With last week’s release of the iPhone 6 and a preview of the Apple Watch, there’s no doubt these products will be at the top of many holiday wish lists this year, next year and beyond. Interestingly, this will have a direct impact on marketers’ abilities to reach the inbox.
As more people stay connected on the go with mobile devices, there’s been shift in inbox placement during the critical end of year period for retailers. It used to be as inevitable as the ball dropping on New Year’s Eve – with the increased volume of messaging hitting mailboxes worldwide during the holiday shopping season, complaints would rise—especially for aggressive mailers. It led to the decline of inbox placement rates as sender reputations tanked and email was routed to spam folders or blocked all together. The New Year typically meant dealing with the damage caused by risky mailing strategies.
Last year, we saw something different. According to Return Path’s latest Inbox Placement Benchmark Report, average global inbox placement rates actually held more or less steady during the holiday months at 85%, and stayed there during January (dipping only slightly to 84% in February). If this seems like a reason to bring back the holiday partying decadence of 1999, don’t take your jingle bells out just yet.
Last November marked the first time more than 50% of messages were read on mobile devices, and the largest percentage of mobile opens come from Apple devices – 54.5% (which includes iPhones and iPads) according to a Movable Ink study. Apple’s email client doesn’t allow users to mark messages as spam or register a complaint. With the majority of email opens coming from mobile devices (and the bulk of those coming from Apple devices), this drop in complaints helps explain why inbox placement rates wouldn’t experience the decline previously seen during the holiday months.
Two other contributing factors are the increased volume of messaging that takes place during the holiday season—and every year sets a new record—diluting the impact of complaints, and what we call the “cheer effect.” Subscribers are just more inclined to be in a shopping mood and on the hunt for holiday bargains during this time of year, and therefore less likely to complain.
While this may seem like good news for email marketers heading into the 2014 holiday season, it’s certainly not a license to throw best practices out the window and adopt a naughty versus nice approach to your email program strategy. Successful email marketing optimization means playing the long game and focusing on driving engagement across seasons while maximizing lifetime value to prevent depreciation of your most important asset – your subscriber base.
With that in mind, here are a few tips for mitigating complaints and protecting your engagement metrics even after the holiday cheer subsides:
If you’re struggling with complaint-related inbox placement and engagement issues, sign-up for a 1-to-1 Coaching Clinic with one of our email marketing experts at Connections next week.