The importance of deliverability analytics during the holiday season

During the busy and festive seasons, even the most efficient marketers can expect to see greater variations in deliverability results than during quieter periods.

We don’t recommend taking risks with your data ahead of the busy period – as recently discussed in our festive spamtraps blog post. However, if you are going to take the opportunity to expand your sending volumes and try to get less engaged recipients re-energized by your brand, you need to do so strategically, and with a sharp eye on the results of every campaign sent.

In this blog, we’ll dive into deliverability analytics; set some expectations of what you might see over the next few months, and discuss what they tell us about what affects email deliverability.

Negative metrics are critical

Marketers are very familiar with positive indicators of engagement i.e. opens and clicks. However, email has evolved; pre-caching of images is now common (Gmail, Microsoft, and Apple all do this) and sophisticated anti-malware filters will now click through links to ensure they’re safe for recipients (aka non-human interaction). Relying solely on traditional open and click metrics simply doesn’t cut the yule log any more.

That’s why we’re starting off this blog looking at the negative metrics; while interest can only be indirectly measured, recipients (and mailbox providers) tell senders pretty directly when their expectations are not being met.

Unsubscribes vs complaints - useful but not equal

If you are reaching out to your older lists, expect an increase in unsubscribes and complaints (recipients marking your email as junk/spam). You can learn more about your subscriber’s journey by analyzing where these interactions happen. If a contact drops out at the beginning of their lifecycle, weak data capture or poor expectation setting are key. If you lose them mid life-cycle, content and frequency play an important role.

A healthy list interaction will show more unsubscribe than complaints. Unsubscribes don’t affect your sender reputation, but contacts marking your emails as junk/spam will; and these complaints have a heavy negative weighting. If you’re seeing more complaints than unsubscribes, then this may be an indicator that your unsubscribe journey needs some attention (we have a blog post here to help you optimize your opt-out).

Soft bounces

During the seasonal period, you may notice an increase in soft bounces. A sharp spike is likely to indicate that there’s a problem with the list you are targeting, especially if you haven’t sent to it recently. However, a gentle increase overall could be due to the whole email ecosystem being put under strain, and a healthy email program will recover.

Soft bounce data can provide a wealth of information about what affects email deliverability and how mailbox providers view your mail. So pay attention to whether they’re continuous or transient, and whether a single domain is affected, or if it’s across multiple domains. If the volume of soft bounces has affected engagement (opens, clicks, etc.), that indicates the mailbox provider may be junking your mail. Tweak the contacts you are targeting, and reduce the frequency at which you reach out to less-engaged and unengaged recipients.

Replies

It’s important to remember that email is a two-way communication channel, so you should be checking the replies to your emails. The positive side of replies is that you can see real interaction here; a snapshot into what affects email deliverability. A healthy list will likely receive some questions and comments in amongst the out-of-office replies. You can use these to see what contacts really think about your emails. From there you can work out if you have any weakness in other areas, such as poor data capture or expectation misalignment at the point of collection.

It’s especially important to keep an eye on replies during the festive period, as they’ll be a great indicator if you’re over-sending to your recipients. Failing to check replies could also mean missing questions from your customers about products or purchases, leading to lost sales or bad reviews for poor customer service.

Open rates

An “open” simply tracks the downloading of a pixel. It’s never been an accurate metric of a real open, because this is not the same as actual human eyes reading your emails. Open rates are part of the toolkit, but you should also be tracking other metrics. Ones that are important to the success of your email marketing strategy such as click-throughs, replies, purchases etc. Make sure you’re keeping an eye on trends over time to help spot what’s working well and also any potential challenges.

We’re well over a year on from the iOS 15 changes, so you should have a good baseline to work from. And if you don’t, now’s the time to do the work so you know how Apple MPP affects your metrics and how to account for that ahead of the festive season.

Clicks

Clicks continue to be an important indicator of how engaged recipients are, and whether emails have landed in the inbox or not.

Pay attention to trends in clicks over time, especially if re-mailing to non-openers during the festive period. Clicks can be viewed holistically along with open rates, measuring website traffic, and actual purchase data. This versatile insight can indicate whether sending again to contacts who didn’t open the first time is actually worth the revenue, or whether it carries high risk of damaging your sending reputation and could jeopardize the success of future sends.

As with open rates, B2B senders should now have enough data to know what impact non-human interaction (NHI) has (if any) on their click through rate reporting. If you are suddenly seeing NHI where previously there was none, this is a useful negative metric. Poor reputation is associated with an increase in filters checking links, so it could be an indicator that something is awry with your strategy.

Analyze your results to avoid list fatigue

Recipients are overwhelmed with email during the holidays, and they may not engage with content as they normally would. By increasing the volume you send, you can decrease the average list engagement – this is list fatigue. Mailbox providers are also under a heavy load receiving the influx of seasonal emails. An increase in volume coupled with a decrease in engagement is more likely to be interpreted as a sign that your emails don’t belong in the inbox. This can result in a further decline in the success of your emails, even when sending relevant content such as promotions to encourage interaction.

Analyzing the reporting data for your emails is a great start. If you want to level up further, our Deliverability Team are on hand to help. Please contact us using the form below and we’ll be in touch.

Enhance your deliverability this holiday season

Contact us to discuss your deliverability needs. Our Deliverability Perspective package gives you access to extended inbox placement data, including seeding. This adds a breadth and depth of information that can help provide advanced flagging for list fatigue, or any other potential challenges during business-critical sending times.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in any of our deliverability products, or if you need any assistance with inbox placement over the festive season.

Enhance your deliverability this holiday season

Contact us to discuss your deliverability needs. Our Deliverability Perspective package gives you access to extended inbox placement data, including seeding. This adds a breadth and depth of information that can help provide advanced flagging for list fatigue, or any other potential challenges during business-critical sending times.

Please get in touch if you’re interested in any of our deliverability products, or if you need any assistance with inbox placement over the festive season.

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
Stay on top

Get the latest and greatest marketing insight delivered to you weekly

Ecommerce marketing

Scale your ecommerce marketing campaigns with Dotdigital

Marketing automation

Attract, engage, and retain your audiences with Dotdigital