[This post was originally published on 16th July 2020. It has been updated on 16th Sep 2022.]
Your brand is very conscientious about holiday season email marketing. Salesforce Marketing Cloud (SFMC) is your ESP of choice.
For the upcoming holidays, you and your Salesforce email specialist work hard to devise the strategy, choose the right Salesforce templates, design the email campaign, and send it to a targeted list of subscribers.
You then sit back and wait for the results: increased conversions, more sales, higher profits, and…
….Or is it?
When you analyze your campaign, you find that the actual results are nowhere close to expected results. You also realize that the main issue underlying this gap is poor deliverability.
Email deliverability is a key success factor for email marketing. Why? Because you may design the world’s best email campaign but find that very few recipients actually receive or open your emails. This indicates a deliverability problem. It usually happens either because the email landed in the recipient’s spam folder rather than their inbox or because their email address itself is invalid.
So if your email campaigns have a deliverability problem, you need to find a way to fix it or risk losing out on massive customer engagement opportunities, sales, and profits. Here are 5 best practices to help you and your Salesforce email specialist do just that!
#1: Segment subscriber lists with Einstein Engagement Scoring
Subscriber (or audience) segmentation is always important, but even more so for holiday email campaigns.
Suppose you’re a hotel chain implementing a Christmas email campaign with SFMC. You design special offers for loyal customers and tempting discounts for frequent cart abandoners. All your emails contain pictures of sandy beaches, tropical fruits, and sunshine. So far, so good, right? Wrong!
What if you send these same emails to all subscribers – including those who already live in places with sandy beaches, tropical fruits, and sunshine? Are they likely to be impressed with your campaign or turned off?
This is why segmenting your audience is so important.
Einstein Engagement Scoring, an AI-based tool in SFMC Email Studio can help you segment subscriber lists and then deliver to the most engaged users first. Say you send a campaign at 8 AM to your most engaged users. Send it to the rest of your audience at 9 AM. This way, you can ensure that the most engaged people have already opened your email.
Einstein Engagement Scoring uses Machine Learning and customer data to generate predictive models that indicate each subscriber’s likelihood of staying subscribed, opening an email, or clicking on links. It assigns one of four personas to each subscriber:
- Loyalists: Subscribers with high open and click engagement
- Window Shoppers: Subscribers with high open and low click engagement
- Selective Subscribers: Subscribers with low open and high click engagement
- Win-back/Dormant: Subscribers with low open and click engagement
Use these personas to refine customer engagement campaigns and journeys in order to maximize both engagement and conversions.
After activation, you can check the Einstein Engagement Scoring dashboard to see the tool’s predictions.
#2: Spread out the email sends with Send Throttling
Customers usually receive more marketing and brand emails during the holiday season. This is not surprising, considering the larger amounts of money that come into play during this time for shopping, gifts, holidays, etc.
But when send volumes are way up, mailbox providers and spam filters usually err on the side of caution to protect their subscribers from spam. That’s why it’s important to be strategic with email sends. One way to do this is to spread out the sends by increasing frequency gradually.
Send Throttle in Email Studio sends emails during the hours you specify every day, starting from the day you send the email until all emails are sent. The send is not spread evenly between the start and end times. The system continues sending during the specified time range until the send is complete or the end time you specified is reached, whichever comes first. The throttle ensures that SFMC does not send a greater number of emails than the throttle limit during the specified period.
To send emails with the Send Throttling feature, define these options:
- Delivery window: The range of hours between which you would like to send emails
- Hourly threshold: The maximum number of emails to be sent within an hour
Keep in mind that Send Throttling is not activated by default. To activate it, go to:
Setup > Platform Tools > Email Studio > Email Optional Features > “Send Throttling”
#3: Optimize your send times with Einstein Send Time Optimization
Optimizing send times is about sending an email to a subscriber at a time where he is most likely to open it and engage with it. And Einstein Send Time Optimization (STO) is a great way to do this.
Einstein STO in SFMC Journey Builder automatically determines the best time within the next 24 hours to send emails to a subscriber. By evaluating about 20 different factors, including sends, clicks, opens, unsubscribes, spam complaints, etc., Einstein STO recommends the optimal email send times that are most likely to lead to opens. It thus helps marketers and Salesforce email specialists increase email and push notification engagement.
With the Einstein STO dashboard, email marketers can visualize optimal predicted send times by the day or hour for all contacts, helping them choose the best time for batch sends for their holiday emails.
#4: Create engaging emails with dynamic content and Salesforce templates
At any time, the importance of good content, intriguing subject lines, high-quality visuals – all wrapped up in a nice personalized, hyper-targeted package – cannot be overstated. But during the holidays, when most people are drowning under an avalanche of marketing emails, these factors are absolutely critical.
SFMC Email Studio provides several Salesforce templates, dynamic content blocks, and a host of other features to create personalized content quickly.
Another great way to improve the deliverability of holiday campaigns is to implement real-time emails. Real time email marketing is about personalizing every single email message based on each opener’s personal context the moment it is opened. Live Weather Content Block in SFMC Content Builder allows for personalized images based on local weather conditions to appear when a subscriber opens an email.
Remember the hotel example we spoke about earlier? With real-time emails, the hotel brand can ensure that subscribers living in cold areas and looking to vacation in Florida see images of sandy beaches and sunshine, while those living in Florida and thinking about a quick getaway to New York City in December will see images of snow-covered Xmas trees. Win-win for everybody!
You can also use dynamic banners, webcrops, product recommendations, and coupons to increase the likelihood that subscribers will open your emails and engage with them.
#5: Stay Out Of The Spam Folder with Content Detective
No one likes spam. A shady email with shady links deserves to be marked Spam because it is. But a thoughtfully-designed holiday email campaign that ticks all the right boxes for layout, content, links, and CTA deserves better.
Luckily, SFMC provides the means to avoid this fate.
Content Detective in Content Builder mirrors the logic used by spam-filtering software to scan email content to identify words, phrases, and patterns that could trigger spam filters. It also recommends resolutions to each identified problem. After running Content Detective, you can complete a single-click review of your content and edit the specific triggers identified to minimize the chances of your email being marked as Spam in your recipients’ Inboxes.
Some More Best Practices To Improve Deliverability for Holiday Email Campaigns
Here are some more steps you can take to ensure that your carefully-crafted holiday emails get in front of the right subscribers:
- Practice good data hygiene by regularly pruning your subscriber list.
- Warm up your IPs before launching your campaign. Don’t give ISP servers a reason to block you.
- Ensure that the new email addresses you’re collecting are real, valid, and interested in hearing from you.
- If bounce rates exceed 5%, pull back on mailing these unengaged subscribers for the holiday season.
- Review your Preference Center to find information on subscribers’ type and timing preferences, and send targeted emails accordingly.
- Run A/B testing on subject lines to see if certain subject lines garner higher open rates.
The holiday season can be a “noisy season” as far as email marketing is concerned. But brands who focus on deliverability can cut through the noise and ensure that they reach the people they’re trying to reach. Take the time to improve your email deliverability, and you will definitely see great results that will lead to your best holiday season yet.