6 Tips for Seasonal Email Senders
Spring is here. Daffodils are blooming, buds are appearing and hibernating critters are rousing in their dens. What was dormant is now bustling with signs of life. As the days warm, seasonal email senders shudder, kissing the relatively quiet early spring goodbye, bracing for another hectic busy season.
Whether it’s winter holiday, back-to-school or summer season when your mailing calendar switches from lax to max, it’s up to the email marketer to deliver when the pressure is on. Seasonal mailing patterns are a necessary model for some business, but they come with risks. Not only to brands have to reestablish themselves with subscribers and prove value anew, they have to do so with mailbox providers as well.
Below are some tips that seasonal email senders should keep in mind as their next busy season looms.
1. Practice Good List Hygiene
Seasonal mailers that do not contact their full list for months at a time often notice a higher number of bounces for the initial deployments of the season. Poor list hygiene can raise a red flag and contribute to low inbox placement rates. In order to avoid a deliverability catastrophe when it can damage performance the most:
- Consider running the full list through a list validation service such as BriteVerify or FreshAddress to remove problematic files prior to the first large sends of the season.
- Ensure that all hard bounces are suppressed (with the exception of policy blocks).
- Review your soft bounce policy. Some soft bounces, such as “mailbox full” bounces, are indicators that a mailbox may have been abandoned by the user.
2. Beware of Inactivity and Spam Traps
When portions of the list remain dormant during the off-season, abandoned email addresses could be converted to unknown users, then made into recycled spam traps . While unknown users will register as a hard bounce if mailed, you miss the opportunity to remove these addressed from your list if some segments of your list are not mailed during your off-season. And once they’re converted to spam traps, these addresses will no longer register as bounced.
To mitigate potential spam trap issues, establish inactivity thresholds across the entire subscriber database and suppress subscribers who have not opened or clicked an email within the past two years.
3. Consider Heartbeat Emails
Some purely seasonal mailers (like ski resorts, specialty retailers, and theme parks) send next to nothing during downtimes. While this can reduce overhead, it can also adversely impact deliverability and brand awareness. Subscribers can’t open and engage with emails if they don’t receive any. What’s more, a regular sending pattern acts as a natural list hygiene process, allowing mailers to suppress bounced addresses as they come through.
Even if mail during the off-season is less likely to result in a conversion, staying top of mind with subscribers and showing some volume on the IP address and domain can be beneficial. Consider introducing editorial content, “coming soon,” and social based emails to keep a pulse on subscribers during the off-season.
4. Implement Volume Ramp Ups
Mailbox providers are always on the lookout for mailing practices that stand out as spammy. One classic spammer move is to send large volume spikes out of the blue. Even reputable businesses can find their campaigns being placed in the spam folder if their mailing patterns look suspicious. As you move into your high-volume season, the following practices can help keep your content in the inbox instead of the spam folder:
- Avoid increases that more than double the existing volume.
- Remain at increased volumes for several deployments prior to doubling volume again.
- Avoid sudden spikes in volume after prolonged periods where no volume is seen.
5. Know Your Reputation
Mailbox providers rely on your sending reputation to determine whether your mailing patterns and the reactions they drive from subscribers appear reputable. Getting insights into how you are viewed by mailbox providers before you kick off your key season can help you make adjustments when the stakes are lower.
If you send very small amounts of mail during the off-season, you may have less data to go on. Retrospectively evaluating performance and indicators of poor inbox placement may be your best option.
As you ramp up, track your performance and keep an eye on your domain and IP reputation. You can partner with a service provider like Return Path or use limited but still helpful free tools that are available to senders. If deliverability starts to slide, act quickly. Once your messages start being placed in the spam folder, it can be a challenging situation to remedy — and one that can take months to fully address.
6. Shared or Dedicated IP Address: The Seasonal Email Senders' Dilemma
When advising clients on improving the performance of their program, we typically advise that they steer clear of shared IP addresses. This allows brands to control their reputation and easily troubleshoot factors that may be contributing to declining inbox placement rates.
One exception that we often make relates to seasonal mailers. As noted earlier, dramatic fluctuations in volume can trigger more aggressive spam filtering, especially when combined with high bounce rates and/or complaints. If your email program is truly seasonal and you avoid sending during the off-season, a shared IP address may be your best bet.
As a Senior Email Strategist with Return Path, Casey specializes in driving increased engagement and boosting deliverability. Casey has a healthy fixation with helping marketers realize the potential of their email programs by addressing human needs, building better relationships, and ultimately driving improved results for the business. Her nine years of experience and obsession with evolving the email space helped land her a spot on ExpertSender’s list of “25 Email Geeks to Help You Get Your Geek On.”