Alice Spencer
Alice Spencer
Posted 13 October 2022

Avoid deliverability disasters this Peak season

Our guide to getting into the inbox this festive season.

Standing out in a crowded inbox is a challenge at the best of times, and when it comes to the biggest retail event of the year, the stakes are high and the competition is even higher. 

Filled with both marketing-led and technically led advice, this guide will help you to get the most out of Black Friday 2022 by making sure your deliverability is primed for the festive season.

We’re going to cover five critical steps for great Black Friday deliverability:

  • Building send volumes gradually and early
  • Re-engaging lapsed segments
  • Protecting the most engaged subscribers
  • Sending at the perfect time
  • Getting a head start on the competition

The science of deliverability

Email providers like Outlook and Gmail monitor email traffic looking for consistent send volumes and subscriber engagement.

When spikes are identified, with emails going to addresses that don’t normally receive or engage with them then these providers might view the activity as spammy, as it mirrors the activity of spammers and fraudsters.

This means the email providers might block the delivery of all emails from that sender. This chart from MailCharts shows the email volume increase over the Black Friday weekend:

Needless to say, getting blocked during Black Friday/ Cyber Monday will have a serious impact on your sales.

Apple Mail Privacy

Since Apple launched its Mail Privacy Protection last year, there have been big changes in open rates across the industry, with most senders seeing their open rates double.  

This did not appear to impact Black Friday 2021 as adoption rates for iOS16 were still low, but senders planning for Peak 2022 should bear in mind that they can’t rely on open rates as the sole measure of contact engagement when planning their segments. 

You can find out more information on how to use other metrics alongside opens in this blog on re-thinking email engagement and segmentation.

Start building your send volumes gradually and early

During Black Friday, email volumes will absolutely skyrocket due to increased broadcast and automated emails, including confirmations.

As these sudden send increases can raise suspicions among providers and potentially mean that email gets marked as spam. To avoid this, we strongly recommend warming up your email lists with smaller batches initially before gradually increasing the volume.

Think about how frequently you send email now, and whether there is a benefit to sending more in the run-up to the holidays. However, it’s important to be mindful that your contacts are going to be bombarded by nearly every brand they subscribe to at this time, so it’s a balance between getting their attention and scaring them off.

Things to calculate and consider for increasing email volumes safely 

  • How much will your daily send volumes increase
  • How much does increasing your volumes affect deliverability and campaign performance? 
    • To find this out, you can compare previous occasions when send volumes have increased to set benchmarks of what happens when you increase volumes by different amounts. 
  • What are you doing that will increase the volumes? 
    • Will you be contacting older contacts who are not included in your day-to-day segments?
    • or will you be increasing the frequency to existing contacts?

Best practice tip: You should always ramp up your send volumes over the course of several sends. A good rule of thumb is to avoid sending more than double your average

So working backward from Peak, you should look to slowly increase your send volumes so it doesn’t form such a spike and potentially trigger spam filters. Mailbox providers will be more receptive to your messages because they’ve seen you send more volume over the last few weeks. This means that your Cyber Weekend volume won’t be a surprise, so they will be more likely to let the volume in.

We recommend:

  • Slowly add in one extra campaign a week until you reach your desired sending frequency.
  • To increase the segment size of your audience, re-engage lapsed contacts first to slowly build up the volumes in the weeks prior to Black Friday. 

Re-engage your lapsed segments

It can be very tempting to include unengaged contacts during Black Friday so that your emails reach a broader audience. However, this approach can have a widespread detrimental effect. It can make it harder to get emails into the inbox of even your most engaged contacts and could harm your ability to deliver messages for several weeks. To avoid this, we recommend…

Launching a specific re-engagement campaign before Black Friday

In early November, target your lapsed audience using a broadcast campaign with content that clearly instructs the subscriber to interact with the email in order to get Black Friday deals.

For example, using a personalized subject line like:

Hey Paul, do you want to be first to hear about our Black Friday deals?

Open rates are not a reliable indicator of engagement anymore so you should aim to include a strong CTA encouraging recipients to click through the email instead, as clicks show a high level of engagement you can measure. 

If you don’t currently have a re-engagement campaign setup please refer to our help center guide and speak to your CSM, or your provider if you’re not using Ometria, for advice.

Protect your most engaged subscribers

Your most engaged subscribers are key to your Black Friday success. This is the customer segment that will drive the most revenue for you, so it’s very important to make sure that they receive your campaigns.

Tips for reaching these subscribers

  • Send engaged subscribers your Black Friday campaigns first, then send to those who are less engaged in a separate campaign at least one hour later.
  • Stagger your sends to less engaged contacts in batches that are 20% of the segment size, and add a wait of 30 minutes between each batch.

Use a snooze button

Not all subscribers want to take part in Black Friday, particularly this year. And there is a risk that these contacts will react negatively to seeing these campaigns, including marking emails as spam or unsubscribing from you. 

Rather than risk losing these contacts, you can use a snooze button to allow them to opt-out of Black Friday communications, meaning that they stay subscribed in the long term.

We recommend:

  • Using a snooze button.
  • Speaking to your CSM, or your provider if you’re not using Ometria, if you don’t already use a snooze button.

Send at the right time

Research has shown that opens and clicks on Black Friday spike at 10am and 4pm. 

2021 trends

In 2021, Ometria saw 45% of clicks occurring between 6-8am on Black Friday. A similar peak was observed on Cyber Monday with around 40% of clicks happening between 6-9 am. The historical afternoon peak around 4 pm has slowly shifted back to become an evening peak (6-8 pm) on both Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

It’s vital to make sure that you are top of the inbox when the subscriber is most likely to engage with your campaign.

Our recommendations:

  • Send your primary campaign between 6 and 10 am for the morning peak.
  • Send your secondary campaign between 12 and 4 pm to cover lunchtime and be in the inbox for the evening peak.

Get a head start on your competition

As Black Friday has become increasingly competitive over the past few years, we’ve seen many retailers starting the sales early ahead of the Black Friday weekend.

How early did retailers start in 2021?

Previously, some senders have started 4-6 weeks before Black Friday, with some retailers referencing Cyber Monday up to 8 weeks prior. While this might seem like a great way to stay ahead of your competition, starting too early can damage performance over Black Friday itself with early starters seeing engagement decline after three weeks of Black Friday sends.

We recommend:

  • Take a staggered approach to your sale, sending out new sale picks on a daily basis starting on Monday 14th November.

Want more Black Friday advice, examples and tips for surviving the festive period? Why not check out our Black Friday content hub, featuring all of our checklists, guides and blogs? Looking for a last-minute checklist to help with preparations, look no further than our pre-Black Friday checklist, with key dates and tips for success.

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