Here’s why you need to optimize email deliverability ahead of the 2020 holiday season

There’s lots of buzz in the marketing world regarding this year’s holiday season, with headlines like “Will there be a Black Friday this year?” and “Black Friday is over.” Forbes reports differing forecasts: Deloitte estimates a rise in holiday retail sales of 1-1.5 percent, while Forrester expects a decline of 2.5 percent for the full year. However, most forecasters agree that online holiday shopping will shatter previous growth. Forrester is predicting 18.5 percent growth in online retail sales and Deloitte is aiming even higher with a 25 to 35 percent growth in e-commerce sales during the holiday season.

With the high expectation of increased online shopping, marketers have a unique opportunity to capitalize on email conversions. You can write a brilliant subject line, have beautiful imagery and engaging content. But, if that email doesn’t get delivered or land in the inbox, the customer doesn’t have the opportunity to convert. For an e-commerce business, that results in a direct impact to revenue. Therefore, it is vital to ensure that your email marketing efforts aren’t tarnished by poor email deliverability.

ISPs (Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail etc.) continue to increase the sophistication of the algorithms they use to filter email. The main goal of these algorithms is to deliver email that users want to their inboxes and filter email that is unwanted to users’ spam folders. With the main goal of an ISP in mind, the ultimate focus for senders should be to increase positive engagement while minimizing negative engagement. Positive engagement with an email includes opens, clicks, forwards and replies, which indicates to the ISP that the content is wanted. Negative engagement includes ignoring, deleting without opening, unsubscribing and marking as spam. These types of actions send a strong message to the ISP that emails from that brand are unwanted.

“A goal without a plan is just a wish.”

Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

While positive subscriber engagement is essential to optimal email deliverability, there are other factors that contribute to the overall sending reputation. Adobe Deliverability Consultants consistently observe volume spikes as one of the most common issues resulting in poor deliverability during the holiday shopping season. Sudden spikes in volume from a domain or IP can trigger a red flag within the ISP’s monitoring systems, as they can be misinterpreted as a spammer tactic. It will be important to carefully plan out campaign schedules during this peak season. Planning campaigns in advance will help keep marketers aware of potential spikes in volume. Being aware in advance will allow for time to adjust and scale up volume to neutralize any expected peaks.

There tends to be a lot of competing messages in a consumer’s mailbox due to an increase in frequency and volume from all retailers in various industries. Improve engagement and the timely delivery of email by avoiding on the hour sends. For example, most marketers schedule emails to send on the hour (9:00 am). This can overwhelm the ISP networks and slow down the delivery of mail. Try scheduling campaigns at off times (8:13 am or 8:47 am). This will help ISPs manage the large volume of email processing through their servers.

During the planning phase, complete a health check on your reputation:

“Selling to people who want to hear from you is more effective than interrupting strangers who don’t.”

Seth Godin

A recent Adobe study found that 61 percent of consumers stop engaging with brands that offer frustrating experiences. One of the top complaints was “spam email.” The importance of data quality is sometimes overlooked to meet growth goals. Using tactics to grow the database size can do more harm than good. Keep bounces and complaints low, and inbox placement high, by avoiding common strategies that can negatively impact email delivery and inbox placement.

Strategies to avoid:

As discussed, subscriber email engagement and volume consistency are key to ensuring optimal email delivery and inbox placement. Targeted campaigns can be one of the best ways to control volume and maintain high engagement. In addition to targeting active email subscribers, look for creative ways to segment. Data, such as browsing or purchase history, could provide insight on how to deliver relevant content to smaller segments. Targeting seasonal shoppers could be a beneficial option for reaching out to inactive segments during the holiday season. Coupons and offers are huge purchase drivers and are most useful when relevancy to the subscriber is considered. To increase spend, try dynamically populating different coupon codes for segments that are known to only purchase with a coupon and limit discounts for shoppers that don’t need the extra incentive.

Creative ideas to target and segment campaigns:

“Quality is everyone’s responsibility.”

W. Edwards Deming, data scientist

If you don’t know whether your emails are getting delivered or whether they are landing in the inbox versus the spam folder, you are putting your email marketing program at a disadvantage. The 2020 holiday shopping season is expected to see the largest growth in history so it’s especially important to monitor and optimize deliverability. Countless hours will go into the careful planning and production of holiday email campaigns. If the emails bounce or ultimately land in a subscriber’s spam folder, they won’t be opened, the call-to-action (CTA) won’t be clicked, and those lost conversions will result in lost revenue.

In addition to the recommendations provided, adherence to email deliverability best practices is the tried and true method for maintaining optimal inbox placement.

Look out for Adobe’s 2021 email deliverability predictions coming later this year.