Ghosts of Holidays Past: What to Watch out for This Year

Posted by Tom Sather 

Last week, I showed you the email marketing ghosts of holidays past, what to prepare for now and what could go wrong in the future. Like Scrooge learned in “A Christmas Carol”, it all depends on the actions you take today.

Last year, email volumes increased exponentially leading up to Black Friday and through Cyber Monday. Volumes declined from their highs but remained above average until just a few days before Christmas. This Christmas year should email volumes increasing again, but early data is showing that email volumes rose faster and earlier this year with more retailers forgoing Thanksgiving promotions this year for earlier Black Friday deals.

In Christmases past, subscribers complained more, read less and marketers saw more emails delivered to the spam folder. But in 2018, it seemed that not only did subscribers tolerate more emails, but they also liked receiving them as open rates, or read rates, didn’t see a decline. Likewise, subscribers complained less, or marked email as spam less, than they have in prior years. In 2019, no doubt some marketers will see challenges, but if they are sending email promotions their subscribers want, 2019 should be another banner year for the email marketing channel.

But what if your future holiday season sees ghosts of its own? Many of you wrote in with your questions of how to deal with unexpected holiday horrors.

1. Don’t add to the holiday stress.
Avoid making major changes such as adding a new IP address. While it may seem logical to add an IP address now to avoid dreaded “too busy, try again later” messages, unless you’ve already “warmed” the IP addresses to have a positive reputation, it’s too late at this point add an IP address and experience positive results. Wait until after the new year.

2. Skip the Black Friday lines.
If you’re receiving the above mentioned “try again later” bounce error when trying to send to certain ISPs and mailbox providers, check your connection and throughput settings and changing them if needed. If you’re still seeing this error, consider aligning and sending time-sensitive campaigns at non-peak sending times.

3. If you’re making a list, check it twice.
Email marketers see their subscriber and customer lists increase after the holiday season. But bad data can come back to haunt you next year if you’re not validating addresses and cleaning up invalid records. Also, resist the urge to send to lists you haven’t mailed to in a while, such as bounce lists, suppression lists, or inactive lists as it almost always results in mail being delivered to spam or blocked.

Want to know more about to handle some of the most common holiday email nightmares? Check our recent webinar The Email Marketer’s Holiday Survival Checklist.

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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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