Email Deliverability

Email Deliverability During the 2021 Holiday Season

Alison Gootee By Alison Gootee Nov 24, 2021

It's that time again! The 2021 holidays are just weeks away, meaning that everyone's inboxes are about to be stuffed as full as Santa's satchel. While our 2020 tips are still relevant, there are a few new tidbits we collected to help you continue to "sleigh" this year's unique challenges.

1. Understand the holiday landscape

Black Friday has historically been the biggest shopping day of the year, and retailers have now extended the one-day sale into several days of deals including Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and even an entire Cyber Week! Sales announcements and special deals are always crowd-pleasers, but the lengthening sales period can result in audience fatigue as their inboxes rapidly fill up with deals, often from the same brands. Since you'll be battling so many other senders for attention, this is a perfect opportunity to be intentional with your offers and cater to your audience's specific needs.

2. Let subscribers decide when they want to see promotions

Don't bombard people until they're feeling overwhelmed by offers. Instead of risking an unsubscribe or spam complaint (and the permanent removal of that address from your list), give subscribers the option to opt-down, or even pause their subscription temporarily. Ask now, before you start sending holiday offers, and again mid-season. Sale-hungry November shoppers may be tired of the email uptick by December, and budget-conscious consumers may be irritated by deepening discounts as the days pass. Customer retention is much more cost-effective than attracting new fans, so keeping those existing subscribers happy is of utmost importance for your email marketing program.

3. Know your purpose

Take a holistic approach by considering your audience's needs as well as your product's purpose when building your holiday campaign plans. Ask yourself several questions, keeping your customers' experience in mind. Are you marketing a product that makes a great gift for others, or is it an item that people primarily purchase for themselves? Is early delivery integral to hosting a successful get-together, or is it a service that can be used all year? Are your holiday offers truly unique, or are they mostly unchanged from the rest of the year? Are you targeting subscribers through both email and SMS? If your messaging isn't providing timely value to your subscribers, consider limiting sends to periods in which they're most likely to engage with your brand in an organic way, and be cautious of inundating folks through multiple channels.

4. Be mindful of the volume of sends

Pay attention to the provider breakdown of your list before increasing volumes. Gmail tends to be less sensitive to volume changes, whereas Microsoft domains react strongly to growing traffic, often by blocking messages from being delivered. If you've suffered any deliverability declines during the year, now is not the time to go full-throttle. Deliverability damage can take weeks or months to mitigate, resulting in the loss of engagement and income as many buyers still seek offers well into the new year. To help control volumes, check out the Braze platform’s rate-limiting and frequency-capping features. We generally recommend that you not exceed double the prior day's volumes when ramping to higher volumes.

5. Know what MPP means for your efforts

One major update to this year's marketing landscape is the rollout of Apple's Mail Privacy Protection. MPP dilutes the accuracy of the email open rate by automatically loading all images in an email, including the invisible open tracking pixel used to determine if a message has been opened, essentially resulting in a false positive. This affects recipients who use an Apple Mail app to access their inbox; a wide swath of subscribers since anyone at any domain can use Apple Mail. The jury is still out on just how noticeable of an impact this will have on open rates industry wide, but with no reliable way to determine a programmatic open from a human one, all senders should be cautious of counting an open as a sign of engagement. Mailbox providers have their own methods of monitoring recipient feedback so this update doesn't have a direct influence on sending reputation, but senders will need to reconsider what criteria are being used to determine whether an email address is an engaged one. If opens have historically served as the sole sign of life, more conditions like clicks, site visits, or purchases will need to be added to the calculation. A subscriber who appears to open every email in your 12 Days of Christmas series does not necessarily elevate them to number one fan status—they may just be an iOS15 user, growing weary of the constant alerts despite the signals to the contrary. MPP also affects campaigns triggered by an open event, so it's a good idea to review your action-based automation campaigns to ensure that recipients won't receive a slew of potentially unwanted email-based on fallacious data.

Final Thoughts

While the last year has been anything but normal, brands can meet new challenges by putting their customer’s needs and wants at the center of everything they do. Just like any other day of the year. To learn more about customer engagement strategies from top brands, check out the Braze case studies page.

Alison Gootee

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."

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