Ask our experts: How to prepare for the holiday season

Deliverability Podcasts

Although it’s only October and you might be sipping a pumpkin spice latte as you’re reading this, the holiday season is quickly approaching!

While some of us might be able to pull off last minute holiday shopping and gift wrapping, your email plans require more advanced planning.

Email volume increases greatly in November and December, and not all of the volume comes from good emails. According to Check Point, phishing emails doubled leading up to Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2020. This means several things:

  • Email senders are sending more emails than usual and are trying their hardest to make sales
  • Subscribers are receiving more emails than usual, potentially causing inbox fatigue
  • However, subscribers are also looking to spend more money than usual during the holiday season
  • Phishers and spammers are increasing their efforts to take advantage of subscribers during this season
  • Mailbox providers are required to be more strict due to the increase in malicious mail

All of the factors above mean that there is a huge revenue potential for senders during the holidays but, if your strategy isn’t in place, mailbox providers might move you from the nice list (the inbox) to the naughty list (the spam folder).

To avoid deliverability troubles during the most wonderful time of the year, I recommend the following:

  1. Don’t suddenly increase your volume or frequency. If you know you want to send more mail during the peak holiday season, ramp up to that volume or frequency starting now. You don’t want to surprise mailbox providers with any changes in the way you send mail.
  2. Clean your list now. The holidays aren’t the time to try sending messages to anyone who has ever been on your list. For the best inbox placement and conversion rate, send to a list that’s cleaned up of unengaged subscribers during the holiday season. This will help you stand out from the naughty senders.
  3. Only send your best content. While it’s never a good idea to send just to send, it’s especially important to only send your best content during the holiday season. Your subscribers’ mailboxes will be fuller than ever and you’ll be competing with a lot of senders, big and small. Make sure your emails stand out and are easily picked out from the crowd. Things like discounts, bundles, gift guides, etc. typically perform well.

To reach the inbox of your subscribers, just remember those two words: consistency and engagement.

The upcoming holiday season is by far the busiest time in the entire year for email marketing. My best advice to prepare for such a hectic time is to make sure you do not procrastinate planning your strategy. Otherwise it will feel like a last minute Christmas shopping – and who needs all that stress, right?

To reach the inbox of your subscribers, just remember those two words: consistency and engagement.

Mailbox providers love consistency. A holiday email burst will most likely make your emails land in spam, as the algorithms will see that your sending habits have changed from one day to the other.
Try to avoid this by slowly increasing (or decreasing) the list size you are planning to use during your holiday sales. Make sure that you send to more and more (or less and less) subscribers until you reach the right number, sending to all those who you are planning to approach.

It is also important to send with the same frequency. If you send the same number of emails on a regular basis you are literally training the algorithm, so there won’t be any surprises during the holiday season.

Keep in mind that less is sometimes more. Try not to send too many emails, as that can lead to list fatigue as well.

The other key component here is engagement. Make sure to scrub your list now and send only to the subscribers who are actually interested in your products and services. In this way, you can start preparing your potential customers and keep only those who will open your emails. Highly engaged customers will interact with your emails when the time comes. Opening and replying to emails can increase your reputation, the algorithms see these actions as positive feedback.

Akos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKitThe holidays are not that far away, but you still have time to plan and prepare. Send consistently and keep only engaged subscribers on your list and your emails will reach their inbox.

— Akos Szarka, Deliverability and Compliance Product Specialist at ConvertKit

Moral of the story: send to people who are most likely to buy your product or engage with your emails.

The holidays are a wonderful time of year but stressful for many. With email marketing you really can never start too early.

The first thing that comes to mind for me is, CLEAN your list. Sending to unengaged subscribers is never a good idea. Not only will it hurt your sender reputation but it's also a waste of time and resources. Sending to unengaged subscribers can also result in higher complaint rates and bounces to invalid addresses.

Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKitThe volume of mail typically goes up during the holiday season and understandably so. However, it's important to remember to keep your normal sending schedule as closely as possible. Large upticks in sending to an unengaged list is a double-whammy when it comes to tanking your sender reputation.

— Melissa Lambert, Deliverability and Compliance Specialist at ConvertKit

Are you ready for the holiday season?

It’s okay if you’re a last minute shopper or gift wrapper, but you don’t want to wait until the last minute to prepare your email strategy for the holiday season. Go ahead and start your to-do list, check it twice, then get to work on cleaning your list and ramping up your email volume.

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Alyssa Dulin

Alyssa is a Deliverability Lead located in Nashville, TN. She loves helping senders reach the inbox of their subscribers. Outside of work, Alyssa enjoys traveling, indoor cycling, and spending time with family.

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