It may sound cliché to bemoan how bad/weird/crazy 2020 has been, but there’s still some 2020 ahead of us. Black Friday is approaching and anything could happen. This year, more than ever, it is critical to plan ahead, and plan for the unexpected, when charting the course for your holiday sending season. 

1. Email communications should look different

Consider your recipients and how their context has changed since holiday seasons past. Nothing seems normal in 2020. Expecting the holiday sending season to be any different feels a bit like wishful thinking. With the presence of COVID-19 altering how we think about travel and social proximity, it is helpful to keep in mind just how contextual email communications really are. Here are a few examples and questions to ask yourself:

  • It seems likely that the amount of subscribers checking their email for deals on their phone while inside a physical retail store will be lower this year than last. Does this impact how or when you communicate with them? 
  • Many people are in a very different situation with employment and finances than they’ve ever been before. How can this help you shape your offers and tone?
  • It could be that the normal holiday with the family is replaced by a video call this year for a lot of people. This could very well impact both how they shop for their loved ones and how they respond, overall, to holiday marketing mail. Does this change your offerings or where you’ll focus your promotions?

2. Understand what you can & cannot control

Shipping deadlines are always a big factor in holiday season promotions. This year, it is possible that shipping times could be longer or more erratic for some shippers. It is also possible that social distancing requirements and rules around quarantining could be different in late November than they are right now.

Considering what you can control and what you cannot will be very helpful in crafting content that sets appropriate expectations and makes for happy customers. For example, it could be helpful to rely more heavily on journey-driven email series’ over simple batch and blast offers to convert subscribers to customers throughout the buildup of the holiday sending season. Here are a few email best practice tips for your holiday sending. 

3. Warm up your volume & be early to the holiday party

If you anticipate an increase in your sending volume, make sure to increase your volume well before Black Friday/Cyber Monday. When mailbox providers see unusual spikes in volume from you as a sender, delivery or inboxing issues can result as they become comfortable with your new traffic pattern.

Build into volume increases. Only increase volume by 25-40% at a time to prevent big swings in deliverability results

Don’t wait until Black Friday to start setting expectations and building the path for your great deals and offers. While you may not want to over-holiday people before the holidays start, using the days and weeks prior to cleverly lay the foundation of what you’ll be offering and why recipients should look forward to it can make a big difference when Black Friday arrives and inboxes are overflowing.

4. Create your calendar & add plenty of breaks

There is no substitute for planning ahead…especially when things go sideways. Planning out your sending schedule not only helps you prevent over-sending to recipients, but also allows you to build in “off days” or time between sends. It might be tempting to plan sends for every day during the holidays, but having a couple of days a week where you aren’t blasting offers to recipients is beneficial to your sending. This down time can be very helpful in preventing problematic volume spikes due to unplanned sends or for resting your sending reputation

When things in the world change rapidly, it is often necessary for marketers to change course as well. It could be that shipping realities change rapidly during this time or your in-store capabilities change and you suddenly need to update your customer base with an emergency send. Having a day or two during the week with lower planned volumes gives you the ability to do this emergency send without more than doubling your volume compared to your standard high volume send days. (Doubling the volume could cause delivery disruptions.)

Or, you might see evidence that your messages are being filtered to spam a little heavier than normal. Having a day or so each week to simply rest your reputation during this time can help prevent those reputation issues from becoming even worse. A sending calendar with breaks built in gives you the flexibility to adjust your sending as needed during a potentially chaotic month.

5. Forget naughty vs. nice…make a list of nice & nicest!

When things go wrong with email, such as a deny listing or heavy filtering of messages to spam, repairing those issues often requires sending smaller amounts of email and sending to your most engaged recipients in order to correct your sending reputation.

Now is the perfect time for you to identify who your most engaged recipients are.

Should you need to target them, you will easily be able to use them as a segmentBut why stop there? Now that you have an idea of who in your list are your most engaged recipients, it might be a good idea to give them a little special treatment like a unique offer code or product sneak peek. Demonstrating positive engagement to mailbox providers makes getting emails to the inbox easier. If you can target your most engaged recipients with your offers first, then send the offer to the rest of your recipients 25 minutes later, you might just see that more mail makes the inbox and you make more money. 

Ready to take on the holidays?

In a world of uncertainty, planning ahead and expecting the unexpected can make a world of difference when weirdness arises. Understanding that things can change for both your recipients and you as the email sender can help you approach the holiday season with confidence. Whatever arises, you will be able to shift gears and continue providing value to your subscribers. If you’d like even more of a confidence boost, the Twilio SendGrid email experts are here to help you with strategy consulting customized to meet your specific needs. You can find out more at: https://sendgrid.com/solutions/expert-services/



Will Boyd
Will has spent the last 5 years in the email delivery world helping senders get their messages to the folks that want them. Having spent most of his life in his home state of Tennessee, Will is loving the ‘real’ mountains of Colorado and lack of humidity. When he’s not thinking about email delivery, Will is an avid blues music fan and amateur blues historian. "