Get your Marketing Cloud ready for the holiday season

What you don’t, but should, worry about with Black Friday and other holidays around the corner, especially when it comes to ensuring good deliverability.

With Black Friday approaching, many of you are sending out various forms of marketing emails to your subscribers. These sends are most probably segmented, and are being sent out by various business units across the globe, on different days, with varying volumes. And it does work quite well in day to day operations. But…

Make it to all inboxes, with these deliverability best practices

There is nothing more annoying, than giving your sender reputation that severe hit, knocking it way below 50% of what it currently is. Which is exactly what could happen, if you don’t think twice. Let’s just say, you have roughly 1.000.000 subscribers, across 12 countries, and each country is being segmented into two lists. In round numbers, this gives around 42.000 recipients per sendout. And assuming you send out once every two weeks to each segment, countries acting quite independent, this gives you a maximum average daily volume of a little more than 80.000. Probably even less, if your campaigns are less frequent. 

ISPs are used to these numbers, and treat your emails nicely, delivering them to the inboxes of your subscribers. However, when you decide to send out a Black Friday campaign to everyone, on a single day, as Black Friday is just around the corner, things start to go bad, really bad:

Rapid decline in sender score
Example of a Sender Score few days after a big spike in volume –

As the volume suddenly is more than 10 times the normal, maybe even more, some ISPs are beginning to get suspicious. This could be a sign of your IP/domain being compromised, and the message you are sending is treated as spam. Perhaps some of the recipients who you include in the Black Friday email haven’t heard from you in months, as they don’t fit your regular segments – they might even be dead inboxes. Hitting a number of hard bounces is not something that benefits your reputation either. While you are used to seeing deliverability rates of 98-99%, the numbers drop lower, way lower:

Domain specific open rates

Now you are facing two issues:

  1. The Black Friday email you wanted to send to all your subscribers, has failed to reach a large portion of them.
  2. Your sender reputation is worse than ever, and you have a campaign calendar lined up, for the weeks to come. Your revenue depends on this. And looking at your deliverability rates, you start being concerned about your current budget. This could take weeks to resolve.

First issue is of course the most pressing one. There is however no other way, than patience. You are facing what could be an IP warmup process, about which I write in another article. This will help you out with both #1 and #2. You need to do following:

  1. Postpone your planned campaigns – you need to focus on getting your deliverability back on track
  2. Run a report on your Black Friday send-out. Check up on everyone who hasn’t opened the email, exclude the hard bounces, and build segments from these lists. You want to start slow, so look for a segment of around 10-20.000 subscribers (to stay well within the throttling limits of e.g. Hotmail). Send out to this list, and keep an eye on open rates. Follow my guide on IP warmup. You will probably stil be facing lower open rates than normal. Be patient.
  3. Every third day, double the volume, sending out your campaigns to double the recipients as last time. Still keeping a close eye on performance across ISPs. You should see higher deliverability and open rates than during the first round. Keep sending, until you have gone through all the un-opened emails from round one.

This example is looking specifically at a Black Friday emails. But this could be any campaign you choose to send out to the entire base, on a single day. Be very aware of the impact this might have on your reputation and deliverability. Analyse the volume of the preceding 2-3 weeks. Will your campaign have a volume that is 10x the average daily volume? Even 5x the volume can be harmful. There is no golden rule, other than spreading these large volumes across 3-4 rounds, with 3 days between. Doubling the volume round by round. Using this approach, your reputation has a lower risk of suffering damage. And sender reputation is crucial to your deliverability, hence to your campaign performance, and in the end – to your business. 

But wait, I am paying for Salesforce Marketing Cloud. Shouldn’t Salesforce be monitoring my IP address, and proactively resolve any deliverability issues?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Salesforce Marketing Cloud platform is self-serve. Salesforce monitors for platform health and for broad system-wide deliverability issues, but does not monitor for an your specific deliverability rates, nor are they able to proactively reach out to you due to poor metrics.

You should self-monitor and raise a support case when issues or concerns or questions arise. If you wants Salesforce to monitor for your specific deliverability issues, this is accomplished via a paid services engagement.

Getting ready for holidays does not end with deliverability

There are more things to consider, beyond deliverability. These might be related to:

Salesforce has compiled this complete and comprehensive slide deck with many more recommendations for the holiday season.

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