How retailers can enhance their e-mail applications forward of the gross sales season

The end of the year signals some of the biggest shopping events and most lucrative months on the retail calendar, and the stakes are higher than usual this year.

From Validity Inc. VP Customer Engagement Guy Hanson.

Validity Inc. VP Customer Engagement Guy Hanson.

Retailers are under tremendous pressure to recapture lost sales through increased marketing efforts, and we will see another huge surge in email volume like last year. This is because a record number of companies are using (and sticking to) email as their preferred communication channel during and after the pandemic.

In addition to increasing email volume, retailers need to simultaneously differentiate themselves from the competition without increasing the “digital fatigue” of many consumers, tactically “bring Christmas before” to alleviate fears of supply chain interruptions, and the changes brought about by Apple's mail address data protection, which makes it harder to apply email best practices when email marketers need it most. In conclusion, this year's peak sales season will be more competitive than ever, so having a well-prepared and streamlined email program is non-negotiable for success.

So, with the biggest shopping events just around the corner, if you want to maximize your email program results in the face of this perfect storm of challenges, read on.

Deliverability is key

No matter how sleek or responsive an email is, if it ends up in the subscriber's trash and not in their inbox, it's useless. To get strong interactions and conversions, it's critical that retailers focus on deliverability by developing a strong IP and domain reputation that is like a credit score that Mailbox Providers (MBPs) use to do the good differentiate from the bad and where an email should end up.

The volume of email has grown so much, and MBPs like Gmail and Microsoft are using reputation to prioritize deliverability – making this more important than ever. Authentication is also important to ensure that IP addresses are authorized to send email from approved domains. Retailers should definitely consider setting up Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) so MBPs can see which emails are allowed to enter the inbox.

Scrub your database

Before investing the time and money into creating a powerful email marketing campaign, take the time to proactively remove unknown, suspicious, or inactive email addresses from your database. While sharing communications with everyone can be tempting, contacting inactive email addresses can have a detrimental impact on your sender's reputation. Using a service like Everest by Validity to identify and remove unknown and incorrect user addresses from your list plays an important role in maintaining a good reputation for the sender.

quality before quantity

When planning communications ahead of the sales season, simply increasing the frequency is not the solution. In fact, a sudden surge in outbound email can hurt your campaign by alerting MBPs to unusual activity, such as sudden increases in frequency, that could potentially result in your email being blocked. To avoid this, prioritize sending thoughtful, targeted content by considering what drives your customers' engagement.

Another consideration is providing a wishlist option. This allows subscribers to choose what types of products they want to receive emails about to make sure you don't bother them with content that they are not currently interested in.

Get recognized

With email traffic spiking ahead of the sales season, it's a good idea to think about ways to stand out from your competitors in your inbox. One of the most effective ways to do this is to use BIMI or branded indicators for message identification. This will add your trademarked logo next to your email address in subscribers' inboxes so they can quickly see and visually confirm where the email is coming from. A visual indicator like a logo is also used to create brand recall and increase the likelihood of purchase.

Try split testing

Split testing is a great way for retailers to experiment with content ahead of the sales season to see what is most interesting. This can be as simple as changing the subject line around a call-to-action or emoji, and then comparing performance to an email without these features. While split tests are very informative, Apple's MPP and the removal of the tracking functionality are causing open rates to become increasingly unreliable as a measure of engagement. Therefore, senders need to use other metrics like clicks and conversions to measure success. The sample sizes must also be increased.

The sales season can be extremely profitable for retailers, but it is important to stick to best practices to avoid mistakes. While it can be tempting to focus all of your time and energy on developing brilliant creative campaigns, focusing on getting the basics right is also important.

About Guy Hanson

Guy Hanson is Vice President Customer Engagement (International) at Validity Inc. With a knowledge base spanning two decades, Guy is recognized worldwide as an email expert and thought leader. He is passionate about using customer data intelligently to drive responsive email programs.

About Validity Inc

For more than 20 years, tens of thousands of companies around the world have relied on Validity solutions to engage, contact, engage and retain customers, using trusted data as a key asset. Validity's flagship products deliver smarter campaigns, more qualified leads, more productive sales and, ultimately, faster growth.

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