August 26, 2019

Already preparing for Black Friday?

By Arne Vanham

Yes I know, Black Friday is still quite some time away (Nov 29), so why talk about it now? I will get to that in a minute. For those not familiar with the term (if any?), Black Friday and Cyber Monday are very special days in retail. It’s the beginning of the end-year shopping season, and stores often give fantastic offers. A very special day also for everyone in the email business. Email volumes peak on that day. In my previous job, I was heading the email deliverability team, volumes easily raise up to 120% compared to an average day. Every retailer wants their offers to stand out, in most likely an overloaded email inbox that day. Which makes totally sense, because we also see figures of email being responsible for more than 20% of all online sales during that day.

First, let’s put ourselves in the shoes of a mailbox providers like Gmail or Yahoo. It is their job to protect their email recipients against spam. They do that by making use of complex algorithms and machine learning to calculate a reputation score for every email sender. This process requires a warm-up period (6-8 weeks) where mailbox providers will include throttling, volume caps and a more strict spam filtering. This gives them enough time to learn your good or bad practices as an email sender. If you do good, your reputation improves. If you do bad, it will hurt your reputation. It takes much longer to improve your reputation, than that it is to make it bad.

Here are a couple of things they look at (and now it will be clear why an early preparation is important for a successful Black Friday and Cyber Monday weekend)

1. Consistency

Your reputation score is linked to your IP addresses and sending domains. A new sending domain or IP address has no reputation. Impossible to get high volumes out. Reputation is build up over time. You need to consider this 8 week warm-up period. So, in case you were planning to change sending domain or IP address, now is the time to start. That gives you enough time to build up your reputation before end of November.

2. Separate transactional and bulk traffic

A good reason to start using new sending domains or IP addresses, is if your transactional and bulk traffic isn’t separated. It is considered to be an email deliverability best practice. This is especially the case during Black Friday, as you don’t want your commercial emails to impact your transactional emails and vice versa. So even in case you would get temporary deferrals because you are sending too many commercial emails, your transactional emails will not be affected by this.

3. Frequency and Volume

Mailbox providers want to see consistency from your end. They like you to send exactly the same amount of traffic every single day. If your plan is to heavily increase the sending volume during Black Friday, it is recommended to start gradually increasing the frequency and volume 3-5% every couple of days as from September.

4. List hygiene

Remember that 20% of revenue is coming from email, it’s incredibly tempting to send to as many people as possible. Even the ones that you haven’t send to in a very long time. Sending to those recipients will almost certainly lead to an increase in bounces and complaints. This lowers your reputation score. That’s bad. So if you have a group of recipients of which you are not sure whether or not they still want to receive emails from you, the good practice is to politely ask them. To avoid IP reputation loss, it is advised to do that over time. You add just a fraction of those emails in your bulk sending in the coming weeks. If it would result in a bounce or complaint, the volume is absolute minimal in relation to the total send. So it does not affect your reputation. If you start doing that now for a couple of weeks, by November you will have re-confirmed opt-ins from consumer that still want to receive your email. Good to go on Black Friday.

5. Mobile optimization

On the 2018 Black Friday, we saw that more than 50% of the online orders were done on a mobile device. The percentage of people reading their promotional Black Friday email on a mobile device was even higher. So needless to say your email should look stunning on a mobile device. That’s called email responsiveness, the rendering of the email adapts to the device of the reader. So if your email templates are not responsive yet, start planning it in now. As smart watches become more and more popular, don’t forget to pimp your text version as well.

If none of the above topics are relevant for you, no need to take any action now. Otherwise take action. If you need help, just reach out and we are happy to take that out of your hands.

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If this topic plays for you and you want to dive deeper into it, send Arne an email at arne.vanham@longtale.be.