Happy Festivus: Email deliverability for the holiday season

Want to boost your holiday email deliverability? Check out these DIY strategies to ensure you're on the nice list. Read more...



Fall is my favorite season. I love the colorful leaves and the smell of pumpkin spice latte when I walk into our local Starbucks. From spooky Halloween decorations to the festive Thanksgiving dinner and opening gifts on Christmas morning…  But what I enjoy the most is the holiday shopping! 

Most marketing forecasters - such as Deloitte and Forrester - predict an 18-25% increase in online retail sales this year. Given that many people still may avoid in-person shopping on Black Friday since the pandemic began, many shoppers will be taking advantage of online sales. So, most brands will use this time to maximize their revenue. And that’s where optimizing email deliverability comes in.

Why should you prepare your email strategy for the holidays?

As all email marketers know, email volume tends to increase during the holidays (and that includes Festivus) dramatically. Most retailers make the bulk of their revenue during Q4, so the stakes are high in customer engagement and conversions. But when mailbox providers experience this sending increase, they can take longer to mitigate deliverability issues during this period of high email activity.

While you cannot magically fix all sending errors, you can prevent deliverability issues through responsible sending, and a well-planned holiday strategy this season. Mailbox providers such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Outlook have some tolerance for the spike of email marketing traffic, but this does not mean marketers should just increase the traffic without taking safety precautions. It’s crucial to keep in mind that reputation is not built overnight. Brands that have established good domain and IP reputations will experience more flexibility from the ISPs

How can you protect your deliverability this holiday season?

Since there will be many brands competing to get consumers’ attention and get into the inbox, it is very important to do the following things:

1. Start mailing earlier than Black Friday

During Email Camp 2020, an ISP recommended marketers to start sending holiday campaigns earlier than other brands - before Black Friday - and have less frequent campaigns. For example, send your Black Friday offer on the Wednesday before to beat the spikes on Friday morning. This strategy is essential because it gives you a higher chance of getting your recipients’ attention ahead of the Black Friday email increase. Additionally, when sending your messages during a lower-volume time period, ISPs have more time to solve deliverability issues and keep your campaigns on track.

2. Clean your list

All great senders will benefit from running their list through Mailgun’s list cleaning services prior to the holiday mailing. This is a great opportunity to get rid of mistyped domains and high-risk email addresses that taint your sender reputation.

Cleaning your list has a very positive impact on your deliverability. Because you have fewer high-risk and nonexistent addresses, your emails will be less likely to be flagged or blocked by ISPs. This decreases your chances of having deliverability problems and keeps your reputation and sending strategy strong.

3. Leverage seed testing

Run your major campaign through the Mailgun Inbox Placement and try to resolve any “spam-foldering” issues ahead of time. Seed testing helps you land in the primary inbox, which is the best way to get your customers’ attention and let them know your messages have value. Additionally, you can use seed testing to decrease the number of emails that go to spam or other tabs, thus keeping your deliverability healthy. You can also make sure your emails are landing in the correct tab (primary, social, promotions) on Gmail. 

4. Segment your list based on engagement

This time of the year, you should only focus on mailing to your most engaged audience. These are the people who will bring the highest ROI to your business. No matter how tempting is to send emails to the more extensive list, getting blocked or “spam-foldered” by the ISPs is not something you want to experience during a busy holiday season. ISPs are already dealing with an increased volume of email and support tickets. Do not expect a fast response time from the postmaster teams if you get blocked. It is easier to avoid the blocks by following best practices than by dealing with a block resolution afterward.

5. Send valuable offers

Provide your best offer so people will engage with your emails. This will result in more emails landing in the inbox, more customer conversions, and more sales. Make sure your subject line is transparent and reflective of the offer and your brand.

6. Be mindful of people’s inbox

During this time of year, with the influx of marketing emails, less definitely is more. What has worked in prior years may not work this year. We are all spending way more time than ever on our computers, so be mindful of email fatigue and try to reduce your email frequency. This helps decrease customer complaints, boost your deliverability, and keep your readers satisfied.

7. Monitor your reputation

Major ISPs such as Google, Microsoft, and Verizon Media offer a reputation monitoring page through their postmaster pages. I highly recommend closely monitoring your IP/ domain reputation and taking immediate action if you see concerning signals. This way, you can solve any deliverability issues quickly and efficiently.

8. Render and optimize for all platforms

Making sure your email campaigns render nicely in any browser or device is the most crucial thing to consider when preparing your campaigns. It is critical to guarantee that your email message is received by any subscriber regardless of demographic or device. 

Simple things to consider include: easy to read text, nice graphics, and clever use of size and color to produce a beautiful user experience. “Dark mode” is currently dominating the visual and online design market as it is gentler on the eyes by boosting contrast which makes lighter-colored objects stand out. We highly recommend using Email On Acid to make sure your emails are properly designed and formatted before sending them. 

It’s time to get ready for the holiday season

So, now you know the reason for the email season, it’s time to get your email program ready for the holidays and start applying deliverability best practices before it’s too late.

Here are  eight steps to ensure your email campaigns land in the inbox so you can experience serenity now:

  • Start sending emails before Black Friday.

  • Clean your email list before sending.

  • Leverage seed testing ahead of time.

  • Segment your lists based on your email engagement.

  • Always send valuable offers.

  • Be mindful of people’s inboxes.

  • Keep an eye on your IP and domain reputation.

  • Ensure email campaigns are rendering nicely in any browser or device.

I hope you all enjoy an enriching and beautiful holiday season! Remember, our deliverability team is only one click away, so please let us know how we can help!

Happy holidays and happy mailing!


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