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Want to Target Last Minute Shoppers with an Irresistible Marketing Campaign? Try This.

It's no secret that the days between Black Friday and Christmas are the year's biggest money-makers for online retailers. But how do you capture business from frenzied last-minute shoppers? What messaging will they respond to? We can help. This post will define and explain proven marketing tactics that'll help you boost profits in 2018 and beyond.

First, let's talk about a classic marketing tactic that, when effectively used, can seriously increase your website conversions.

Urgency Generates Sales

Creating a sense of urgency isn't a new idea, but it's a good one! Here are some built-in urgency opportunities online retailers can take advantage of to drive last-minute sales.

Stamp & Ship Day

Online retailers have less time than physical stores to capture pre-holiday shoppers because you have to account for shipping. This year, stamp and ship day - or the last day purchases are guaranteed to arrive by Christmas using standard shipping methods - falls on December 14. For sites that offer expedited shipping, this date can vary. But regardless of your shipping options, it's a great urgency tool you can incorporate into your marketing to drive sales.

Here's one way to do it:

JustUno's web header countdown and shipping deadline splash screen are great examples of how online shops can use shipping deadlines to create urgency for last-minute shoppers.

From this point forward, we're going to use Bath & Body Works - a popular body care and home fragrance retailer - as a case study. Yes, they're large and have lots of money, but they've unlocked the fine art of good urgency marketing. We'll show you how they do it - and will explain why, even with a significantly smaller budget, you can too.

How Bath & Body Works Uses Urgency

The company notoriously does an excellent job of promoting urgency by systematically revealing limited-time sales. Let's take a look at their homepage.


Here's what they're doing right:

  • Offering genuinely good discounts for a very limited time
  • Incorporating their promo code into the website header
  • Advertising the cutoff order date for guaranteed shipping
  • Keeping top navigation simple and easy to browse
  • Making it easy to find all active promotions on their site

But that's just the beginning.

Niche Lists & Email Campaigns

Bath & Body Works nails it when it comes to email marketing. In addition to their regular mailing list, the site prompts visitors to sign up for their exclusive FirstLook email list.

This is the FirstLook sign up page on Bath & Body Works website. It's well branded, only asks for one piece of information, gives a clear benefit statement, and has a simple, obvious call to action.

The page has a low barrier to entry (email address only), and subscribers get the inside scoop on sales coming down the pipeline in the next 24 hours.

What makes these emails effective? They really do offer an exclusive sneak preview! In most cases, these sales aren't publicly announced until they go live.

So what do you get when you put your email into the box and click JOIN NOW? Does it live up to the hype? It does. Why? Let's take a closer look.

Irresistibly Clickable Subject Lines

When you create an email campaign, you need to give shoppers a reason to click. Curiosity is king when it comes to effective subject lines. Here are a few examples from emails Bath & Body Works recently sent to FirstLook subscribers:

  • 40% off EVERYTHING today. (plus, until noon...)
  • 3, 2, 1... B L A C K F R I D A Y starts now!
  • fair warning: tomorrow's going to be awesome.
  • IT'S CANDLE DAY! this only happens once a year!
  • don't sleep in tomorrow.

Each example listed above has three things in common. First, every single subject line includes urgency language of some kind. Second, each subject uses unusual type styles (all caps, unusual spacing, all lower case), which helps it stand out in a crowded inbox. The company also regularly use emojis to add a little extra pizzaz. And third, all of these subject lines leave you wondering 'what?' or 'why?' if you don't open the message.

During the prime shopping season when people expect sales, leading subject lines work. And if the design of the email matches the excitement of the offer, you'll get clicks to your website.

Honest and Proactive Email Copy

Have you ever noticed the diner around the corner from your work has had a grand opening sign up for nearly three years? Urgency marketing doesn't work if it's not true. That's another thing Bath & Body works does well!

Every FirstLook email includes urgency messaging; while supplies last and for a limited time. And sure enough, when the clock strikes midnight, the sale is over. And if an item goes out of stock online, it's gone.

Also, if an email teases a big sale, the copy encourages shoppers to build a wishlist now to make sure they don't miss out on items they really want. As an added bonus, the retailer has an opportunity to see demand ahead of the sale, which can help with future product orders and profit projections. Smart!

How else does Bath & Body Works turn leads into sales?

Seriously Good Discounts

For a promotion to be successful, you need to offer a genuinely good deal. This may be harder for specialty retailers who handle custom orders or make items by hand, but there are still things you can do to appeal to last-minute shoppers. For example, you can offer free shipping with a purchase of $X or more.

If you're not facing any of the restrictions listed above, things are a little easier for you. You can use BOGO offers, free shipping discounts, and percent off promo codes to motivate buyers to spend their money on your site. Just be wary of artificial markups on original prices to make a deal look better than it is. Today's consumer is savvy, and they'll figure you out.

Always Consistent Messaging

If your website and email messaging don't match, it can be confusing to consumers. When you run a holiday campaign, make sure your branding is cohesive, and your imagery and verbiage are consistent across all of your marketing channels; website, email campaigns, and your social media profiles.

Here's how Bath & Body Works does it:

FirstLook Email:

Website Homepage:

Website Offers Page:

There's no question, no matter what marketing material you run into, that you're looking at content from the same company and info on the same promotion. If you pay a designer to create marketing collateral for you, make sure you ask them to send you variations and sizes that will work across all your marketing channels.

TIP Does your brand market on Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest, or Twitter? Use this social media sizing cheat sheet.

How to Optimize Marketing with a Smaller Budget

You may not have a huge marketing budget or team of graphic designers available to push new campaigns live every single day - but that's okay! The steps to success are the same, regardless of your budget and business size.

  • Make it a goal to create a sense of urgency with all your marketing
  • Use web tools (splash screens, countdowns) to promote action
  • Tell shoppers exactly what to do and limit barriers to entry
  • Use email campaigns to reach leads; highlight exclusivity and urgency
  • Focus on stellar subject lines to increase open rates
  • Incorporate valuable discounts whenever possible
  • Use cohesive messaging across all your platforms
  • Maximize the use of your marketing assets; request various sizes

TIP Send shoppers who abandoned items in their cart an automated checkout reminder email. Most web stores make this easy to do, and it's a great way to capture business - especially if you throw in a discount code!

It's not too late to drive last-minute sales! Use everything you've learned here to increase your profits in 2018, and start thinking about how you can take full advantage of the shopping season next year.