New Marketing Trends Bolster Food Gifting Growth

One of AccuList USA’s areas of specialization is providing mailing lists, data services and marketing support for the food and wine gift market, and so we keep an eye on emerging trends in this growth industry. In fact, food gift sales will approach $20 billion in 2018, up 4% over last year, per the “Food Gifting in the U.S.: Consumer and Corporate” report for 2018-2020 by research firm Packaged Facts.

Holiday Sales Dominate, But New Trends Push Overall Growth

Marketing dollars will naturally focus on year-end sales, since, while consumers and businesses are giving food baskets across a wider variety of occasions today, ranging from anniversaries to graduations to birthdays, Christmas is still the food and wine gifting mainstay. More than half of the 130 million consumer food gifters purchasing in the last 12 months bought during the winter holiday season. But how can food gift marketers push sales growth year-round? One key factor will be continued innovation that creates exclusivity and artisanship, avoiding the commoditization that drains profit with discounting, notes the report. To support that kind of brand power, marketing efforts will need to embrace the kind of story telling that creates a sense of authenticity and uniqueness and builds a gourmet brand image. Capturing the high-end boutique buyer can require a softer sales approach that aims at building knowledge and trust, say via featured recipes as an example. Food gift marketers also need to continue expanding gifting occasions beyond holidays, not only for consumers but also for the lucrative corporate market, by pushing work anniversary and thank-you gestures for example. Finally, while the food gifting market is heavily dependent on older, high-income consumers, tapping into millennials will require a more omnichannel approach that takes into account millennial ordering preferences, stresses the Packaged Facts report.

Embracing Omnichannel Marketing Options

An omnichannel wooing of millennials will combine direct mail/catalogs with e-mail, social media and e-commerce strategies. While traditional direct mail continues as a food gifting workhorse, a strong online presence and SEO strategy is especially essential. Luxury biscuit gift company Biscuiteers provides an example of how it matters: The company increased their website traffic from new customers by 90% and SEO revenue by 77% in 6 months by optimizing category landing pages for different types of food gift buyer and season. E-commerce goes hand-in-hand with a good e-mail strategy. For example, the venerable Hickory Farms brand decided to improve the quality of its customer data and create a more agile e-mail campaign process by integrating its marketing and commerce tech to trigger consumer journeys and automated e-mail sends. E-mail inbox placement this year rose to 94%, almost 10% above industry standard, plus e-mail list growth improved. Hickory Farms CMO Judy Ransford explained to CMO magazine that the smarter list management “helps us deliver e-mails at the frequency customers want, and to make sure the content quality is better. This year we’ve seen a huge improvement and not such high attrition rates as a result.” Social media also has become a must-have for food gifting via leading platforms like Facebook and Instagram for consumers and LinkedIn for corporate prospecting. That should increase gift-basket marketer interest in AccuList USA’s Digital2Direct program, which is designed to link targeted direct mail with Facebook ads or e-mails to the same recipients.

Who’s Winning in 2018 Gift Basket Ratings?

By the way, marketers looking for successful food gifting models should check out Top Ten Reviews’ 2018 ratings. We’re happy to note that our client Wine Country Gift Baskets’ Gourmet Choice Gift Basket was awarded best overall value for 2018 in a test of 11 gift baskets from the leading gift basket companies. Top-rated winners delivered on value for the price in terms of food and wine taste; presentation; ease of payment; delivery speed, options and geographic coverage; range of baskets; special options such as kosher, vegan and organic; offers of extras such as add-on wine, tea, books, puzzles, etc; and, of course, quality customer support. To read more, see the review of best gift baskets of 2018.

 

Year-end Fundraising Needs Multi-Channel, Multi-Touch Effort

Even though AccuList USA’s nonprofit clients are deep into year-end donation drives, it’s worth checking off fundraising benchmarks to give those final tweaks and finishes before New Year’s. MobileCause, a fundraising software and strategy firm, has developed a handy infographic based on marketing research and insights gleaned from its webinar attendees.

Multi-channel Campaigns Maximize Giving

A key takeaway is that branded, multi-channel campaigns raise both more immediate dollars and have more long-term value, with 61% of donors more likely to give again. The infographic cites Japs-Olson Company data to prove the point: Response rates are 6% for direct mail only, 27% for direct mail and web, 27% for direct mail and e-mail, and 37% for the combination of direct mail, web and e-mail. While direct mail remains the centerpiece of donation drives, with 71% to 81% of donations from mail, greater success requires combining and coordinating channels.

Multiple Appeals Drive Donor Action

It is also essential to make multiple appeals across channels, since research shows that it takes a minimum of three exposures to a message to generate a decision. MobileCause suggests the following tactics for maximum impact: a warm-up letter, an appeal letter, a follow-up letter, and e-mails every two weeks, all supported by website home page articles, customized donation form and personal communication (such as phone calls). Don’t neglect to craft social media ads, too. Plus, plan to use video to drive engagement and response across channels–on social pages, e-mail, and website (Augmented Reality can even add video to paper mail, too). You’ll be in sync with MobileCause attendees: 61% plan to add video to campaigns, 23% plan a custom donation page, and 21% plan an online landing page.

Timing and Planning Make the Difference

By December, fundraisers should be reaping the results of efforts that launched in October, when website, donation page and videos were readied and the first year-end appeal mailed. November should have leveraged Giving Tuesday and e-mail follow-ups. But now that we’re in December, there’s still time for the extra push. Consider a Dec. 26 year-end e-appeal and a Dec. 31 last chance e-appeal, for example.

Check out the year-end giving infographic from MobileCause for more data and tips.

Power Up Holiday E-mail With Segmentation, Offers

AccuList USA’s e-mail list clients, especially those in e-commerce and multi-channel retailing, are beginning their holiday e-mail campaigns. What strategies will make for optimum results?

Segment to Maximize Response, Order Value

From decades as data brokers and e-mail support providers, we can attest that targeting and smart segmentation are essential to holiday e-mail success. Of course, the house list can single out the active buyers and segment by basics such as location (no ice to Eskimos) and gender. But more sophisticated segmentation looks at purchase history in terms of product interest, in-store vs. web store, abandoned carts, purchase frequency, etc. For example, to maximize customer value, you can segment by average purchase (separating high-priced buyers from discount buyers) and send targeted e-mails with offers slightly over average order value. You can also reward and stimulate more sales from the most loyal buyers, segmented by purchase frequency or referrals etc., by e-mailing them unique holiday specials and freebies. The holiday season is also a great time to revive inactive customers, such as the previous year’s holiday buyers who haven’t been active since. Send them special offers to woo them back to the brand. Prior-holiday gift card buyers are a good sub-segment for a reminder e-mail about this convenient option. You can also target the most recent opt-ins who haven’t converted to buyers with offers and creative most likely inspire clicks. And don’t neglect to match your e-mail list to Facebook, YouTube or third-party newsletters to extend your reach via those vehicles! Although rented e-mail lists will not have the same intimate customer knowledge, you can still select by location, gender, age, product interest, and more.

Get Creative With Holiday Offers

Holiday e-mails have to grab attention in crowded inboxes, and that means you need to get creative with offers that drive opens and clicks. Constant Contact recently surveyed its small business clients and gathered 30 successful holiday e-mail ideas that may help inspire your marketing. Here are just the lucky top seven: a holiday preview sale, a campaign to drive traffic to your Cyber Monday specials, a free shipping offer, a gift card or gift certificate bonus offer, a holiday gift guide, the tried-and-true holiday coupon, a holiday sample sale (good for food and drink retail). Go to the Constant Contact post to see examples and read about all 30 holiday e-mail ideas.

Optimize Timing of Year-End Fundraising E-mails

At the end of each year, many AccuList USA’s nonprofit clients send out their big fundraising e-mail campaigns, and each year questions of optimal timing are debated. Research results from Next After, a nonprofit consultancy and research lab, may offer helpful guidance.

December Offers Fundraising Opportunity

A big problem for year-end donor appeals is the fight for attention amid the seasonal commercial e-mail blitz that jams inboxes. So how can a donor appeal stand out? Timing is everything to avoid getting lost in the clutter. Many nonprofits focus on the Giving Tuesday opportunity, and 23% more e-mails are sent on Giving Tuesday than on Dec. 31, per Next After–yet 48.7% of nonprofit revenue comes in the last week of the year, Dec. 25-31. And 20% comes just on New Year’s Eve. In fact, 581% more average additional revenue is generated on Dec. 31 than on Giving Tuesday. No wonder Next After suggests focusing on that final December week. Another sign of a missed opportunity: Despite December’s donor haul, 22% of nonprofits studied send no e-mails in December, and most send about four e-mails. So experts advise dialing up the volume in the lucrative December time period!

Day-of-the-Week and Time-of-Day Matter

E-mailers who choose to send messages in the Tuesday through Friday period and blast between 7 a.m. and noon will wade through the heaviest e-mail volumes, per the research. So off-peak e-mail delivery–such as afternoon or evening–can help avoid the seasonal e-mail rush. And weekends clearly represent a neglected opportunity: Not only is overall e-mail volume lighter, but Next After notes a 50% higher gift amount on weekends.

For more data and examples of real-life, successful nonprofit creative tests, see the Next After slide deck.