The last thing any marketer needs during the holidays is for their carefully planned campaigns to be derailed by bounces, spam traps, and blacklists. Deliverability issues can wreak havoc on Q4 results for many brands; in order to ensure your emails make it to their intended audiences, we have some tips for smart planning and preparation for holiday season mailing. Start by investigating where your deliverability stands currently. Do you know the current inboxing rate for your sending domain(s)? Do you know your current Gmail sending reputation? Are you faced with any blocks or limitations with your email campaigns? To avoid issues during the holidays, you want to make sure that you start Q4 with healthy deliverability metrics and that any existing deliverability issues are resolved before crunch-time.
With growing competition for customer engagement and sky-rocketing Q4 email volume, many Internet Service Providers (ISPs) tighten spam filter settings to lower the number of unwanted emails landing in their customers’ inboxes. This often has an adverse effect on inboxing rates.
To reach the inbox, you must be mindful of how frequently each subscriber will be hearing from you. Generally, consumers expect and tolerate higher mailing frequency during the holidays but only if they find value in the messages they receive. To keep subscribers happy, you can send out an email in advance of the holidays giving them a heads up about holiday email frequency and directing them to a preference center where they can set their desired frequency. In addition, in order to pique (and maintain) your subscribers’ interest, you can test varying ‘Friendly From’ names for specific holiday events and measure response. Furthermore, you can set a maximum number of messages each subscriber can receive from your brand daily or weekly and create a hierarchy to ensure that the most important and effective messages (such as browse abandon, birthday or order confirmations) always make it to the inbox. Finally, gradually ramping up sending volume over the weeks leading up to Q4 can help you avoid ISP penalties for an unexpected change in volume (hourly volume is most important). Just be sure to monitor key deliverability metrics like complaint rates, unsubscribe rates, and ISP domain and IP reputation for 24-48 hours after you start your ramp-up efforts.
Added spam trap networks during the holidays can cause a flurry of blacklist activity while unexpected changes in email volume can cause increased bounce rates and ISP pushback. Does your team have an established remediation process in the event of a major Q4 deliverability issue? Examples of major issues include blacklisting, resulting in bounce rates higher than 25% or 100% spam folder placement at one, multiple or all major ISPs. To prepare, you need a contingency plan. Before the holidays, ensure your soft and hard bounce rules are properly set to suppress inactive addresses from receiving any communications. Apply data hygiene best practices when mailing to inactive subscriber segments that haven’t received messages in 90+ days and set regular check-ins to review your deliverability performance and spam trap hits. In the event of an issue that blocks one of your domains or IPs, you can use alternative ones to reach your audience until the issue is resolved. As always, it is smart to vary your subject lines when mailing to higher risk audiences. This ensures a unique identifier in case an ISP or blacklist provides feedback an offending subject line but no other detail.
Communicate! Share your holiday messaging plans with your ESP’s account and deliverability teams. This can include details about changes to mailing frequency over the holidays, or a mailing calendar where you highlight any key mailing dates when you may need extra support. It is also smart to let your ESP know about any adjustments to targeting or list sources that may result in less engaged subscribers receiving your communications.
Brad provides global email deliverability leadership and management for Data Axle’s Inboxable team. His expertise includes providing digital marketing strategies, email deliverability consulting and best practices to a wide variety of Fortune 500 companies including eBay, Visa, Gap, US Bank and many more. Brad holds 10 years of experience within digital marketing and is passionate about team engagement, people development and driving results for clients.