The importance of deliverability analytics during the holiday season
During the busy festive seasons, even the most efficient marketers can expect to see greater variations in deliverability results than during quieter periods.
Recipients are overwhelmed with email at this time of year, so may not engage with content as they normally would. By increasing the volume being sent, you can decrease the average list engagement. Email providers are under a heavy load due to receiving the influx of seasonal emails, and they are likely to see the decrease in engagement coupled with the increase in volume 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 real promotions to encourage interaction.
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 try to entice lapsed contacts to engage with 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 walk through some analytics; set some expectations of what you might see over the next few months, and discuss how to prevent or troubleshoot inbox placement issues based on what the data is showing.
With the recent iOS 15 changes, this metric could look very different for you this year compared with the same period in previous years.
Remember that an “open” is actually just downloading a tracking pixel. It’s never been an accurate metric 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 that are important to the success of your email marketing strategy such as click-throughs, replies, purchases, etc. Make sure you’re tracking all your other data, and keep an eye on trends over time to help spot what’s working well and also any potential challenges. Our Head of Content, Gavin, recently got creative with alternatives to open rates and offered up some fresh ideas in this blog post.
The impact of non-human interaction (NHI) inflating click-through metrics one year on from when security providers increased their URL link checks (although this impact is reduced for dotdigital customers as we have enabled them to remove those NHI clicks from their reporting). However, clicks are still 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 taken in concert with open rates, measuring website traffic, and actual purchase data to indicate whether sending again to contacts who didn’t open the first time is actually worth the revenue, or whether it simply tanks your sending reputation and reduces the success of subsequent fresh content sends.
Even if you are suddenly seeing NHI where previously there was none, this can be useful information. Poor reputation is associated with an increase in NHI, so it could be an indicator that something is awry with your strategy.
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.
What can you influence? Try to observe if the soft bounces are continuous or if they’re transient. Check whether a single mailbox provider is affected, or if you’re seeing the same across multiple domains. The most important thing is to see if the amount of soft bounces affected engagement (opens, clicks, etc.) If the answer is yes, tweak the contacts you are targeting and reduce the frequency at which you reach out to less engaged and unengaged recipients.
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 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, and from there 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.
List churn via complaints/ unsubscribes
If you are reaching out to your older lists, expect an increase in complaints and unsubscribes. A healthy list interaction will show higher unsubscribe than complaints. This is also a great way to see real interactions where you can learn more about your subscriber’s journey. If complaints happen at the beginning of their lifecycle, weak data capture or poor expectation setting are key. If it happens mid-life-cycle, content and frequency play an important role.
Make the unsubscribe journey as seamless as possible, and ideally implement a custom unsubscribe that offers the user the chance to opt-down (reduce frequency) and update their preferences. This gives you the opportunity to rescue the contact before they unsubscribe by allowing them to realign the terms of your relationship.
Further insights over the festive period
Our Deliverability Perspective package gives you access to check extended inbox placement at the seed level. This adds a breadth and depth of information that can help provide advanced flagging for any 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.