The Strategist Doubles Down on Email to Help Guide Holiday Shoppers

Product review site's newsletter strategy includes daily gift ideas paired with exclusive discounts

The Strategist highlighted gift ideas small businesses in its Dec. 1 newsletter. The Strategist
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As the Covid-19 pandemic drives more holiday shopping online this year, The Strategist is leveraging email marketing to do what it does best all year round: help its readers shop better, and maybe just as importantly, score deals. 

New York Magazine’s editorial product recommendation and gift guide site has launched a 20-day newsletter series for subscribers offering Gift of the Day recommendations and deals, as well as discounts exclusive to the inbox. For the series, which is running Dec. 1-20, The Strategist teamed up with numerous retailers including Free People, Fenty Beauty, Parachute, Baron Fig, Look Optics and Outdoor Voices on emails that link directly to their sites.

Vox Media svp of ecommerce Camilla Cho (NY Magazine merged with Vox Media in late 2019) explained that email has always been a major part of The Strategist’s marketing strategy, but the pandemic has made it more essential to keep its newsletter subscribers engaged. 

“The value of our email subscribers came to the forefront this year. We did a lot of analysis and digging into the data with our email subscribers, and they come to the site way more frequently than the average user,” Cho said. “We’re trying to do more for our email subscribers, since they have proven to be the most engaged and loyal audience we have.”

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For this year’s holiday push, Cho said her team took learnings from The Strategist’s first Two-Day (Actually Good) Sale, an event the brand debuted in July as an alternative to Amazon’s delayed Prime Day this year.

The goal of the series was to diversify where its audience shops and help them discover new, smaller brands. In the days leading up to the July event, The Strategist advertised that it would provide deals exclusive to newsletter subscribers; according to Cho, this led to readers subscribing at eight times the average rate. 

“That was a signal our email subscribers react well to deals and exclusive discounts that we curate for them, and was something we should further expand on,” she said. “It’s kind of obvious, when you think about it. Reaching out to your most loyal audience to curate gifts and coupling that with a discount is a winning combination.”

The Strategist’s manager of audience engagement Mia Leimkuhler and her team curated brands and products that readers have reacted favorably to in the past, while also highlighting products from Black-owned brands for its Gift of the Day series and price points ranging from $20 to $200. 

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According to Cho, the decision to highlight one gift and one deal per day was made not to bombard readers with a long list. 

“I think people will react well to this, rather than something like 100 Top Gifts for Mom, which can be a little overwhelming,” she said. “This is also just a nice way to spotlight a very curated set of products we love.”

To measure the series’ performance, Cho said her team will mainly focus on how much revenue is generated from the email sends, as well as the subscription rate leading up to and during the series. They’ll also analyze how subscribers react to receiving an email a day for most of December.

“When we first decided to do this Gift of the Day series, we asked: Is sending an email every single day for 20 days too much? Maybe people will be interested in the first four days of the sale and then start to taper off,” she said. “We’ll be looking at the unsubscribe rates and open rates. We’re pretty confident [we won’t see a drop-off], but it’s something to keep our eyes on.” Ian Zelaya is an Adweek reporter covering how brands engage with consumers in the modern world, ranging from experiential marketing and social media to email marketing and customer experience.