Thursday, May 19, 2022

How retailers can strengthen their email programs ahead of sale season

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

By Validity Inc. VP Customer Engagement Guy Hanson.

Validity Inc. VP Customer Engagement Guy Hanson.

Retailers are under enormous pressure to recover lost sales through increased marketing efforts, and we’re set to see another huge increase in email volume like that of last year. This is thanks to a record number of businesses turning to (and sticking with) email as their preferred channel of communication during and beyond the pandemic.

In addition to increased email volumes, retailers must simultaneously balance standing out from competitors without adding to the “digital fatigue” many consumers are experiencing, tactically ‘bring Christmas forward’ to mitigate fears about supply chain disruptions, and manage changes brought about by Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection which make it harder to operate an established set of email best practices when email marketers need them most. In summary, this year’s peak sales season is set to be more competitive than ever, making a well-prepared and optimised email program non-negotiable for success.

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

Deliverability is key

No matter how slick or engaging an email is, if it lands in subscribers’ junk rather than their inbox, it’s useless. To achieve strong engagement and conversions, it’s crucial that retailers focus on deliverability by developing a strong IP and domain reputation, which is like a credit score that mailbox providers (MBPs) use to distinguish the good from the bad, and where an email should land.

Email volume has increased so much, and MBPs such as Gmail and Microsoft use reputation to help prioritise deliverability – making this more important than ever. Authentication is also critical to ensure IP addresses are authorised to send emails from approved domains. Retailers should strongly consider setting up DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance) so MBPs can tell which emails are authorised to enter the inbox.

Scrub your database

Before investing time and money creating an impressive email marketing campaign, take the time to proactively remove unknown, suspicious or inactive email addresses from your database. While it can be tempting to share communications with everyone, contacting inactive email addresses has a harmful impact on your sender reputation. Using a service like Validity’s Everest to identify and remove unknown and incorrect user addresses from your list will play an important role in maintaining a good sender reputation.

Quality over quantity

When planning communications in the lead up to sales season, simply increasing frequency is not the answer. In fact, a sudden increase in outbound emails can be harmful to your campaign, as MBPs are alerted to abnormal activity such as sudden increases in frequency, potentially leading to your emails being blocked. To avoid this, prioritise sending thoughtful, targeted content by considering what will encourage engagement from your customers.

Another consideration is providing a wish list option. This allows subscribers to elect which types of products they’re interested in receiving emails on, helping to ensure you don’t bother them with content they’re not interested in right now.

Get recognised

As email volumes increase in the lead up to the sales season, you should consider how you can stand out from competitors in the inbox. One of the most effective ways to do this is through BIMI or Brand Indicators for Message Identification. This adds your trademarked logo next to your email address in subscribers’ inboxes, allowing them to quickly recognise and visually confirm where the email is coming from. A visual indicator such as a logo also works to create brand recall and increase purchase likelihood.

Try split testing

Split testing is a great way for retailers to experiment with content in the lead up to sales season to determine what’s most engaging. This can be as simple as switching up the subject line to include a call to action or an emoji, then comparing performance to an email without these features. While split testing is highly informative, Apple’s MPP and the removal of tracking functionality means open rates are becoming increasingly unreliable as a measurement of engagement. Therefore, senders will need to harness other metrics such as clicks and conversions to measure success. Sample sizes will also need to increase.

Sale season can be extremely profitable for retailers, however it’s key to maintain best practises to avoid making mistakes. While it can be tempting to focus all your time and energy on developing brilliant creative campaigns, it’s also important to focus on doing the basics well.

About Guy Hanson

Guy Hanson is Vice President Customer Engagement (International) at Validity Inc. With a knowledge base spanning two decades, Guy is globally recognised as an email expert and thought leader. He is a passionate advocate for intelligent use of customer data to drive responsive email programs.

About Validity Inc 

For more than 20 years, tens of thousands of organisations across the world have relied on Validity solutions to target, contact, engage and keep customers, using trustworthy data as a key advantage. Validity’s flagship products deliver smarter campaigns, more qualified leads, more productive sales, and ultimately faster growth.

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