“Attention all marketers! It’s that magical time of the year again where wallets loosen, email volumes skyrocket, dollars are on the line, and we all get a little jolly!” (crackles over mic)
The holidays are right around the corner. Holiday email schedules and campaigns are being planned. And marketers are gearing up to be in full swing within the next two weeks. As anticipation brews, marketing decisions can easily become a little overzealous in the excitement.
However, it’s never too late to adjust to make sure you don’t overshoot, and you hit your mark.
With that in mind, here are some deliverability tips that continue to stand the test of time and ring true year after year to keep your emails in the inbox during the biggest ROI event of the year:
🎁 Spamming will get you blocked. Consent is a must!
The #1 requirement for ALL mail regardless of the season is consent. Just because you have a list does not mean you can mail to it.
A lack of consent leads to negative experiences and complaints and bumps up against laws like CASL and GDPR.
This is also one of the most severe best practice violations that can land you in hot water with mailbox providers and blocklist services—leading to severe bulking at best and blocking at worst.
During the holidays, missing a few hours of mailing can be disastrous to the bottom line. Imagine days!
The best performance comes from clear, first-party consent versus vaguely acquired consent such as through partner acquisition. Consent that isn’t clearly stated drives up complaints and brings down deliverability.
When consent is given, expectations around frequency and content should be clear. Failed expectations can lead to a feeling of being abused, which is a large driver of complaints.
Utilizing confirmed opt-in can help nail down expectations and weed out subscription mistakes or the “I just gave you my email for the coupon” signups.
Finally, protect your signup forms! Holidays are prime time for abuse.
Don’t let your forms aid in sending spam to unsuspecting people. Check your forms now to ensure you have some form of CAPTCHA involved.
If not, confirmed opt-in can help prevent you from sending additional mail to those subscribed through malicious acts such as list-bombing.
🎁 Authentication protects your brand and is a key factor in decisions around delivery.
Authentication is vital to protect your business and your customers in a world of daily compromises due to spoofing and phishing.
Although authentication doesn’t guarantee delivery, most mail rejected by the large commercial mailbox receivers is unauthenticated.
At a minimum, make sure you have DKIM; for some SPF is the best they can do.
Do NOT make any DNS changes around this time that are not absolutely vital. Sometimes a simple change can create unexpected results or even break authentication.
🎁 Flexibility and agility are key to helping you overcome unanticipated challenges
Sometimes things go wrong, and they go wrong for everyone.
Does anyone remember the server issue this year at Gmail that resulted in a flood of bounces for known addresses?
In these cases, patience is the best gift you can give to your deliverability partners. And adaptability will help you lessen the impact of any issue thrown your way.
Another example is rate-limiting or a change in the pacing of your mail by a mailbox provider.
Transient bounces via the 4XX replies will tell your provider’s system to retry the message.
If that message is retried too quickly or additional campaigns continue to push at high volumes, the receiver may put you in a perpetual retry loop until you stop mailing or block your mail entirely.
When that campaign is timely, which is likely the case during the holidays, the cost of a failed campaign can be damaging.
In scenarios like this, being prepared to shift send times for campaigns or pausing a campaign until the acceptance rate returns to normal is crucial to handle delivery delays successfully.
The same goes for being flexible with how and whom you send to as well.
🎁 Holidays are not the time to test out new initiatives.
New ‘things’, such as templates, domains, branding, and third-party partners, should NOT make their debut during the holidays.
Reputation takes time to build. Anything new has zero reputation, so it’s bound to be poked and prodded and more likely to be impacted by filters.
Third-party partner domains and shorteners like bit.ly can cause severe deliverability issues.
Rolling out a new feature supported by a partner can be damaging, especially if the partner domains and functionality have not been properly vetted. If, however, you already employ some third-party features and domains, keep an eye on the performance associated with those initiatives.
🎁 Inspire yourself and your customers with relevant, engaging content.
Sources like Really Good Emails can help you see what others are doing for inspiration. Content that doesn’t resonate with consumers or meet expectations will lead to less engagement and/or complaints, which are negative signals for mailbox providers.
Be cautious with new things, so TEST, TEST, TEST.
🎁 Limit severe volume fluctuations to avoid delivery delays and reputation hits.
Snowstorms with unexpected heavy snowfall are problematic for many reasons.
One reason is that the city may have planned the number of plow trucks to deploy based on the forecast. When the snowfall exceeds the forecast, road maintenance and snow removal won’t be able to keep up, creating dangerous driving conditions.
How does this relate to sending?
The mailbox providers and their filtering engines need to prepare. Their current model of you as a sender is based on your send patterns as they see them today and over a recent (ish) history.
Sudden changes in sending behavior is cause for alarm and may result in rate-limiting, bulking, etc.
To help avoid this, they need to see a shift and new sending patterns so the filters can adapt to the new mailing behavior.
If you haven’t started yet, plan for the extra volume fluctuations by building up your cadence and outreach now.
🎁 Set expectations. Failure to do so is one of the main reasons customers complain or become disinterested.
It’s probably safe to assume your customers are expecting more mail, coupons and offers during the holidays.
Disappointment happens when all that extra mail and those offers aren’t actionable or meaningful.
Now is a good time to reset expectations for your customers.
Roll out an offer and new communication schedule to let your customers know what’s coming—and buid some excitement around it.
And even though they may expect it doesn’t mean they want it. Or they may want the extra communications but don’t want to spend the time reviewing every email.
Offer an opt-down for holiday communications. Don’t trap your customer into your holiday sending schedule. Let them take a breather if they aren’t interested or no longer need the barrage of emails.
If you haven’t mailed a customer in a while, suddenly emailing them so you can expand your reach isn’t the way to go.
This audience will likely generate bounces and complaints.
Instead, drip campaigns can be used throughout the year, so when the holidays roll around, your outreach is familiar instead of an unwanted visit from the past.
If you absolutely must send to an extended, unengaged audience, start a rewarming initiative NOW.
You can even begin this initiative by running this audience through an email verification service like what we support here at Kickbox. It’ll help reduce the number of email addresses that have churned to keep your bounce rate in check when you start mailing.
A warm reintroduction will allow them to remember you, opt-out, complain or (hopefully) remain on your list. Warming up an old list will give you some time to ramp the volume while you flush out uninterested subscribers before the holidays.
Be thoughtful and careful of this audience. As you continue your outreach to this group, keep them on a reduced send schedule. They stopped interacting for a reason, so you may also want to cap the number of emails you send to them.
🎁 Positive engagement is crucial. Elicit repeat actions with reminder communications.
Positive engagement is one of the best ways to ensure deliverability remains strong during holidays. Creating a communication stream that elicits additional engagement can be an easy and non-abrasive way to accomplish this. Reminders are one such tool, and they come in many forms.
Abandoned cart emails are a great way to revive a lost connection, considering 88% of carts are abandoned.
Using abandoned carts, shopping behavior, browsing history, and wish list data is effective at reengaging and converting customers since they’ve already shown intent.
Calendar reminders or alerts for deals around those products can also help push them through the funnel.
Craft messaging around mail client UI features to “schedule a reminder” or “add to calendar,” which can help keep your customers looking for your email when the time is right.
Finally, back-in-stock alerts and reminders are a great way to get customers back to the site with the product they were already showing interest in.
‘Tis the season of giving. Give your customers an experience that works for them and what they want and need. This will elicit positive engagement at a rate that sings of joy to the receivers.
Remember, the Mailbox Providers want to deliver your mail, but they are also the ones protecting their users from abuse.
Generating positive signals for your mail makes you happy, makes the Mailbox Providers happy, and it makes your customers happy.