect retailers to keep them informed about the progress of their packages.

Dynamic content in your transactional emails provides an excellent opportunity to manage customer expectations during these unusual trading periods. Remember, the more informed consumers are about the progress of their order, the less likely they are to snarl up your customer service department with emails and calls.

Plenty of online shoppers will turn to Etsy this holiday season to purchase original gifts from the platform’s many artisans and creators. When people do place orders, they can return to the same email to get dynamic updates on when to expect delivery.

Essential email marketing best practices

While marketers respond to the supply chain disruptions, it’s important to remember that email marketing best practices are more important than ever. This means keeping your lists clean, segmenting appropriately, and not overloading subscribers’ inboxes with emails that are not relevant to their needs.

Maintaining high deliverability rates is key to keeping your customers informed over the busy, extended festive shopping season. Face facts; if your emails are landing in the Spam folder at this time of the year, your holiday season is already over.

Pre-deployment testing from Email on Acid will also help you avoid any costly mistakes. These include reputation-busting spelling and grammatical errors, broken images, and links, as well as ensuring your emails arrive as intended across multiple devices and email clients.

Supply chain crisis management

While careful preparation will help marketers circumnavigate many of the pitfalls threatened by the supply chain crisis, unforeseen issues can still cause problems.

Resolving these issues quickly is vital to maintaining your reputation. That may mean informing your customers about problems before they know they have a problem. Therefore, you must have contingency plans in place if stock becomes unavailable or couriers fail to deliver on time.

In many ways, crisis management via email looks a lot like email marketing best practice - sending the right message to the right person at the right time.

Opportunities for creative email marketers

As a marketer, you should always be looking for new opportunities. In times of crisis, such as the recent holiday supply chain issues, those opportunities might not always be so readily available. Be prepared to move fast, try new things, and make the best of a sticky situation.

Mailjet gives you all the tools you need to react to the “new normal” this holiday season. You just need to be ready to make your email marketing campaigns count.

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