When it comes to Black Friday and email marketing, chances are you’ll want to let as many people know about the offers you’ll be running during the sale period.
However, depending on how you’re managing your email marketing channel, sending campaigns to your “full list” can be a risky undertaking. The issue with sending to your entire database comes down to the impact it will have on your email deliverability and sender reputation as an email marketer.
Email deliverability refers to the chances of emails reaching the recipients’ inboxes. It’s a major indicator of successful campaigns and changes its threshold depending on factors such as ISPs, throttling, bounces, spam issues, and bulking.
In this article, we’ll cover what you need to know about improving your email deliverability so that you’re prepped for Black Friday campaigns.
So you want to send your “full list”
Black Friday/Cyber Monday (BFCM) sales have become a staple here in Australia and is now the single largest sale event of the year. So from a brand perspective, it makes sense to want to let as many people know about the offers and promotions you’ll be running.
When it comes to email, this translates to the desire to mail out everyone on your database to increase awareness and reach. However, sending to your full list should be done infrequently and only for major marketing campaigns, such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend.
The reason being is those subscribers that have been unengaged over the long-term run the risk of impacting your sender reputation, which mailbox providers (e.g. Gmail, Microsoft, etc.) use to determine the inbox placement of your campaigns.
In order to start sending to your full list, we need to understand some of the measurement criteria that get used for email deliverability and adjust our sending behaviour accordingly.
What is email engagement?
It’s important to understand that when it comes to email marketing, mailbox providers can largely only see and measure what happens on an email level.
This includes things like email opens, clicks, unsubscribes and spam/junk requests.
Positive engagement signals such as opens and clicks are what mailbox providers are looking for to determine whether emails should be delivered to a user’s inbox or potentially get sent to the junk folder.
As email marketers, you should be looking to maximise your positive engagement to increase your ability to get emails into the inbox state. A high proportion of poor engagement signals (e.g. inactivity or worse spam/junk) can lead to a higher chance of being sent to the junk folder, which can even impact engaged subscribers!
Additionally, it is important to note that positive engagement does not include visiting your site or purchase activity. Although these are positive engagement signals for your brand, they are not recognised by mailbox providers. Therefore, a frequent customer that never opens your emails would still be considered an unengaged subscriber.
Although positive engagement is important, mailbox providers will also look at historical sending volumes to determine inbox placement.
Managing email sending cadence
Sender volume, that is the number of emails you send, also plays a role in your email sender reputation and overall email deliverability.
Mailbox providers use patterned behaviour to detect any malicious intent. Imagine a spammer hitting high volumes of email addresses without warning.
However, brands that unwittingly change their sending patterns, particularly for BFCM, can unknowingly impact their sender reputation. As a rule of thumb, brands should not vary their sends by more than 2x their average volume cadence – it’s recommended that an increase in volume should be no more than 1.5x at a time.
To minimise any negative impact imposed by mailbox providers, avoid batch and blast activity with your email database. Instead, slowly increase send volume to build up recognition with mailbox providers.
Ideally, email marketers should start this process two months prior to your BFCM sends to allow mailbox providers to recognise your change in activity and build a reputation around what mail volume to expect from you.
Test your unengaged audiences
If you’ve been a proactive/best-practice email marketer, you’ve probably kept an unengaged segment of your database. This is simply good email marketing practice.
However, there is always going to be a small portion of subscribers that have entered this segment. Therefore, testing your unengaged audiences is an opportunity for them to demonstrate engagement and reintroduce them back into your active audience groups.
To do this, you should test smaller groups of unengaged audiences with your regular sends. This will allow you to avoid a large spike in send volume and stay consistent with the expectations of mailbox providers.
When you’re testing a small batch of unengaged audience segments, try sending to your highly engaged audiences first, for example, people that have engaged with your emails in the last 30 days. Then wait an hour and send your campaign to the rest of the planned audience. This will allow mailbox providers to see high-engagement audiences first and improve the placement for the unengaged subscribers.
As your test small batches of unengaged audience segments, you should see your usual engaged audience segments grow!
Email sends during Black Friday / Cyber Monday
After testing your unengaged audience and providing all your subscribers with a chance to engage, you should return sending to your normal engaged audience segment in order to preserve your sender reputation.
This will allow you to maximise your sending potential during the busiest (and most important) sales period of the year while maintaining a high level of engagement and email deliverability.
With the significance of BFCM, it’s important to ensure your brand is doing the right thing from an email deliverability perspective.
Avoid sending to your entire email database without proper testing and send volume building. Instead, gradually build up to your full audience volume size, in order to prepare for the full list sends during BFCM.
This should be done by:
- Send a campaign to your highly engaged audience segment
- Follow this with a test group that keeps volume within 1.5x of the last campaign’s volume
- Repeat until you’ve reached your entire database
Once you’ve built up your send volume to just under the full list size, it’s important to pull back to your typical engaged audience. This will help you repair any recent damage done to your sender reputation and prepare you for optimal inbox placement for Black Friday activity.