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Email icon with holiday bow to demonstrate deliverability

Holiday Email Deliverability: Make This Season a Joyful One

This post was originally published November 21, 2022.

This year, Iterable users sent over 4 billion emails over Black Friday/Cyber Monday weekend—a 36% increase in volume since 2022. Since Iterable users are not the only brands sending marketing communications, just imagine the huge increase in overall email send volume.

Beyond brands, think too about the increase in emails your customers are about to receive. Are they wanting (or even expecting) all of those emails?

If you want to make sure you don’t land on mailbox providers’ (and your customers’) naughty lists, follow our deliverability suggestions to make this season a joyful one.

Ensuring Consent-Based Sending

Many brands feel the pressure to contact all of their subscribers—hoping it will maximize potential sales opportunities—without realizing the long-term impact it can have on deliverability.

A mailbox provider’s role is to protect their ecosystem and keep their users safe by ensuring users want the emails they receive. Here are just some of the ways providers (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail, Apple, amongst many others) evaluate a brand’s reputation:

  • Measuring how much mail is marked as spam
  • Keeping tabs on how many unknown users you send to
  • Sending messages to spam trap networks
  • Paying attention to whether your mail is read or just deleted

When a brand exceeds certain thresholds, such as spam complaint rates, this is a clear signal to mailbox providers that the user doesn’t want to receive these communications, which results in more of the brand’s emails being sent to the spam folder.

It may sound obvious, but make sure your brand is only sending marketing emails to people who have made it clear that they want your email—whether through a recent opt-in or positive engagement.

Weathering a Flurry of Emails

Mailbox providers want their users to receive legitimate mail. However, with a surge in holiday volume, bad actors try to hide amongst all the noise. This results in stricter filtering from mailbox providers being applied to inbound messages.

It is important to note that some mailbox providers’ infrastructures aren’t capable of handling the increase in email volume. What does this mean for marketers?

  • Delayed delivery times
  • Increased in spam placement
  • Increased bounces

While these are not guaranteed to happen to your brand, it’s worth keeping an eye out for these changes during heavy send periods like the holidays.

Tip: Shifting your campaign send times to avoid the top of the hour is known to help avoid rate-limiting delays and, ultimately, blocking. This shift can be five, 10, 15 etc. minutes after the start of the hour.

Tips and Tools to Make the “Nice” List

Knowing how to segment your customer base is important. What times of the day have been proven to drive a lot of engagement? What campaigns have shown the most success? What learnings were gained from those that we can use for the holiday season?

Sending to Engaged Users

From a deliverability reputation standpoint, you want to make sure that the segmentation gives you a better chance of sending to engaged (as defined by you) customers, to protect your reputation with ISPs.

Re-sending emails to customers who haven’t opened emails in the past can be effective sometimes, but remember that these recipients are typically less likely to engage and might start to shift your deliverability down. Consider past purchase behavior and perhaps “clicked but not convert” as an engagement metric.

On the other hand, If a user is clicking, you can assume the content was relevant for them and maybe a slight tweak to the content can get them to convert.

Fine-Tune the Volume

If you do have a large shift in volume from your normal sending, you’re better off breaking it up into smaller blocks that are more similar to your usual sending patterns, even if it means spreading them across multiple days.

Tip: Try to avoid large volume spikes. If you usually send to 50k recipients, don’t change from that too drastically and suddenly decide to send to 150k. Mailbox providers frown upon sudden spikes like that and will immediately defer or block the mail as a result.

Tools That Can Help

You’re not alone when it comes to making email deliverability easier this holiday season. There are tools in and out of Iterable that can help.

Segment Analysis

Within Iterable, if you click to see an individual campaign performance, you can see more granularity at the recipient domain level through a Segment Analysis. Here, you can see your metrics in (Gmail), (Yahoo) or (Microsoft), for example. Some metrics might be declining overall (Opens rates), but when it’s through one mailbox provider, it typically means that your reputation with this mailbox provider has diminished.

If old users, never-engaged users, or users hitting the “spam” button are being targeted in large numbers, you will see your successful delivery rate go down exponentially.

Brand Affinity

If you are not sure how to segment your list, try leveraging the Brand Affinity feature within the Iterable platform to help identify who wants your email.

Brand Affinity uses advanced AI to automatically calculate customer engagement and sentiment based on cross-channel behavior. Brand Affinity then dynamically converts these signals into user profile affinity labels for use in smarter segmentation and more meaningful customer experiences.

Third-Party Tools

Outside of Iterable, getting feedback directly from two major mailbox providers can also provide valuable insight into sending behavior. Take advantage of two free reputation systems you can sign up for to monitor your IP/Domain reputation: Google Postmaster Tools and Microsoft SNDS (if sending on dedicated IPs).

Abide by New Privacy Requirements

“Starting in February of 2024, both Yahoo and Google inboxes will begin to block and aggressively filter incoming email traffic that doesn’t meet new message authentication and procedural requirements. Additionally, they also included some infrastructure and performance thresholds associated with commercial email best practices.” 

To learn more about these updates, check out the full post.

Avoid a Lump of Coal

Mailbox Providers have to decide which brands are “good” and “bad” quickly, so making sure you continue to implement trustworthy behavior will allow you to maximize your inbox during the holidays. The potential short term revenue gains from sending high volumes are not worth the negative long-term impact on your email campaigns.

Take the time. Check your lists…twice. And utilize the tools at your disposal. If you need or want help, schedule a demo today to chat with the Iterable deliverability team to uplevel your email deliverability success.

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