5 Tips to Get More of Your Holiday Emails in the Inbox

Dec 07, 2018


BEST PRACTICES SERIES

Article ImageThe holidays are fast approaching, but it’s not too late to make some last minute tweaks to ensure your holiday emails perform as efficiently as Santa’s workshop. We all know the holidays are a critical time for email marketers, so every positive change you make can have a real impact on the bottom line.

Following these five tips can help to ensure a holly, jolly holiday season!

Make Your List, and Check it Twice

The holidays are the worst possible time to discover you have list hygiene issues. So take steps now to ensure your list is as clean as possible.

  • This is no time to dust off old subscriber lists. People who haven’t heard from you in a while won’t be expecting your email, which can lead to spam complaints. Old lists are also likely to contain unknown users and spam traps—all of which can damage your sender reputation and jeopardize future holiday mailings.
  • Check your list for inactive subscribers, and consider suppressing them from holiday email campaigns. Subscribers who haven’t opened your emails in years aren’t likely to have a sudden change of heart during the holidays. Stick with mailing to your loyal, active subscribers—or at least people who have engaged with your email within the last year.
  • Consider taking advantage of a list validation service, which can help to weed out invalid email addresses, reduce bounces, and improve your inbox placement rate.

 

Leave the Spiking to the Eggnog

Large spikes in sending volume can make you look like a spammer, prompting mailbox providers to filter your email to the spam folder. While you’ll likely want to send more email than normal during the holidays, it’s important to keep your day-to-day sending volume as consistent as possible. Instead of dramatically increasing your send volume all at once, try a gradual ramp-up until you reach your desired volume.

And don’t forget—a huge drop-off in send volume can also look suspicious to mailbox providers. So once the holidays are over, reduce your email volume slowly rather than stopping altogether. 

 

Give Every Subscriber Just What They Want

Email volume is always high during the holidays. In fact, Return Path research shows that in 2017, email send volume exceeded the yearly average throughout the entire holiday season, peaking at 122% above average on November 29. Unfortunately for you, that means your holiday email campaign is competing with countless others in the inbox.

In order to stand out from the crowd, make your email campaigns as enticing as possible. Starting with the subject line and continuing throughout the email experience, make sure every aspect is customized according to the individual subscriber’s behaviors and preferences. In addition to the obvious benefit of increased sales, customizing your email campaigns can also provide another important benefit: better inbox placement.

More than ever before, mailbox providers like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and AOL are relying on engagement based filtering to catch unwanted email before it’s delivered to the inbox. To do this, they look at how users interact with messages from a given sender—things like how many messages are opened, read, forwarded, and deleted without reading. By understanding how subscribers engage with a sender’s email, mailbox providers are better able to determine which emails are wanted by subscribers—and which should be sent to the spam folder. The bottom line: more engaging email campaigns are more likely to be opened and read, which in turn leads to better inbox placement over time.

 

Stay off the “Naughty List”

Landing on a blacklist may not automatically spell disaster for your email program, but can definitely cause problems—especially during the critical holiday season. There are more than 300 publicly available blacklists that mailbox providers use to stop spam from reaching their customers. Most mailbox providers combine data from various public blacklists—in addition to their own data—to make blocking decisions.

Each blacklist has its own unique set of criteria for evaluating senders, but certain factors are commonly taken into account:

  • Poor IP address reputation—Senders on a shared IP address are often blacklisted through no fault of their own, because bad behavior by one sender hurts every sender on the IP address. Sending from a dedicated IP address will eliminate this problem—but wait until after the holidays to make the switch, so you’ll have time to warm up your new IP address. 
  • Spammy sending practices—Reputable senders follow common best practice recommendations, like collecting email addresses through legitimate channels, sending only with permission, maintaining a clean subscriber list, and avoiding “spammy” content. Straying from these important principles can make you look like a spammer.
  • Spam complaints—Spam complaints are especially common during the holidays — up to four times the yearly average during the 2017 holiday season. Sign up for feedback loops, so you’ll know when spam complaints occur. And if you do receive a spam complaint, take immediate action to suppress that email address or remove it from your list.

 

Remember that Not Everyone Will Be “Home” for the Holidays 

Today’s consumers are constantly on the move, and mobile devices have become popular for both reading email and making purchases. In fact, Return Path research shows that during the 2017 holiday season, subscribers read more than half of their emails (52%) on mobile devices. In addition, 40% of all 2017 Black Friday online transactions were completed on smartphones—up 11% from 2016.

Subscribers expect a seamless mobile experience, and they’re likely to delete your email immediately if it renders poorly on their mobile devices. If your email campaigns aren’t already being designed to optimize the mobile experience, it’s time to embrace a mobile-first or responsive design philosophy. Your subscribers—and your bottom line—with thank you.


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