Updated by John Peters November 2019, originally published November 2018
The holidays are upon us, and many marketers are working hard to prepare for their biggest season of the year. After all, customers are on the lookout for gifts and experiences they can buy for their loved ones and, let’s be honest, for themselves. And they’re willing to spend more money to buy the best.
In fact, Reuters reported that sales in 2019 are estimated to grow between 3.8% and 4.2% to a range of $727.9 billion to $730.7 billion, compared to $701.2 billion, or 2.1% growth, in 2018.
Deloitte also forecasted an increase in e-commerce sales by 14–18% in 2019 compared to the same holiday period in 2018.
It’s no surprise that email is a primary driver of holiday revenue, accounting for up to 20% of online holiday site visits.
With email being one of the most profitable ways to advertise your business (every $1 spent on email marketing sees up to $42 in return), you’d be remiss to neglect the revenue-driving potential of email marketing this holiday season.
Mastering deliverability for your holiday email campaigns
Customers expect their favorite companies and brands to offer deals and promotions to attract their business. And your subscribers know the inbox is where most of those deals will find them.
With an estimated 293 billion emails sent daily in 2019, brands are competing for space in their customers’ crowded inboxes this shopping season.
Likewise, while mailbox providers are prepared for this annual record-breaking time of mail volume, their receiving servers can become overwhelmed, leading to longer delivery times and emails being rejected.
You have amazing offers and incentives and you want to make sure your customers and subscribers see them. It’s doubly important during this period to focus on maximizing inbox placement and avoiding anything that will negatively impact subscriber engagement and your sender reputation with inbox providers.
As a marketer, you know that orchestrating a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday demands a finely tuned marketing strategy and that email will be one of the chief tools in delivering strong sales performance.
Not only do consumers who purchase products through email than those that don’t receive email offers, email subscribers are also 3x more likely to share content on social media than leads who came through another channel.
A powerful holiday email marketing campaign brings in more revenue from your most loyal customers and also leads to more shares, meaning you convert new customers.
But how do you outperform an increasingly crowded inbox, and cut through the noise during the busiest online shopping days of the year?
Deliverability is the key to holiday email marketing success
By focusing on key strategies to optimize your sender reputation and boost and maintain subscriber engagement, you’ll reign supreme in the inbox.
Improving your deliverability means your emails will consistently land in your subscriber’s inbox, but during a time when you’re sending emails more often than usual, maintaining your deliverability can’t be left to chance.
Instead, make deliverability a priority and take deliberate steps to improve your sender reputation and get ready to see your best results yet from a holiday email marketing campaign.
Read on to discover the 5 steps you need to take to maximize deliverability for the biggest shopping season of the year:
1. Review your subscribers
The first step to improving your deliverability is to prune your list. Take a hard look at your subscribers to weed out the ones who are no longer active and segment your audience based on how recently they’re interacting with your emails.
The lack of engagement (no opens) from the inactive segment of your list is damaging your overall sender reputation, and this means it’s impacting inbox placement for your active subscribers.
Removing these inactive contacts means your emails have a better chance of landing in the inbox of your active customers, who are more likely to open your emails and click a link or purchase a product.
As for the least engaged subscribers (people who have been on your list for at least a year and have shown no activity) you may consider sending them a re-engagement campaign.
It’s important to know that these campaigns usually have very low open rates and conversion rates, and this lack of engagement, if sent en masse, will damage your sender reputation.
If you do choose to send a re-engagement campaign, you may wish to break it into several smaller campaigns and send them at the same time as emails to your most active contacts to mitigate any negative fall out.
It’s also a good idea to know who your most engaged subscribers are so you can utilize them for A/B testing. This will help you determine what is most effective in terms of subject line and email content for your audience, and will help drive up open rates and click-through rates.
You can also set up a subscriber preference center, so you can collect important and relevant information directly from your audience. The more information you have on your audience the more focused and targeted your emails will be.
It’s important to take the time to review sign-up sources and ensure you have the right permission to email your subscribers, so you can send them email content that is both wanted and relevant to their interests.
The holiday season also means you’ll probably see an increase in new subscribers joining your email lists, and you can optimize these new signups with an automated welcome journey.
It’s also important to safeguard your signup forms from any malicious spambot activity by using ReCaptcha on all your sign up forms.
Though this email from Madewell isn’t holiday-themed, it wouldn’t take much to add a seasonal picture for this time of year:
A list full of excited and engaged contacts will increase your open rates and click-throughs, improving your deliverability.
2. Focus on send frequency
Sending too many emails to people who don’t want them probably won’t re-engage them, but it might annoy them. 78% of consumers unsubscribe from emails because brands were sending them sending too many emails.
Sending too many emails is a great way to disengage your audience. Avoid inbox fatigue by only sending emails when your subscribers want them.
Not sure how often your subscribers want to hear from you? Don’t bother digging deep into your analytics. Instead, simply ask them.
Provide your subscribers with the option to determine their own send frequency by self-subscribing to monthly or weekly updates from your brand.
Allowing your subscribers to self-segment takes the guesswork out of your email marketing and allows you to feel in control of your email marketing strategy.
Another great way to improve your deliverability is to optimize your send times according to when your subscribers are most likely to see and open your emails.
There are plenty of studies that offer advice on when you should be sending your next campaign, and they all suggest that Tuesday-Thursday from 8-10am are the best times to send, while your subscribers are still fresh.
Getting an email in front of your contacts at the right time can be the difference between an open—and eventually a conversion—and getting deleted.
3. Personalize your emails
In order to send only the content your subscribers want to see, segment your list according to age, location, gender, or whatever makes the most sense for your business. And the more specific you can get, the better.
In fact, you should aim to create a segment comprised of one individual. After all, marketers have witnessed an increase of 760% in email revenue from segmented campaigns, so the more specific you can get, the better results you’ll see.
Though it might seem like a lot of work to create emails tailored to the smallest segments possible, utilizing dynamic content means you don’t have to do that much extra work in order to send information tailored to your segments.
Dynamic content allows you to change aspects of your email based on the segments you’re sending to. For instance, subscribers with an interest in Las Vegas would see a picture of the Strip while subscribers interested in New York City would see a picture of the Statue of Liberty.
When you regularly send your subscribers high-value content that benefits them, they begin to look forward to your email and open it right away.
Your open rates will go up, as will the trust people have in your brand. Not only will you improve your deliverability, but you’ll also increase your revenue, customer retention, and brand loyalty.
This holiday email is a great way to tell your eco-conscious subscribers you have the gifts they’re looking for:
4. Consistency is queen
The most important thing to remember during the holiday season is not to make any major changes to your email marketing strategy.
This includes making any changes to your email address, or email domain, or sending irrelevant content your subscribers didn’t sign up for.
People may have whitelisted your email domain, or saved your email address to their ‘safe sender’ list, so making changes can impact delivery.
Also, if people are used to receiving emails from a specific email address, suddenly changing it could result in a drop in open rates because people may not recognize or be suspicious of the new address.
It can be tempting to fire off emails once, twice, or more a day during Black Friday, Cyber Monday, Giving Tuesday, and Small Business Saturday, but remember, if you’ve been sending one email a month up to that point, your subscribers are not expecting to receive a large number of emails from you within 24 hours.
Email fatigue is a real danger to your marketing program, and if a large percentage of your emails are going unopened, this lack of engagement will cause your future emails to get sorted as junk or spam!
5. Mobile optimization
It’s not surprising to anyone that more people are conducting business on their mobile devices than ever before. This is true for online holiday shopping, too. According to Adobe’s findings, mobile accounted for 33.1% of the total $108.2 billion generated, bringing in $35.9 billion.
Likewise, 46% of all online orders on Thanksgiving Day and 50% of all online orders on Christmas Day happened on a mobile device. Additionally, emails not optimized for mobile devices get deleted by 71.2% of users and 30% unsubscribe from the list if the emails are not mobile optimized.
Needless to say, if optimizing for mobile isn’t currently a part of your email marketing strategy, take the time this holiday season to incorporate it.
Subscribers respond best to emails that work where they’re reading and more often than not these days, that means emails have to work well online. Emails that don’t render well will hurt your deliverability in the long run.
This email from Uber is easy to see at a glance and will look great on mobile or on a desktop:
Senders who are laser-focused on their most engaged subscribers are the ones who cut through the noise and are least likely to experience issues when sending their holiday email marketing campaigns.
If you don’t pay close attention to your email marketing strategy this time of year, you can expect issues that don’t have technical solutions: inbox placement is tied directly to your sender reputation, which is dictated by audience engagement, list health, list management, and sending consistency.
You won’t see your share of holiday revenue if your emails don’t get in front of your audience, so taking the time to consider the ways you can improve your deliverability this season will improve your results and ultimately lead to your best holiday season yet.