Depending on who you ask, Black Friday and Cyber Monday might be a couple of the best or worst holidays of the year.
All the discounts, flash sales, and promotions are hard to resist as a consumer. But as a business, it can be a challenge to stand out among the mountains of promotions.
When it comes to your email program, you’ll compete with many businesses vying for attention in recipients’ inboxes. But, you need to ensure your emails reach the inbox in the first place.
With so many emails going out over the holiday (Twilio SendGrid alone processed almost 13.8 billion emails over Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2021), email deliverability will be a top priority to ensure your emails reach customers.
Luckily, you can tap into various tools to ensure your deliverability is in tip-top shape. Let’s look at 13 tools to prepare your email program for the holiday season.
Email deliverability tools and tips for Black Friday
As you prepare for the holidays, consider implementing these technical tips and SendGrid tools to get your email program ready to deliver.
1. Consider dedicated IPs
Do you have a dedicated internet protocol (IP) address? If not, you’re probably sending email over a shared IP, which combines a group of senders under one sending reputation. This means that other senders’ poor sending habits can negatively impact your deliverability.
To avoid deliverability issues through no fault of your own, consider using a dedicated IP address. This gives you more control over your sending reputation, which will help ensure your Black Friday emails make it to recipients’ inboxes.
Additionally, if you send at high volumes, we recommend using separate dedicated IPs for your marketing and transactional emails. This prevents your marketing email engagement, which is typically lower, from negatively impacting your more critical transactional emails.
SendGrid’s Email API Pro and Marketing Campaigns Advanced plans include a dedicated IP address, and you can purchase additional dedicated IPs to separate your marketing and transactional campaigns.
2. Warm up your IPs
If you have a dedicated IP and anticipate sending emails at higher volumes than usual over the holidays, you need to prepare accordingly. Why? Because sudden spikes in your sending volume will serve as a red flag to inbox service providers (ISPs), such as Google and Yahoo!. And when these ISPs notice an unusual increase in volume, your deliverability could be limited until the providers are comfortable with your new volume pattern.
Instead of risking deliverability issues during the most critical sending time of the year, warm up your IPs by slowly increasing your sending volume leading up to Black Friday.
For example, let’s say you want to send Black Friday emails to a list of 1,600 subscribers over a brand-new dedicated IP address. We recommend starting with no more than 50 emails on the first day of your new IP and doubling that number daily until you reach your desired volume. So warming up your IP would look like this:
- Day 1: 50 recipients
- Day 2: 100 recipients
- Day 3: 200 recipients
- Day 4: 400 recipients
- Day 5: 800 recipients
- Day 6: 1,600 recipients
Note that depending on your desired email volume, it may take a few weeks to warm up your IP address. But with this gradual increase, you won’t surprise ISPs with a jump in sending volume, and your deliverability won’t suffer.
3. Authenticate your domain
Domain authentication proves to inbox providers that your business is the one sending emails from your domain, and SendGrid has permission to send emails on your behalf.
To grant this permission, point specific domain name system entries from your domain registrar to SendGrid. These entries will automatically set up Sender Policy Framework and DomainKeys Identified Mail records for your domain, which considerably improves your odds of delivery.
Follow the steps in our domain authentication documentation to get started.
4. Brand your links
Spam filters and recipient servers scan the links within your emails to determine whether these are trustworthy before delivering your emails. This helps protect recipients from spammy links.
One way to speed up this process is link branding, which specifies that the links within your emails come from your domain. With branded links, you don’t have to rely on click tracking going through a domain you don’t control—improving your odds of delivery.
As you authenticate your domain following the steps in the previous tip, you can select the option to brand links for the same domain.
5. Implement DMARC
In a time of digital acceleration, domain spoofing (aka domain impersonation), is a prevalent email security issue. This type of cyberattack can cause deliverability issues, monetary losses, and damage to your brand’s image.
So how can you protect yourself from these attacks? One important step is to implement Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC), so ISPs will prevent unauthenticated parties from sending emails from your domain. DMARC also allows you to establish a consistent policy for dealing with unauthenticated messages sent on your behalf.
Additionally, to help address a surge in spoofing, we partnered with Valimail to enable you to see who sends email from 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.
Sign up for a free DMARC Monitor account to track who uses your domain.
6. Clean your recipient list
When determining your sending reputation, ISPs factor in positive engagement signals, like opens and clicks, as well as negative ones, like low engagement and spam complaints. This means that sending emails to unengaged recipients can negatively impact your deliverability.
Keep your recipient lists clean by following these best practices:
- Audit your lists regularly to remove role accounts and email addresses that bounce.
- Identify unengaged recipients and target them with a reengagement campaign.
- Remove unengaged recipients from your list if they continue to ignore your communications.
Learn more about email list hygiene.
7. Take advantage of the Email Validation API
In addition to emailing existing recipients during Black Friday and Cyber Monday, you’ll probably also collect a fair amount of new email addresses. And you want to ensure those email addresses are valid (and the users entered them correctly) to avoid repercussions on your engagement and deliverability.
Our Email Validation API enables you to detect and suppress invalid email addresses upon submission, whether misspelled or faulty. By integrating this validation process into your email sign-up form, you can reduce your bounce rates and increase your chances of delivery right off the bat.
8. Keep a close eye on spam complaints
Although there’s no single metric or score that describes your sending reputation, there are tools within your email service provider that enable you to better understand it.
Spam complaints are the strongest negative signal to ISPs, so we recommend consistently monitoring spam reports within your account—especially during high-volume sends. Note that a spam complaint rate higher than 0.08% is high and can lead to poor deliverability.
9. Update your preference center
It’s easy to empathize with recipients who get tired of nonstop emails during the holidays. To avoid frustrating recipients and create a better customer experience, update your preference center to include a holiday promotions category. This enables recipients to choose which emails they want to receive from you and helps prevent spam complaints.
Additionally, consider an empathetic preference center approach that allows subscribers to opt out of emails related to holidays that are difficult for them. This helps build strong relationships with your recipients by showing them that you care about their experience.
10. Enable open and click tracking
It’s important to reflect on your email engagement after the holidays are over, but it’s equally important to monitor customer engagement during times of heavy sending. Why? Because depending on your engagement percentages, you might uncover deliverability issues, messaging not resonating with recipients, and other insights that can inform your next send.
To monitor your engagement, enable open and click tracking within your SendGrid account by toggling the status to On.
Want to dive ever deeper into your data? SendGrid’s Deliverability and Messaging Insights give you a more granular view of deliverability across inbox providers, delivery errors, and more.
11. Take preventative action with email testing
Double-checking your emails before you send them gives you a chance to catch delivery issues or content-rendering problems before these reach recipients’ inboxes.
SendGrid’s email testing feature shows you how your email will look across inbox providers, how it might perform against the world’s most powerful spam filters, and how strong the domain reputation of your links are before you press Send. Pretty nifty, right?
Learn more about what to look for when testing with this email test walk-through.
12. Get help from an expert
If you experience deliverability issues, don’t panic. This is a common problem for senders, and you can take steps to fix it.
Don’t know where to start? SendGrid’s email specialists can help. Expert services allows you to work directly with one of our email specialists to get your email engagement, reputation, and deliverability back on track. In fact, customers who use Expert Services see an average 97% delivery rate and a 6% increase in open rates, and 93% of them recommend this service.
13. Create an action plan
The holidays may seem far away right now, but it’s essential to plan your holiday emails well ahead of time. Now is the time to plan your campaigns for Black Friday and beyond by creating a schedule to prepare, launch, and monitor each email send.
As you create your plan, consider the time of day when you’ll send your emails, using your existing data to identify the ideal times for your recipients.
Additionally, create an action plan for when things go wrong. For example, if you start seeing a spike in spam complaints, how will you handle it? Will you update your preference center or further segment your list to only include recent engagers? The more you prepare for these scenarios, the better your outcome will be.
Get ready for Black Friday with Twilio SendGrid
There are 2 factors that contribute to email success: the creative marketing side and the more technical deliverability side. That’s if your emails even make it to your customers’ inboxes—otherwise, all your work on the marketing side won’t make a difference. However, with the tools and tips in this post, you’ll lay the groundwork for success to make it to the inbox without a hitch.
Now that you have the deliverability side covered, check out our post on holiday email marketing best practices for campaign ideas and more. And when you’re ready to start creating and sending holiday campaigns, try Twilio SendGrid for free to see how you can benefit from all the tools mentioned in this post.