Without downplaying our current situation, we can all admit that COVID-19 phrases are overused. You’ve likely heard these sayings over and over again: “Times are changing,” “During these unprecedented times,” “Our new normal,” or “Where’s all the toilet paper?” But what do these phrases really mean?
Aside from the toilet paper (just making sure you’re paying attention!), it’s clear that COVID-19 has transformed our everyday communications. As consumers turn to contact-less interactions, companies from all industries are leaning on developers to re-architect their communications to reflect this changing landscape.
Thankfully, you have email to serve as your foundation for a plethora of communications this holiday season. You’re the architect, but we’ll provide the building blocks you need to grow your email program and make it to the inbox…
Toolbox Tips for a Well-Grounded Black Friday
Consider dedicated IPs 🔩
Do you have a dedicated IP? If not, you’re likely a part of an IP pool. An IP pool combines a group of senders under one sending reputation which can cause other senders’ poor sending habits to negatively impact your deliverability. To avoid faultless deliverability issues, you might consider taking advantage of our dedicated IPs on an Email API Pro plan.
Additionally, one reason to have multiple IPs is to separate your transactional emails from your marketing emails. This prevents your marketing email engagement from having a negative impact on your more critical transactional emails—paramount to an influx of holiday purchases!
Warm-up your IPs ⚒
If you have a dedicated IP and anticipate sending more email volume than usual over the holidays, it’s important to know that sudden spikes in your sending volume will serve as a red flag to ISPs (Internet Service Providers—like Google or Yahoo). When ISPs notice a random increase in volume, they will likely limit your deliverability until they are comfortable with your new volume pattern. Instead of risking deliverability issues during the most critical sending time of the year, try warming up your IPs by slowly increasing your sending volume to 25-40% at a time, up until Black Friday.
Authenticate your domain 🔧
Setting up domain authentication proves to ISPs that your messages are coming from you and Twilio SendGrid has permission to send emails on your behalf. This permission is given by the act of pointing very specific DNS (Domain Name System) entries from your domain registrar to Twilio SendGrid. These entries will automatically set up SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail) records for your mail, which considerably improves your odds of delivery.
In a time of digital acceleration, “domain spoofing,” otherwise known as domain impersonation, is becoming increasingly problematic. These types of cybercriminal attacks can cause deliverability issues, monetary losses, and damage to your brand’s image. By implementing DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, & Conformance) within your account, ISPs will prevent unauthenticated parties from sending mail from your domain and establish a consistent policy for dealing with unauthenticated messages on your behalf.
Additionally, to help address a surge in spoofing as our environment turns digital, we partnered with Valimail to enable you to see who is sending email as your domain, both legitimately and maliciously. Valimail has turnkey solutions for you to monitor and analyze your DMARC reports to further protect your email domain. Signup for a free DMARC Monitor account to see how your domain is being used.
Clean your recipient list ⚙️
When determining your sending reputation, ISPs factor in positive (opens/clicks/replies) and negative engagement (low engagement/spam complaints) from your email program. This means that sending emails to recipients who have not engaged in some time can negatively impact your deliverability. We suggest removing anyone on your list who has not engaged (opened or clicked) with your emails in the past 90 days. This will help prevent your emails from being bounced, blocked, or sent to spam.
Take advantage of the Email Validation API 🗜️
Not only are you sending to existing recipients during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, but you’re also likely collecting a fair amount of new email addresses. Our Email Validation API enables you to detect and suppress invalid email addresses upon submission, whether they are misspelled or faulty. By integrating this validation process into your platform’s signup form, you can reduce your bounce rates and increase your chances of delivery, right off the bat.
Keep a close eye on spam complaints 🔦
Although there is no single value or score that describes your sending reputation, there are tools within your Twilio SendGrid account that enable you to better understand it. Since spam complaints are the strongest negative signal to ISPs, we recommend consistently monitoring spam reports within your account—especially during high-volume sends. Note that a spam complaint rate higher than 0.2% is considered high and can lead to poor deliverability.
Update your preference center ⛏
It’s easy to empathize with recipients who get frustrated with non-stop emails during the holidays. Provide your recipients with a better customer experience and prevent spam complaints by updating your preference center to include a holiday email or promotional category. This sets expectations by enabling recipients to choose which emails they do and do not want to receive from you.
Make sure open and click tracking are enabled 📐
Not only is it important to reflect on your email engagement after the holidays are over, but it’s important to monitor customer engagement during times of heavy sending. Why? Depending on your engagement percentages, you might uncover deliverability issues, messaging mistakes, or insights that can inform your next send. To monitor your engagement, enable open and click tracking within your account.
Believe it or not, spam filters and recipient servers look at the links within your emails to determine whether the links can be trusted before delivering your emails. By branding your links (which specifies that they are coming from your domain), you are no longer relying on click tracking going through a domain that you don’t control—therefore improving your odds of delivery.
Take preventative action with Email Testing 🚧
Double-checking your critical emails before you press send enables you to catch delivery issues or content rendering problems before they arise. Our Email Testing feature, available on an Email API Pro plan, shows you how your email will look across a wide range of inbox providers, how your email might perform against the world’s most powerful spam filters, and the domain reputation of your links before you press send. Pretty nifty, right?
Get help from an expert 👷♀️
If you’re already experiencing deliverability issues, don’t panic. This is a common issue among senders and nothing is permanent. Expert Services enables you to work directly with one of our email specialists to ensure your email engagement, reputation, and deliverability are back on track. In fact, customers who have used Expert Services see an average 97% delivery rate, a 6% increase in open rates, and a 9.3 out of 10 satisfaction score.
Create an action plan ✍️
Last, but certainly not least, it’s essential to plan your holiday sends ahead of time. We recommend deciding now the times and days you’d like to send and blocking off time to prepare, launch, and monitor each send. Avoid sending your emails at the top of the hour to prevent any potential traffic jams. We also suggest creating an action plan for when things go wrong. If you start seeing a spike in spam complaints, will you update your preference center or further segment your list to only include recent engagers? The more you prepare, the better your outcome.
As consumers and businesses turn to contactless communications, companies’ decade-long digital roadmaps have condensed by 6 years! That being said, you’re likely not surprised to hear that holiday shopping this year will look different. Instead of a stampede of shoppers piling into stores to catch the latest discounts, consumers will be anxiously waiting on their laptops, phones, or tablets for the clock to strike midnight. Think Cyber Monday last year, times ten…
Navigating an entirely new digital landscape can feel intimidating, especially when things feel out of your control. However, the beauty in change is that we can control how we respond to it. Although most interactions have turned digital—and consumers’ inboxes will be more flooded than ever before this holiday season—these tools will help you grow your email foundation and architect the groundwork for success, so you can make it to the inbox without a hitch!
Stay tuned for more toolbox tips to ensure you’re prepared for holiday sending! Want more? Check out this blog post, 5 Planning Tips for Holiday Emails in 2020.