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Despite a challenging 2020 holiday season, brands can ensure their messages reach inboxes by embracing a customer-centric, thoughtful approach. Here are 6 tips to hit those inboxes this holiday season.

Do you hear what I hear? Everyone is saying that the holiday season is going to look a lot different this year. With COVID-19’s strain on in-person contact, the annual surge in online sales is sure to scale new heights as family and friends send gifts in lieu of gathering. While retailers can likely plan on record-breaking sales, email deliverability should remain an integral part of your marketing strategy. Even the most amazing campaign with the sharpest offers won't win conversions if no one sees it!

Here are the Braze deliverability team's top six tips for ensuring that your emails successfully hit the inbox on Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and beyond.

1. Don't Gamble!

If you already have a successful email marketing program, now is not the time to try something experimental like rebranding or doubling your audience size. Subscribers and mailbox providers reward consistency. Radical changes to content, volume, or cadence can land your mail in the spam folder, and that means that all those cool changes you want to show off will remain unseen by your subscribers. Your time and effort are wasted, and so is that good reputation you spent all year building.

2. If You Must Gamble, Test First!

You read and agree with number one...but maybe you found a cache of old email addresses in a file and want to send a blast about one of your holiday-themed products. Or, maybe you just happened to change the name of your product recently and need to let everyone know. We get it—sometimes deliverability takes a backseat to a larger business goal. If you absolutely must try something new during the holiday season, test it out on a statistically significant segment of your list first to see how it performs. Subscribers may reward you with a high open rate, or recipients who aren’t expecting to see you in their inbox may pile on some spam complaints. Be sure you're looking at all of the data and what it means for your sending reputation before determining whether the test was a success.

3. Higher Volumes Take Longer to Deliver

If you’re planning to double or triple your usual volumes, you should expect delays. First, internet service providers (ISPs) aren’t used to seeing those kinds of volumes from your sending domain and IPs, and your current sending reputation likely won’t support instant acceptance of the difference. Also, every retailer and their brother is sending a ton of mail at the same time you are, and the ISPs don’t beef up their infrastructure just for the season. At a minimum, you should expect high deferrals at high volumes. Offers with very short-time availability may not arrive in the inbox until after they’ve expired!

Additionally, if you want to drastically increase your audiences yet keep optimal delivery, you should start IP warming far in advance. Check out how Canva increased their weekly email sends from 30 million to 50 million while maintaining 99% deliverability for some insight into what success looks like.

4. Be Respectful of Resources

Everyone is dealing with limited resources right now. To protect your ROI, try to keep both recipients and ISPs in mind while planning your email outreach. Consumers have lost jobs and wages, and may not be able to afford the same products they did last year. Your subscribers may also be fatigued from the constant onslaught of offers and updates in their inbox. Consider sending them less mail, better deals, or lower-priced options. On the other end of the email transmission, ISPs are dealing with an uptick in both legitimate mail and fraudulent activity during this season, so filters may be more aggressive than usual. Sending consistently and avoiding large spikes in volume can help reduce the strain on mailbox providers, ultimately allowing your mail to arrive quicker.

5. Allow Room for Contingencies

Your calendar may be stuffed full of campaigns, ready to launch as soon as the gravy boat is docked. Before you hit "send", take a gander at the calendar and make sure you've allowed some breathing room in case there are any snags. Anything from supply delays and site outages to blocks at a specific domain can put a crimp in your plans, so adding a few days to your schedule can help cushion some stress.

6. If You Don't Have Anything Compelling to Say, Don't

Subscribers are looking for more this year than a standard, boring, product email. If someone is on your list, then they already know about your brand and your product. In order to spend time engaging with your email, the encounter needs to be worth subscribers' time. A captivating subject line, exciting copy, and intriguing images can all show subscribers that you value their time. If you find yourself sending campaigns just to send them, reconsider. Subscribers respond more positively to a rare, valuable email than a daily reminder that your product exists, and spam complaints can and will have a negative impact on your reputation. An email that never gets sent never gets complained about—so when in doubt‚ skip it!

Final Thoughts

Despite a challenging 2020 holiday season, brands can ensure their messages reach inboxes by embracing a customer-centric, thoughtful approach—just like they should any other day of the year. To learn how real companies use these strategies, check out how Happn increased email deliverability by 3X with a cross-channel approach.

Alison Gootee

Alison is a member of Braze's team of deliverability experts. A collector of colorful shoes, earrings, and throw pillows, her personal motto is, "too much is never enough....except when it comes to sending email."