Better Black Friday Engagement: 3 Steps to Boost Deliverability

As the kickoff to holiday shopping looms, ‘tis the season for a massive increase in email marketing. Inbox providers report a 30% uptick in inbound email around Black Friday and Cyber Monday. As you’re prepping to join the chorus of messages hitting inboxes, don’t overlook a crucial component of a successful strategy: deliverability.

Email clients ultimately aim to prevent any unwanted messages from being delivered to recipients. With the huge influx of emails at this time of year, their spam filters become much more touchy. Some house cleaning on your part can ensure that your emails actually land where you need them: in the inboxes of customers who want to get your messages and are most likely to convert.

Before you kick off Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns, take these three simple steps to boost deliverability now, plus set the stage for better ongoing engagement.

Step 1: Enact a sunset policy 

Sending your biggest campaigns of the year to as many people as possible might sound appealing. But that approach can backfire when inbox providers are putting more scrutiny than ever on engagement history. All your emails are more likely to wind up in the spam filter if your list includes a lot of inactive contacts.

Before you start sending campaigns, put a sunset policy in place. Take a look at your email list and remove anyone who hasn’t opened a marketing email within the last six months. Ideally, you’d sunset them permanently. If you’re not quite ready to do that, at least exclude them from segments for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns. 

Here’s how you can set up your sunset segment in Customer.io:

Open rates aren’t the only criteria you can use for your sunset policy. Dig into your data to identify other factors that indicate someone has disengaged, such as:

  • no click-throughs after opening emails
  • little to no activity in your app or platform
  • low NSP ratings or negative reviews
  • abandoning an onboarding campaign

Step 2: Set up an engagement filter 

Previous engagement is one of the most important factors in whether an email client will filter your message as spam. For example, an email to someone who has frequently opened and clicked through on emails recently is likely to land in their inbox; the same message to someone who hasn’t engaged in a year is fodder for spam.

You might be thinking that you may as well send to your entire list and let the chips fall where they may. But every email that goes to spam damages your sending reputation in the eyes of inbox providers. And since they’re looking hard at engagement history right now, sending to inactive contacts has a domino effect: emails to them are more likely to be flagged as spam, and providers see that as a signal to send more of your future emails to spam for other recipients.

This is where an engagement filter can save your domain reputation. Create a segment that automatically filters out anyone who hasn’t opened an email within the last four months.

In Customer.io, you can easily set up a segment to filter out contacts based on any number of criteria. Here’s an example:

You can narrow your filter even further to increase the chances of not only avoiding spam filters, but boosting conversion by sending to your most highly engaged customers. Consider limiting your sends based on additional customer engagement criteria on top of opening an email, like whether a customer has:

  • clicked on a CTA in an email 
  • opened your app or been active on your platform
  • made a recent purchase
  • engaged through other channels like social or SMS
  • completed key customer journey milestones

You might even reduce the window of time for your engagement filter. Four months is the maximum according to industry benchmarks, but narrowing it to a shorter window can further appease inbox providers. 

Step 3: Run a pre-season re-engagement campaign 

If the idea of a smaller list for your holiday campaigns worries you, take the opportunity now to reactivate dormant contacts with a re-engagement campaign a couple weeks before Black Friday.

Send customers who haven’t opened any emails in the last six months a single invitation to proactively affirm their opt-in. Keep it simple with just a few elements: 

  • Let them know you’re aware they haven’t been reading your emails
  • Ask if they’d like to keep receiving messages
  • Make it personal with a {FirstName} tag
  • Include a single CTA to confirm they still want your emails 

Here’s an example of an effective re-engagement email:

Hi there, {FirstName},

We noticed you haven’t opened any of our emails in a while. Do you still want to get updates on new releases, sales, and awesome events from us?

[Yes, keep me in the know!]

To be most effective, don’t include a promotion or ask them if they want to opt out; you’re just looking for a quick “yes.” This not only adds to your pool of contacts for this season’s emails, it also demonstrates respect and empathy for your customers’ preferences. You may find that people who respond to this campaign start engaging more frequently in the future because they feel seen and heard.

Those who don’t re-engage now aren’t necessarily a lost cause, but they should certainly be removed from your Black Friday and Cyber Monday lists.

For great engagement, deliverability beats volume.

The pressure of holiday-season marketing can make it very tempting to blast messages to as many subscribers as possible. But that route leads to the spam folder, not the inbox. Yes, winnowing your list to your most highly engaged customers means you’ll ultimately send fewer emails, but you’ll also be more likely to reach the people who are primed to open, click, and convert. 

After taking the steps above, it’s worth taking some time now to ensure you’re following best practices for email deliverability. You might want to incorporate these three approaches: 

Remember, email clients aren’t the only ones with heightened sensitivity to unwanted emails at this time of year. With their inboxes awash in marketing emails, your customers are more inclined to clear out the clutter. When you target people who are genuinely happy to hear from you now, you also build customer relationships that remain strong long after the Black Friday flurry is a distant memory. 

Mike Auldredge is the Deliverability Services Manager at Customer.io. He hopes you’ll have a happy Black Friday.