Email Deliverability Best Practices for the Holidays

No matter how great your email campaigns look, if they don’t make it to your subscriber’s inbox then it’s all for nothing. Email deliverability is extremely important, especially during the holiday season when email marketing drives 20 percent of online orders

In this post, we’ll cover the do’s and don’ts of email deliverability to keep in mind during the holiday season.

Consistency is key:
The approaching holiday season is not the best time to change your company’s IP address. New IP addresses require a warm-up period while mailbox providers determine what type of sender you are. This period will include volume caps, throttling, and more stringent spam filtering—none of which are ideal during the busy holiday season. Building a good reputation for your new IP address will take time you don’t have. If you are experiencing poor deliverability on one of your IP addresses, follow the remaining tips in this post to strengthen your IP address’ reputation and deliverability.

Run tests to find out what resonates most 
During the holidays, consumers received roughly 
50 percent more promotional emails than they see earlier in the year. As your subscribers’ inboxes get full with promotional mailers, it becomes really hard for your emails to stand out. With subscriber engagement playing an increasing role in mailbox providers filtering decisions, marketers need to test different aspects of their program to increase subscriber engagement, which will lead to an increase in deliverability.

A great place to start testing is your subject line. We analyzed holiday subject lines from 2015 and identified  a few test ideas you should consider:

  • Use premiums. Some of the highest-performing subject lines include references to prizes, bonuses, and other non-discount incentives.
  • Mention specific brands. Consumers tend to be more engaged with subject lines that feature product and brand names they recognize.
  • Leverage social proof and curiosity. Using phrases such as “best-sellers,” “introducing the new,” and “new season” tends to yield significant lifts in email read rates.

Good housekeeping: clean your lists
As you may already know, maintaining a clean and active email list is one of the best ways to ensure your emails land in the inbox. Here’s what you need to keep in mind during the holidays:

  • Do not buy, sell or borrow email addresses. This is a guaranteed way to have problems with your email deliverability.
  • Only send emails to subscribers who have engaged with your emails in the past six months. Unengaged subscribers could be spam traps or inactive subscribers and will hurt your deliverability.
  • Run your entire list through a list validation service to ensure your list is clean.

Don’t become a sales robot:
Every email you send should be relevant and have a unique purpose.That being said, don’t beat the sales, sales, sales drum too loud. Remember that your recipients are people, just like you and me.

Add some non-promotional email campaigns to your holiday strategy. For example, if you sell kitchen and cooking equipment, you could create an ebook with a few recipes that subscribers can cook this Thanksgiving. Get inspired with these great, non-salesly holiday emails.

Monitor the reaction to increase frequency
Many marketers increase their mailing frequency to take advantage of the holiday season. However, if they are not careful they could end up damaging their email program. Brands that are looking to increase their messages during the holiday season need to keep these tips in mind:

  1. Start off slow: Subscribers may welcome an additional email or two, but not ten. Try incorporating one additional email at a time so customers can get used to the new frequency.
  2. Listen for feedback: As you increase your frequency, monitor subscriber response. If one additional email was well received, try two. Make sure you are keeping a close eye so you may quickly react if subscriber sentiment turns negative.
  3. Segment your list: Not all of your subscribers will appreciate an increased frequency, but some might. It does not have to be all or none. Segment your list based on feedback from previous campaigns and differentiate between engaged subscribers who might welcome additional messages and unengaged subscribers who might not.
  4. Give them options: rather than just relying on metrics to determine their preferences, ask them what they want. Send out an email asking them to opt-in to higher holiday frequency or send an email highlighting your preference center.

The winter holiday season is the most profitable time for email marketers. With more than 126 million Americans planning to shop online, email marketers need to reach the inbox to take advantage of this opportunity.

While there are dozens of tips and tricks to improve your deliverability, focusing on a clean subscriber list, providing value to your subscribers, and keeping email volume in line with expectations are the best ways to ensure your emails continue to be delivered to your subscribers’ inboxes.

To bring you more holiday insight, we  joined forces with the MailCharts team and are excited to bring you the 2016 Holiday Email Marketing Report—a comprehensive report covering everything you need to know to create a successful email program for the holidays.

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