3 Quick Deliverability Tips Ahead of the Holiday Rush

Posted by Bonnie Malone 

Holiday spending online is projected to grow more than 15 percent during the 2017 holiday season, and 2 percent for brick-and-mortar stores, according to eMarketer. That’s $916 billion in holiday spending opportunity for retailers over the next couple of months.

For many, the holiday campaign planning cycle has been in full swing for several weeks now. The focus is largely on new hot products and hotter prices, offer strategies, and maybe even a design makeover for creative templates. While those are all key elements for standing out among the competition this holiday season, those tactics pale in comparison to one: getting your campaign emails into subscribers’ inboxes.

On average, according to a report from my company, Retun Path, 23 percent of email messages sent in the U.S. land in junk folders or get blocked altogether. That means for every million subscribers you’re attempting to reach, 230,000 will never receive your email. Therefore, while deliverability may not be as flashy a topic as offers or design, it’s crucial for success amid the increased email volume of November and December.

Mailbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Microsoft  and others each have proprietary methods for processing and filtering the billions of messages received every day. It can be tough to identify legitimate senders amid the many fraudsters. However, there are a few things you can do to help mitigate the risk of looking like a spammer:

  • Slowly increase volume. It’s tempting to flip a switch and crank up your send frequency or email list size the first weeks of November with the launch of your first holiday campaigns. However, a huge and sudden spike in sending activity could look very spammy and start your season off with a huge portion of your emails going to the junk folder or being blocked altogether. Rather than launching all at once, plan out a gradual increase in campaign frequency and volume over several weeks. Send 10 percent to 20 percent more volume with each campaign until you’re able to successfully send to the largest portion of your list. Being methodical in managing volume also helps to identify potential issues (like spam traps) along the way, so you can resolve each problem before it has the opportunity to negatively impact your business.
  • Remove dead weight from your list. With more focus on subscriber engagement than ever before, hanging onto old and nonresponsive contacts in your email list only damages your performance potential. Before the holiday season ramps up, remove addresses that haven’t opened, clicked or purchased in more than 13 months. (This time frame accounts for seasonal shoppers.) While it’s a bit counterintuitive to remove subscribers to improve performance, the risk of continuing to send to dead weight far outweighs the potential purchase a lapsed subscriber may make.
  • Suppress complainers and unsubscribes immediately. Subscribers have ample opportunities to provide retailers with feedback. When that feedback is positive in nature — i.e., a click or purchase — it’s happily received. However, when that feedback is negative — i.e., reporting a message as spam or unsubscribing — many retailers are hesitant to take action. By failing to remove subscribers who have clearly asked to stop receiving your email, you risk frustrating that subscriber, who may subsequently report every email as spam, or worse, stop buying from your brand entirely. More importantly, the compounded negative metrics damage your sending reputation and directly contribute to an increase in spam filtering or blocking of all your email. Don’t hesitate to remove complainers and unsubscribes from your list; continuing to send to them is too hefty of a risk.

Give your holiday season every opportunity to be the best yet! With a few thoughtful tactics in place, your messages can have the best chance to arrive in the inbox. After all, it won’t matter how beautiful the email looks if no one is viewing it.

This post originally appeared in Total Retail.

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About Bonnie Malone

Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying, and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and TotalRetail.

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