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Deliverability Do’s and Don’ts of the Holiday Season

The holiday season is creeping around the corner, and it’s one of the busiest times of year for marketers as they prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday. When businesses are pressured by revenue goals, there is often a tendency to expand mailing lists and increase sending cadence. Below, I will address a few tips and recommendations to better optimize your marketing programs and strategies for the holiday season.

In recent years, one of the most common mistakes I see is email marketers blasting their entire database right before the holidays. Typically, their hope is that, by sending to a broader audience, they will bring in additional income to meet or exceed revenue goals. Contrarily, this can actually hurt ROI, even for the customers who are most likely to convert to revenue. Suddenly spiking volume and opening up your audience to users who have not engaged in over a year is the perfect recipe for tanking sending reputation and causing deliverability issues. An even worse approach I commonly see is utilizing purchased lists and/or appended lists, which undoubtedly causes more severe issues.

Higher volumes impact deliverability

While ISPs/Mailbox Providers understand that many businesses will send much higher volumes during the holiday season, their anti-spam filters do not adjust or change to allow more mail through to their customer’s inbox during this time. Spikes in volume and generating high complaint, hard bounce, and unsubscribe rates are all factors that will still negatively impact reputation and deliverability. Many studies by ESPs and the Data & Marketing Association (formerly Direct Marketing Association) have shown the majority of revenue generated via email are from the most engaged subscribers. This is where the quality truly outweighs the quantity of your list — by doubling volume right before the holidays, you pose a very high risk of deliverability issues, impacting inbox placement for your subscribers who are most likely to purchase.

Nowadays, most anti-spam filters are utilizing machine learning and algorithms to determine what mail should get through, so marketers should avoid any significant changes to their programs and volume/cadence. If your subscribers are used to receiving 2-3 emails per week, you shouldn’t begin flooding their mailboxes daily with content they aren’t familiar with. With the holiday season being the most crucial time for a lot of business, it’s never the best time to test new templates, cadences, or authenticated domains/IPs.

Instead, marketers should plan well ahead of time, using re-engagement campaigns and audience segmentation to organically grow a quality mailing list, months in advance. This will help avoid spikes in volume/cadence while maintaining a larger, yet still engaged subscriber list. If you anticipate bringing on a new brand or authenticated domain for the holiday season, test well beforehand and adjust based on the response from your customers. Did engagement rates improve, or did we see a jump in complaint and/or unsubscribe rates with the new domain/template?

Plan ahead to have success

Based on the results of tests, it can help gauge expectations for any changes you may make with your programs. Similarly, if you expect to send higher volumes and to EU or APAC regions, you should start adding IPs as appropriate months earlier, in order to ensure they are properly ramped up. EU and APAC mailbox providers have much stricter restrictions on IP connections and allowed throughput compared to U.S. providers.

It’s important to note that just because a subscriber has not engaged with your emails in over a year, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’re a lost cause. This can be a great opportunity to learn more about your customer and leverage other channels of communication such as mobile push or SMS. With MessageGears’ Omnichannel solution, we have the power to send a marketing campaign through email, mobile push, and/or SMS depending on the specific recipient’s preference. Additionally, we have the capability to report and provide consolidated analytics for each channel in an easily digestible manner. For an in-depth walkthrough of our platform and tools, please feel free to sign up for one of our monthly demo sessions, or reach out to our team directly for a one-on-one meeting.

Albert Liu

Albert is the Head of Deliverability at MessageGears and responsible for helping clients optimize their email marketing efforts. He is the primary contact involved in on-boarding and consulting with clients, as well as managing ISP escalations/relationships. He knows all the ins and outs of deliverability and wants to help businesses understand how to enhance their email marketing campaigns.