Email Marketing

From naughty to nice: how to keep your holiday emails deliverable

Are you planning on increasing your email send volumes this upcoming holiday season? It’s important to understand how increased sends can impact your email deliverability. With important messaging and revenue on the line, peak holiday season is certainly no time to deal with deliverability issues. In this Ask the Expert, we explore the strategies to keep your sends safe, reduce negative deliverability impact and ensure your emails remain on the nice list.

Meet the expert
Kathleen Schaefer
Kathleen Schaefer
Senior Director, Inboxable

Kathleen Schaefer is the Senior Director at Inboxable. Kathleen is a leader in email and cross-channel digital marketing solutions. She focuses on leading and maintaining client facing support for Data Axle/Inboxable technology and service offerings. Kathleen’s expertise allows her to help Data Axle clients to conceptualize campaigns, recognize capacity and achieve successful outcomes.


Why does a sudden influx in send volume impact email deliverability?

Large changes in sending volume in a short period can negatively impact email deliverability, leading to emails being classified as spam – or not being delivered at all.

Why is this? ISPs love predictability. A sudden influx in volume can be flagged because this behavior mimics spammers. As a safety precaution against phishing and malicious emails, ISPs closely monitor volumes sent by each domain and its associated IPs. When ISPs detect large changes or increases in deployment volumes, it may falsely signal that your email has been compromised, resulting in ISPs blocking your email to prevent any malicious emails from reaching their end users.

Moreover, high-volume email sends can lead to increased email fatigue among recipients. When recipients receive too many emails, they may become overwhelmed and start to ignore, delete without opening, or even mark them as spam. This can lead to lower engagement rates and a decrease in your sending reputation over time.


How do I prepare for peak season?

As a starting point, get a baseline for where your email deliverability is currently sitting. What is your current inboxing rate for your sending domain(s)? What’s your current sending reputation at major ISPs like Microsoft and Gmail? Are you dealing with any blocks or limitations with your email campaigns?

You’ll want to make sure you’re entering Q4 with strong deliverability and that any issues are resolved before crunch-time.

Review your subscriber base and identify any high-risk audiences. Decide if it’s worth mailing to people who have not engaged with one of your emails recently – if you decide to move forward with mailing to them it’s always a good idea to run those lists through data hygiene first to identify any high-risk subscribers.


What strategies can I implement to increase my inboxing in Q4?

During Q4’s soaring email volume, many ISPs tighten spam filter settings. This is done to reduce the number of unwanted or malicious emails reaching their customers’ inboxes. It’s not that they want to punish you, it’s that their priority is protecting their customers (the ones using their email platform). As a result, inboxing rates are negatively impacted by this. So, what can you do to maintain a high inboxing rate?

Give your subscribers a heads-up

To keep subscribers happy, you can send out an email in advance giving them a heads-up about increased holiday campaigns, and even direct them to a preference center where they can set their desired frequency.

Segment your list based on behavior and engagement

A best practice during any sending period is to segment your list. It’s especially important during increased volume times like Q4, so make the effort not to treat every campaign as a full audience blast. Use engagement data to decide who receives what – perhaps the first campaign is sent to those who have opened or clicked on an email in the past 6 months, the second campaign goes to the entire audience but is personalized with an “opt-down” CTA, and then the third goes out to subscribers who have either opened or clicked on a previous campaign that day.

Personalize your emails

We don’t just mean using a {first name} dynamic field. You can also personalize based on behaviors and purchase history. Where is your subscriber in their buyer’s journey? Are they browsing, ready to buy, or have they recently made a purchase? Know your audience segment and format your content accordingly. Even using a “friendly from” address can inspire engagement. Not only does this make it more personal, it’s also a great way to stand out in the inbox among all the faceless corporations.

Set daily/weekly limits

Additionally, set a maximum number of messages each subscriber can receive from your brand, whether it’s daily or weekly. This way, you can prioritize important messages like browse abandon, birthday, or order confirmations to ensure they always land in the inbox.

Gradually ramp up sending volumes in advance

Finally, slowly increase sending volume over the weeks leading up to Q4. This 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, and adjust accordingly.


What if a deliverability disaster strikes during the holidays – Inboxable is here to help!

During the holidays spam traps can cause chaos, and unexpected email volume changes can lead to high bounce rates and ISP pushback – we’re talking bounce rates higher than 25% and 100% spam folder placement at one or all major ISPs. Make sure your soft and hard bounce rules are set to suppress inactive addresses, and practice good data hygiene. Review your deliverability performance regularly and consult with your Inboxable deliverability analyst regarding your peak season mailing strategies. We maintain close relationships with ISPs, and where possible, will communicate changes in mailing volumes and request preemptive accommodation.

Communication is key! Share your messaging plans with your ESP’s account and deliverability teams such as: mailing frequency; scheduled sends; key mailing dates where you might need extra support.

Want to learn more about how Inboxable can help you optimize holiday deliverability?  Reach out.