Deliverability Best Practices for the Holiday Season
By Nancy Harris | November 30, 2020
Since nothing about 2020 has been normal, we expect to see atypical holiday shopping patterns. With a significant decline in foot traffic in brick-and-mortar stores, Deloitte projects ecommerce sales to surge by 25 to 30%. As retailers rely on email, holiday deliverability is more important than ever.
During the holidays, the ISPs become more strict with filtering as senders change their audience, list size and cadence. We have some guidance on how you can mitigate the risk of a deliverability issue with all of those factors in play. Follow these email deliverability best practices:
Sender Reputation Is the Key to Holiday Deliverability
With this influx in send volume, ISPs must make adjustments to how they accept and deliver mail. All senders are competing for more limited inbox placement, so ensuring your sender reputation is, and remains, healthy is critical.
Metrics that ISPs look at when scoring your sender reputation include:
- User engagement
- Invalid addresses (hard bounces)
- User complaints
- Spam trap hits
- Drastic changes in send volume
What to Monitor to Avoid Holiday Deliverability Issues
Open rates should be consistent across the top ISPs. If one is significantly lower than the rest, you may have an inboxing issue at that top domain. Are soft bounce rates higher than usual across any major ISPs? That may mean they’re blocking your mail due to abusive metrics or poor sender reputation.
Specifically within Gmail, you can use the Postmaster Tools. If your IP and/or domain reputation dips below medium to low or bad, that is usually indicative of a sender reputation issue at Gmail, resulting in mail being filtered to the spam folder.
Other metrics to monitor to ensure you’re not at risk for deliverability issues include:
- Hard bounce rates. If hard bounces are above 0.5%, check the audience you’re mailing.
- Complaint rates. High complaint rates indicate that users do not like what you are sending, whether that’s content or frequency. Monitor complaint rates with each send.
- Overall open rates for changes to the norm. Low open rates can show poorer engagement and play an important role in your reputation.
- Opt-out rates. You don’t want to sacrifice your loyal list during the holidays. If opt-out rates rise, take a look at what you are doing and adjust.
- Potential bots. While bots can hit sign up pages with email addresses across all ISPs, we tend to see bots hit with Chinese or Russian domains, such as qq.com, 163.com, and mail.ru. Any major spike in sign ups out of the norm should be investigated immediately. Proactively implement Google reCAPTCHA to eliminate the risk of a BOT attack.
Most holiday strategies involve sending to less engaged users or users at a more regular cadence, which often results in hard bounce and complaint spikes, and decreases in user engagement. If these metrics are atypical, it’s important to ensure your delivery and inboxing aren’t impacted.
With holiday deliverability nuances, we have some recommendations to keep in mind during the season.
- Don’t introduce any new lists that are not currently being mailed to via Sailthru.
- Avoid mailing older lists you have not consistently mailed.
- Do not fully remove suppression lists. If you want to begin sending to lesser engaged users, slowly begin well before the holiday season starts. That way, issues can be mitigated before Black Friday.
- Be cautious of new acquisition sources. Test them prior to the holiday season and ensure they don’t result in hard bounces and complaints.
- Edit your signup and opt-out pages carefully.
- Be careful changing your sending cadence. ISPs will penalize you for an inconsistent spike in send volume, so increases in cadence should happen slowly. Provide preferences to allow users to opt down from increased marketing.
- Do not change your sending domain.
Download Delivering Results to the Inbox, Sailthru’s ultimate deliverability playbook, to learn more about all the essentials, including the complex path messages take en route to the inbox, how deliverability drives revenue, the importance of sender reputation and more.
2020 Holiday Marketing Playbook
With all that has happened this year, we expect to see a holiday season unlike any other. That said, the time to start testing and building out email and CRM strategies is now. Along with our Retail Advisor, former JustFab VP Monica Deretich, Sailthru has developed this playbook to help retailers crush Q4 and beyond.
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