Holiday Sending 101

The tips and tricks you need to optimize your email sending ahead of the holiday season!

’Tis the season for sending! Email marketing continues to be one of the most effective ways to drive revenue during the holiday season, so you need to ensure your email infrastructure and campaigns are set up for success ahead of the busiest shopping days of the year. To help, we’ve put together this holiday sending guide to ensure your email program is ready to go this winter!

From warming up your IP address to authenticating your domain, here are all the tips and best practices you need to ensure your email infrastructure is prepared for Black Friday and your email campaigns stand out this holiday season.

Chapter 2: IP Warmup

“Baby, it’s cold outside”—so you’d better start by warming up your IP ahead of the holidays! Because building your reputation as a sender is the most important element of holiday success, you need to start sooner rather than later as it can take anywhere from a few days to a few months to repair a bad sending reputation. 

When an inbox provider observes email suddenly coming from a new or “cold” IP address, they will take notice and immediately begin evaluating its traffic. So, how can you go from ice-cold to warm-and-ready? By slowly increasing your sending volume and paying close attention to how recipients interact with your mail. 

Gradually working your way up to larger volumes gives receiving email providers a chance to closely observe your sending habits and record how your recipients engage with your mail, helping them determine if your messages are legitimate or spam. But, this isn’t a passive process. You have to actively participate during an IP address warm-up by monitoring open ratesbounce rates, and spam complaints as well as practicing responsible list management to ensure your messages reach your customers’ inboxes consistently. Over time, this will allow you to win over ISPs’ (Internet Service Providers) trust and become a reliable sender.

IP warm-up with Twilio SendGrid

It’s essential to start preparing early if your campaigns are on a strict schedule. With Twilio SendGrid, our warmup processes will vary greatly depending on what type of plan you are on. Our Free and Essentials plans utilize shared IP infrastructure to deliver mail, while our Pro customers are given dedicated IPs for just their sending. Below are the best practices for getting started with both types of sending.

Free and Essentials users (Shared IPs)

One of the biggest benefits of using shared IPs is they don’t need to be warmed up. Because you’ll be sharing IPs with other users, mailbox providers will be used to receiving traffic from these IPs, meaning you can send your mail as quickly as you want. One trade-off of sharing your sending IPs is that your delivery can be affected by the reputation of other customers, but this can be mitigated as long as everyone adopts best sending practices. 

Pro users (Dedicated IPs)

While dedicated IPs can ultimately provide the best deliverability for an established email program, they do need to be “warmed up” for best results. To do so, you have two options: 

  1. You can choose to either use the SendGrid automated warm up if you have multiple dedicated IPs
  2. You can manually follow our suggested warmup schedule

When automatically warming up an IP, SendGrid limits the amount of email sent through that IP per hour. Any email requests that exceed this hourly limit will overflow to any other existing warm IPs on your account.

Before you can start firing off emails, you need to help ISPs determine whether you’re a naughty or nice sender. Sender authentication is the process of attempting to verify the digital identity of a message’s sender.

So, how can you ensure your emails aren’t left outside in the cold by ISPs? There are four types of sender authentication – domainlink branding, and rDNS.

  • Domain/Sender authentication: Domain authentication indicates to ISPs that you’re a legitimate sender and that your chosen email service provider has your permission to send emails on your behalf. There are four ways to authenticate your email messages: 
    • SPF: Sender Policy Framework (SPF) identifies the mail servers that are allowed to send emails from a particular domain.
    • DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) adds a digital signature to your emails so inbox providers can verify that your domain sent the message and determine that you’re responsible for the content of the message.
    • DMARC: Domain Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC) is one of the best things you can do to protect your domain from spoofing and phishing attacks. Should an email fail to be authenticated using SPF or DKIM, your company can instruct the receiving server to either do nothing, move the message to spam, or completely block the message altogether.
    • BIMI: Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) is a newer protocol that adds your company’s logo to your emails so your messages can be quickly and easily identified by recipients. But, in order to be eligible for BIMI, your brand must have DMARC implemented with either a quarantine or reject policy and a strong domain reputation. Since BIMI can’t be implemented by just any sender, having BIMI can really give you a head start in the inbox competition. 
    • Link branding: Link branding will allow all of your click-tracked links to be branded with your domain, instead of your email service provider’s (like This makes it so you don’t have to rely on click tracking from a domain you don’t control.
    • Reverse domain name system (rDNS): A reverse DNS on an IP address allows mailbox providers to confirm the domain you’re sending from matches your IP address. This helps protect the legitimacy of messages by ensuring no one can impersonate your domain or sender. Please note, you can only set up an rDNS if you have a dedicated IP.

    Please note, the sender authentication process can vary depending on what DNS host you use – please see our detailed documentation for more info on how to set up domain authentication using Twilio SendGrid.

    Hear holiday sending best practices from Twilio SendGrid's email & SMS experts.

    Watch our "'Tis the Season for Deliverability: Prepping Your Marketing Strategy for the Holidays" webinar on-demand now.

    Chapter 4: Holiday Sending Best Practices

    Once your email infrastructure is set up properly and you’re ready to send, it’s time to shift your focus to your email content and strategy. To help you create emails your recipients want to open, consider following these best practices: 

    1. Use a preference center

    Watch out for email fatigue. Sending too many emails during the holiday season can increase your unsubscribe and spam complaint rates. Instead, consider offering a preference center so users can choose what updates they’d like to receive and how often they would like to hear from your brand.

    2. Tidy up your lists

    Your brand should be making a list, checking it twice—outdated email lists can hurt deliverability and damage your sender reputation thanks to hard bounces, inactive addresses, and spam complaints. Practice good list hygiene by removing inactive and unengaged users from your subscriber list to stay off the spam list and increase engagement.

    3. Send a welcome message

    The holiday season often attracts a lot of first-time shoppers to your brand. When a new user subscribes to your emails, be sure to send them a welcome message to confirm their sign-up, share a bit about your brand, offer a discount, and, most importantly, start the relationship off on the right foot. 

    4. Spruce up your emails

    During the holiday season, you’ll be competing against top brands for your customers’ attention. To stand out in their crowded inboxes, you need to share relevant, interesting, and eye-catching content. To help you send better emails, here are some questions to ask yourself before hitting send:

    Will my subscribers want to read this email?

    Have I included both an HTML and a plain text version of my email?

    Is my email optimized for mobile?

    Is my email a positive reflection of my brand?

    Am I getting the right message, to the right subscriber, at the right time?

    5. Swap “one-to-many” for “one-to-one”

    Give your recipients the gift of personalization this holiday season. Consumers don’t want generic emails meant for the masses, they want to receive communications that are customized to their unique preferences and needs. When an email is personalized using first-party data, you go from “blasting” out hundreds, thousands, or millions of generic emails to sending highly tailored messages that can entice a recipient to open and engage with your mail. It’s the difference between, “Save 30% on our Big Sale” and “Jess, still thinking about item X? Save 30% on it.” 

    Once you’ve set up sender authentication, warmed up your IP address, and reviewed our best practices, you’re all set to hit send.

    Already a Twilio SendGrid customer? Then you have three options when it comes to sending: you can use our Marketing Campaigns web application, connect with us via SMTP, or integrate with our fully RESTful API. Here are our guides for getting set up to send with each system:

    Chapter 6: Experimenting with SMS

    Your customers will receive a flurry of emails throughout the holiday season, each boasting bigger and better deals and exclusive discounts. To rise above your competition during the busiest marketing time of the year, try using SMS to reach your customers directly on their mobile phones. 

    SMS, or text messaging, is a powerful communication channel that businesses can use to capitalize on their holiday promotions. In fact, over 95% of all text messages are opened and read. Because SMS boasts extremely high engagement rates, it’s the perfect channel to send time-sensitive communications and capture the attention of your customers.

    Let’s take a look at some of the ways you can use SMS marketing during the holiday season.

    1. Send time-sensitive holiday promotions

    Since people are actively searching for gifts during the holiday season, SMS messages are an effective way to alert shoppers about your exclusive deals and holiday promotions. Sending your promotional message as a text instead of an email will help your offer stand out from your competitors’ and alert your customers immediately about your time-sensitive offers.

    2. Use location-based messaging

    Most gift-givers don’t want to spend hours browsing through stores—they want to find great deals, fast! With SMS, you can send recipients offers that can be redeemed in-store. Doing so will prompt them to stop by your nearest location and participate in your holiday promotions, optimizing the shopping experience for both you and your customers.

    3. Give inventory updates for popular products

    We all know the feeling of finding the perfect gift for that special someone… only to realize it’s sold out! Some of your most popular products will inevitably be temporarily sold out during the peak holiday shopping season, but you can use this as an opportunity to turn frustrated customers into delighted shoppers. 

    Give your customers the ability to sign up to receive a text message update should their desired product come back in stock. An SMS message will notify them when their items have been restocked, so they can quickly checkout and secure the perfect gift. 

    4. Grow your contact list

    The holiday season gives you a unique opportunity to build your SMS subscriber list. As customers are eager to stay up-to-date with deals, offer them exclusive discounts when they sign-up for your texting list. You can have them text a special keyword to your shortcode to subscribe and receive special rewards via text.

    5. Send tracking notifications for shipped items

    Customers that order from your online store will likely be anxious to receive their packages on time as the holidays approach. To put their minds at ease, allow them to opt-in to receive SMS tracking updates, like shipping confirmations and delivery estimates.

    The holiday season is jam-packed with shopping, sales, and savings. Having SMS in your marketing toolbox will help you capitalize on your holiday promotions and build a strong relationship with your customers.

    For more information on how SMS can complement your existing email program, download our SMS Marketing 101 guide or talk to an expert at Twilio.

    Chapter 7: Time to Get Sending

    The holidays can be a particularly stressful time for marketers trying to meet revenue goals, but if you’re proactive with your planning (and you must be if you’re reading this!) you’ll be sure to have a successful Q4. 

    And remember, you don’t have to tackle the holidays alone. Our team of email deliverability experts is here to help guide you through your holiday sends and ensure you take advantage of everything Twilio SendGrid has to offer. As always, check out our Support library for FAQs or login to Twilio SendGrid to contact us with any questions you have by creating a ticket, requesting a callback, or using our 24/7 live chat feature.

    Or, if you’re not a Twilio SendGrid customer just yet, talk to a member of our sales team to find out how we can help your business ahead of the holidays.

    Although email delivery can be complicated, following the tips above should position your email program to achieve success for the holiday season! Happy holiday sending!

    Get Started with SendGrid

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