I have a great career because I get to play in different sandboxes. This week, for example, I got to meet with a client in financial services, one that has little to do with the holiday retail onslaught that’s beginning to descend on us from every marketing channel.

As I presented on industry trends, I said, “We’re in the fourth quarter, and that means retailers are going to flood inboxes. Take that into consideration when doing your email campaigns. Everybody’s going to be overwhelmed by the sale of the minute.”

How different it is, I reflected later, to be working for a client that doesn’t do holiday email marketing and for marketers who don’t know the feeling you get in mid-December when it’s fourth down and 20 yards from the goal line with the clock running out. 

After all the years I put in working on retail email, I can tell you what it’s like: You’re just trying to find the energy to get that touchdown. And daydreaming how nice it would be to have someone ring your bell hard enough that Coach pulls you out of the game so someone else can finish. 

Many marketers find this time of year invigorating. And it is – at the start. But, after a few weeks, I would struggle to get motivated enough to head into the office and work on holiday email 24/7.

My goal here is to help you find that motivation and gear up to survive the slog. 

1. Find your motivation from within

If you’re the only person at your company working on email, the best source for inspiration can come from beyond your department. Ask for a meeting with your company founders, if they’re still around, and find out what motivated them to stick with the company in its early days.

Don’t ask why they started the company (you’ve probably heard that story a million times). Interview them with questions nobody has asked yet. What was the weather like when they started the company? How scared were they? What makes them get up and go to work every day?

Take inspiration from their motivation to power yourself. Try to get as excited as they were when they founded the company.

2. Gear up for the big game

If you’re part of a team, take your team out for drinks. Sports teams meet before the big game to learn strategy, hear inspiring speeches and get each other fired up. There’s no better way for marketers to do that than through a group dinner or drinks.

Talk with your team about their lives and what motivates them. Help your team members create bonds. Talk about work and ask what excites everybody. Draw inspiration from that excitement. Waylay any fear or concerns by reinforcing team spirit.

The best holiday season I spent – either as a consultant or on the front lines of email – was being part of a connected team that had a goal in mind.  

3. Put your personal touch on something

Don’t be just a cog in the wheel of your organization’s deployment of campaigns to make a buck. Be the wheel, the one that drives the gears that move your program forward. Try to find one campaign a week to put your mark on.

How can you do this? 

Look for a trigger where you can change the text to reflect the season. Or consider an automation that you’ve always wanted to do. The goal is to choose a campaign that can give you a good sense of impact thanks to high seasonal traffic.

4. Schedule a mid-season pick-me-up …. now

I stress this whenever I’m coaching marketers. Always start a big project by taking a moment for yourself and your team to be sure you’re all starting at the right place. That’s when you take your team out for drinks or dinner or some other team event.

Halfway through the season, do it again. Schedule a group meeting now, because if you don’t, you’ll forget. You might have to reschedule it to accommodate business needs, but at least you have it on the calendar and it’s something to look forward to in the middle of the madness.

Motivation at the midpoint of the holiday season is as important as motivation at the beginning. You can’t wilt when you’re on second down and inches from the goal.  

Wrapping up

I’m not going to tell you what kind of new trigger program to try. If you don’t have it in place by now, you’re too late. This isn’t the time to strategize. It’s execution time. 

Now is the time to buckle up and be ready. The only way I know to do this successfully is to stick together as a team and dig deep.

If the going gets tough, just remember what somebody smarter than I once said: “It’s just an email. We aren’t saving babies or curing cancer.”

More about retail for the winter holidays

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the guest author and not necessarily Marketing Land. Staff authors are listed here.

About The Author

Ryan Phelan is co-founder of Origin Email and brings nearly two decades of worldwide online marketing and email experience. Ryan is a respected thought leader and nationally distinguished speaker with a history of experience from Adestra, Acxiom, BlueHornet, Sears Holdings, Responsys and infoUSA. In 2013 he was named one of the top 30 strategists in online marketing and is the Chairman Emeritus of the EEC Advisory Board. Ryan also works with start-up companies as an advisor, board member and investor.


With a head start on this year’s shorter-than-usual holiday season, e-commerce sales should remain robust, according to Adobe’s predictions. The company expects online holiday revenue to reach $143.8 billion this year, a 14.1% increase over last year.

That growth estimate is below the 16.5% year-over-year increase in e-commerce sales that Adobe reported last year, when the shopping season was as long as possible.

“Holiday 2019 is the shortest possible, with only 22 days between Cyber Monday and Christmas,” reports Adobe, “This leaves almost $1 billion in revenue behind. However, retailers are able to make that up by starting sales earlier this year. Thanksgiving will grow at 20%.”

Adobe says that every day during November and December will see more than $1 billion in online holiday sales. The report is based on aggregate data from more than one trillion visits to U.S.-based retail websites.

What to expect Cyber Week. The 20% lift in e-commerce sales expected on Thanksgiving will account for $7 million more than was generated last Thanksgiving. Adobe also expects Cyber Monday to see record-breaking sales this year, climbing to $9.4 billion for the day — an 18.9% increase over last year.

2019 Cyber Week e-commerce sales

This year’s Cyber Week — Thanksgiving Day through Cyber Monday — will prove its worth as the biggest online shopping week of the year with sales projected to reach nearly $30 billion ($28.9), accounting for 20% of the holiday season’s total online sales.

Mobile shopping is growing with help from social. Adobe expects mobile shopping to account for nearly 50% of the overall retail holiday growth in the U.S.: “Americans will spend $14 billion more this holiday season on their phone compared to last year.”

Christmas Day sales will also see more purchases happening on phones than on desktops — the first time ever mobile devices will own more sales than desktops for the day.

Social isn’t translating to sales the same way email and search are, according to Adobe, but it is driving more e-commerce visits. Adobe says the share of smartphone visits on e-commerce sites stemming from social has more than tripled during the last three years.

Why we should care. This year’s shortened holiday season (there are six fewer days between Thanksgiving and Christmas) means marketers will likely need to start their campaigns earlier than usual to reach their holiday goals. Fortunately, according to Adobe’s predictions, the shortened holiday isn’t going to have much impact on how much revenue is up for grabs.

To compete with the big retailers who have already started their online holiday deals — places like Walmart and Best Buy — marketers will need to keep in mind the holiday calendar, and the anticipated heavy shopping days, when implementing their holiday campaigns.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is a senior editor for Third Door Media, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land, Search Engine Land and MarTech Today. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including MarketingProfs, SoftwareCEO, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.


About 42% of holiday shoppers will buy most or all their gift purchases on Amazon this year, according to a global survey of 4,500 shoppers in the U.S., U.K. and several other countries. During holiday shopping, 32% of consumers will start on Amazon, followed by Google (18%) according to the survey.

That stands in contrast to the rest of the year “when Google is the first stop whether they have a product in mind or not, although Amazon is a close second.” The Episerver survey was fielded earlier this year.

Nearly half won’t buy on Amazon. While those stats may sound daunting for Amazon’s competitors (not named Google), the “half-full” narrative is that 47% of people “will buy few or none” of their gifts on Amazon. Episerver also argues that it is very possible to compete with Amazon and offers a number of specific recommendations in its “Holiday Online Shopping Trends 2019” report.

The company further explains that not all shopping categories are equal in terms of consumer patterns and preferences. In apparel, for example, shoppers are more likely to first visit a brand or retailer website (43%) than both Google (29%) and Amazon (30%). Episerver also says that consumers tend to visit stores to shop for apparel (and furniture) before buying online.

(Don’t miss our digital commerce marketing concentration at SMX West.)

Social media traffic to e-commerce sites has doubled. Episerver adds that social media will play “a larger role than ever in influencing product purchases this holiday season,” pointing out that social media traffic to e-commerce websites has doubled in the first half of 2019 vs. 2018. This stands in marked contrast to recent survey data from Deloitte, which argues that social media will play a diminished role this year in holiday shopping.

Specifically, Episerver argues influencer marketing will have a tangible impact retail sales, finding that 52% of shoppers have clicked on influencer posts. Only 23% percent of survey respondents said they don’t follow influencers. However, I suspect these numbers vary dramatically by age cohort and may not be representative of the population at large: 67% of all consumers don’t follow social media influencers.

How to compete with Amazon. Episerver offers a number of general and specific recommendations about how to effectively compete with Amazon:

  • Content and service are key differentiators: “Make sure your customer service team is dialed-in to serve and content teams are pumping out useful holiday guides for their websites.”
  • Use paid search, which has the “highest conversion rate of all” and place ads on Amazon’s site.
  • Use social media/influencer marketing. The company also emphasizes organic content and SEO.
  • Invest in mobile and implement a number of technical “quick fixes.”

The report also says the top three communication channels consumers are most receptive to are email, social media and “a brand/retailer’s mobile app,” which I assume means notifications, in that order.

Why we should care. The report emphasizes being “customer-centric,” which extends to the holistic customer experience. Amazon offers massive inventory, speed and convenience. That’s very challenging to compete with.

However, Episerver recommends investing in technical upgrades to remove transaction friction and increase speed. More broadly, retailers should “humanize” shopping experiences with content and service. “Amazon prides itself on customer obsession but when it comes to product education, inspirational content, how-to guides and fanatical customer service, they come up short.”

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.


The onslaught of holiday shopping surveys has begun. And consultancy Deloitte is out of the gate early with its 2019 holiday retail survey.

Keep in mind that consumer surveys are aspirational and don’t always align with real-world behavior. Still, they reflect consumer intent and are worth paying attention to as a directional indicator of important trends.

Experiences will consume roughly a third of budgets. Retailers can expect consumers to spend roughly $1,500 this holiday season, according to the Deloitte survey of 4,400 U.S. adults, conducted in September. Yet, more than a third of that spend will be devoted to “experiences”: entertaining at home, traveling and eating at restaurants.

More online spending, but offline still dominates. As in the past, the share of consumer spending devoted to e-commerce will grow — up two points to 59% of holiday shopping this year. In-store spending will be flat at 36% of the total, according to the survey.

However, contradicting the broader implications of this finding, e-commerce spending in the U.S. in Q4 2018 was just 10.1% of total retail sales, according to U.S. government data. E-commerce will not be 59% of total Q4 retail sales.

Early shopping. Deloitte also found that holiday shopping is “expected to peak” in early to mid-December, driven largely by early deals and the Black Friday-Cyber Monday shopping week. The firm also said that, “Cyber Monday has eclipsed Black Friday in terms of importance across all generational cohorts, though Gen Z and millennials rely most on Cyber Monday deals.”

Another interesting data point is that consumers prefer free shipping to fast shipping. And most consumers are willing to wait between three and seven days for packages to arrive. Those who preferred fast shipping want their packages in less than two days. Amazon has trained consumers to expect this and now we’re moving to one-day shipping scenarios.

70% will shop on their phones. Consumers also anticipate buying more on their smartphones this year, with 70% saying they plan to shop and buy on mobile devices. Mobile retail traffic has eclipsed the desktop for the past couple of years, with mobile commerce sales growing significantly. However, the majority of e-commerce transactions still take place on PCs.

As in the past, Deloitte reports that consumers will be using multiple resources to help them with their shopping research and buying. The firm found, interestingly, that social media will not have as much influence over consumer spending this year as in the past. This sentiment may be a general statement of consumer disapproval of social media rather than any predictor of actual behavior.

Social ‘not a major driver of product research.’ Deloitte says, “Social and print media are not major drivers of product research and are wielding much less of an influence on consumers this holiday season. And the value of the in-store experience remains solid, especially for products that consumers want to see and touch before purchase. Fully half intend to find their inspiration in the store.”

Why we should care. Again, it should be stressed that what people report in surveys often doesn’t turn out to be what they do in practice. For example, marketers should not read the above chart and pull their social media spending. As in years past, it’s going to take a thoughtful, multi-channel approach to win.

However, as the survey recommends, retailers should front-load their promotions to catch early shoppers. They should also focus on mobile as an entry point for consumers but recognize transactions will still happen on PC and offline. And, as always, they should remove as much friction as possible from the checkout process.

About The Author

Greg Sterling is a Contributing Editor at Search Engine Land. He writes about the connections between digital and offline commerce. He previously held leadership roles at LSA, The Kelsey Group and TechTV. Follow him Twitter or find him on LinkedIn.