Most marketers know Q4 ‘tis the season they’re told to “send more email!”
The final months of the year are a critical time for email marketers. Brands rely heavily on the email channel to drive customer engagement and sales revenue during this peak period.
But increasing sending volume doesn’t always increase revenue. Marketers need a more effective plan.
This year, planning ahead is especially important, as news of inflation and ongoing economic instability will be top of mind for consumers and influence their purchasing decisions. Many senders will also be leveraging AI to help them optimize their content, making competition fierce.
We also have to look at Amazon throwing in another Prime Day in October, perfect for people who want to get their shopping done early. We’ll likely to see other retailers starting even earlier to try and compete.
In addition, marketers will be up against rising global email volumes. The 2022 holiday season saw record-breaking volumes, peaking during Black Friday and Cyber Monday with a more sustained lift than in 2021.
Let’s look at steps email marketers should take now to ensure a record-breaking peak sales season.
During peak sales season, many senders increase send volume and frequency, often dramatically and suddenly.
These sudden, significant changes are alarm signals for mailbox providers, who may block or bulk messages until they are able to validate a sender’s reputation. Senders can easily avoid negative repercussions such as delivery delays or spam placement by warming up their IPs or domains in advance.
During an IP or domain warmup, a sender gradually increases their message volume to the receiving mailbox provider. As they slowly increase their sending volume, senders build meaningful reputations with mailbox providers. As we know, sender reputation is a key driver of mailbox provider filtering decisions, and can determine whether messages land in the inbox, the spam folder, or are rejected.
In addition, repeatedly blasting out messages across your list can expedite subscriber fatigue. Early disengagement can result in lost opportunities for a customer to purchase from your brand. Brands don’t want to overwhelm and annoy customers before a peak purchase period. When increasing volume, start with a solid segment of customers who expect your messages and actively engage with your brand.
Pro tip: High quality = low risk. Validate email addresses on your list before beginning a warmup, using a contact verification solution. Remove invalid or risky email addresses, especially for segments with low/no engagement, to prevent list hygiene issues from disrupting your deliverability.
Competition for subscriber attention in the inbox has never been fiercer.
As reported during a recent State of Email Live Webinar, we saw a 30 percent uplift in global email volume in 2022 over 2021. Should this trend continue, we can expect record-setting email volume in the fourth quarter of 2023.
In response to this flood of messages, subscribers will become more selective when deciding which emails to open and engage with. They’ll also have lower tolerance for email that isn’t timely or relevant; either marking these messages as spam or ignoring them completely.
Marketers don’t have long to capture subscribers‘ attention either. According to a recent study by Microsoft, the human attention span has reduced from 12 to 8 seconds in the last 22 years. Subscribers scanning through crowded inboxes are making split-second decisions about which messages they open.
To gain subscriber attention and remain relevant throughout the peak sales season, senders need to optimize personalization capabilities. According to research by Dynamic Yield, 71 percent of customers say their interaction with an email is influenced by the level of personalization it offers.
Now is the time to review existing customer data and capture any additional information that will help tailor message content in Q4.
Most marketers are increasing their reliance on information provided directly by customers for targeting efforts. Why? Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) prevents email senders from using tracking pixels to measure open rates and device usage, while also masking recipients’ IP addresses to prevent location tracking. This limits insight into who is opening messages and how to tailor the subscriber experience afterward.
Instead of relying on tracking data, marketers should place increased significance on zero-party data—information customers knowingly and willingly share with a brand.
One great avenue to capture this information is a preference center where subscribers can indicate their choices about the emails they want to receive. Start gathering this information now with these Easy Steps to Power up Your Email Preference Center. Promote your preference center in every email and try sending dedicated emails that prompt subscribers to update their preferences ahead of the peak season.
To further personalize messages, marketers should layer email preference center choices with first-party data such as transactional history and customers’ behavioral data. These data points may include both online and offline data. By leveraging both zero-party and first-party data sources, marketers can ensure message content will be relevant and tailored to the customer.
For example, Southwest sends flight deals based on the subscriber’s home airport hub to make it easy to navigate and find personalized deals.
Before you start trying to open up your segments to reach more people during the peak season, take some time to review and cleanse your list. Run your list through a validation tool such as BriteVerify to make sure the data is still good.
If you have older Gmail addresses, now is the time to completely suppress them. Starting on December first, Gmail will be deleting accounts that have not been used or logged into in the last two years.
Once you’ve gathered and cleaned customer data, it’s important to honor subscribers’ choices and follow through by delivering what they’ve requested. Marketers should begin to segment their sends into targeted campaigns prior to peak sales season to increase engagement early on and improve deliverability later.
Segmentation is the process of dividing your list of subscribers into specific groups using a set of defined attributes. These attributes can include zero-party and first-party data. The goal of segmentation is to better target subscribers with relevant content.
Segmentation is tied to major lifts in subscriber engagement. In fact, research shows segmented marketing campaigns generate 14.64 percent more opens and almost 60 percent more clicks than non-segmented campaigns. In addition to higher engagement rates, brands using segmentation strategies can achieve revenue increases of up to 760 percent!
See how Petsmart focuses their segmentation based on sending product information only for the type of pet the subscriber has. This way a cat owner isn’t bombarded with dog products, and vice versa.
Dynamic content allows senders to personalize blocks of content within an email to create a customized subscriber experience at the moment the email is opened. Information used to inform dynamic content personalization can include historical data, customer behavior, and subscriber preferences.
Some customers only purchase from brands during the holidays each year. You can dig into year-over-year purchase data and use dynamic content to send tailored product features to these seasonal shoppers and increase their likelihood of re-engaging.
Marketers can also convert shoppers who are browsing but not yet buying by tapping into their category/browse abandonment behavior to populate a personalized product selection within an email.
Dynamic content is also a highly effective way to communicate time-sensitive deadlines, including promotion cutoffs and shipping deadlines. This encourages early buying during the peak sale season and ensures customers receive purchases on time.
In the example below, Disney prominently features a countdown timer to show the subscriber how much time they have left to take advantage of a free shipping promotion.
Learn more about the do’s and don’ts of dynamic content so you can understand how to incorporate it into your email strategy for the peak season.
Artificial Intelligence isn’t going away any time soon, so use it to get ahead during peak sales season.
More marketers are turning to AI to create hyper-relevant, 1:1 experiences between their brand and consumers.
You can use AI to help generate content ideas such as subject lines, product descriptions, create some graphic elements, analyze performance data, perform testing, and more. There are many ways that AI can take your emails to the next level.
Before you fully commit to using AI to help your program, review and vet AI tools and vendors to make sure that they’re safe against copyright infringement, data breaches, and privacy and surveillance policies. Any content created with AI should be reviewed and edited by a human to make sure it stays on brand and makes sense.
Email automation helps senders get the right message to the right customer at the right time. Automation messages are triggered by subscriber actions.
Triggered campaigns, such an abandoned cart or back-in-stock message, can be highly effective. These messages may be the push holiday bargain hunters—who may be browsing for the best discount or waiting to see if prices drop even lower—need to make a purchase. You can speed up the average time to conversion by sending email alerts when an item a shopper engaged with previously drops in price or is back in stock.
Fable England sends a Back in Stock email to let subscribers know when the item they want is available again. They also use the language “Hurry though, you don’t want to miss out again…” to help create a sense of urgency.
Also, home in on the cause of cart abandonment during the checkout process to then re-target those customers and message them accordingly.Do you see a pattern of shoppers bouncing due to shipping costs? Trigger an exclusive promo code for free shipping.
When done right, time-saving email automation strategies can help deliver tailored experiences and drive revenue.
Pro Tip: When setting up email automations, be mindful of sending to global audiences. Be aware of differences in seasons and holidays and make sure to send at optimal times.
Deliverability issues can destroy your email program performance, and the road to recovery can be long and costly.
Before entering the holiday sales season, every marketer needs to monitor campaign deliverability, sender reputation, list hygiene, critical blocklists, and other deliverability risk factors before peak sales season begins.
Everest, Validity’s email deliverability platform, can provide this crucial insight and deliverability guidance to inform your peak sales strategy. In addition, our Sender Certification program can keep your emails out of the spam folder and in the inbox where they belong. Validity partners with many mailbox providers to ensure that our Certified senders see a significant lift in their deliverability.
It’s critical for brands to plan ahead and have strategic tactics in place for their email programs ahead of the peak sales season.
For even more information and tips to optimize subscriber engagement this holiday sales season, tune into the latest episode of Inbox Insiders: “Get More from Q4: New Email Strategies for a Benchmark-Busting Peak Sales Season.“