Peak sale season is rapidly approaching, with some of the biggest shopping events of the year like Black Friday, Cyber Monday and Christmas just around the corner. These events are traditionally some of the most profitable months for retailers, however they’re also the most competitive, and becoming more so.

This sale season, we’re set to see a further increase in email volume similar to that in 2020. While email volumes are always heightened at this time of year, 2020 saw a particularly significant increase in volume due to the pandemic, with businesses everywhere using email as their key channel of communication. In fact, in the last 18 months, email send volume has almost doubled compared to pre-COVID, with a volume increase of 94% year-on-year.

This huge increase in volume means consumers’ inboxes are more crowded than ever, and retailers need to be on their A-game if they want to make an impact through their email marketing efforts. More emails mean consumers are becoming more selective about what they open, preferencing emails from senders they recognise, trust, and where the promise of the subject line is appealing.

So, how can retailers prepare their email programs for the upcoming sale season to ensure they reap the benefits?

Consider where your emails are landing

If your thoughtfully crafted email containing a fabulous offer lands in a recipient’s junk folder, this should be your starting point. Ensure your emails aren’t incorrectly being identified as spam by building strong IP and domain reputations, and using authentication – ensuring email addresses are authorised to send emails from approved domains. Retailers should also look at setting up DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) to help MBPs establish the authenticity of emails.

Stick to active databases

Just because it’s sales season and you want to capitalise on the opportunity, this doesn’t mean you should revisit an old database. In fact, you should proactively remove unknown, suspicious or inactive email addresses. Contacting inactive email addresses can be highly detrimental to your marketing efforts as it negatively impacts your sender reputation which determines how MBPs like Google and Outlook assess your emails for delivery. Using a service like Validity’s Everest for subscriber addresses older than one year will help to identify and remove unknown and incorrect user addresses from your list.

Doubling frequency overnight is not the answer

Developing thoughtful and targeted content that’s shared at strategic moments is a much smarter strategy than simply increasing the frequency of communication across the board. A sudden dramatic increase in outbound emails will alert mailbox providers, and if they think your IP address has been compromised, they could block or delay delivery of your emails until they can validate your sender reputation. Instead, focus on developing quality content that is designed to encourage engagement and build up the frequency slowly.

Try split testing

All retailers should experiment with split testing in the lead up to sales season. This doesn’t need to be complicated – start with something simple such as changing up the subject line – with an emoji or without an emoji – or the promotion on offer – such as 20% off v $20 off. Based on which message results in higher engagement and conversions, you’ll know what is resonating and should be replicated. Once you have a better understanding of your customers, you can move to more advanced testing like email creatives, banner images, and send times.

How about BIMI?

BIMI or Brand Indicators for Message Identification adds the sender’s authorised logo next to the brand’s email address in the receiver’s inbox. This visual indicator confirms that an email is coming from a trusted sender – resulting in increased engagement, as well as greater brand recall and purchase likelihood. The retail trifecta!

Give the power back to the receiver

To market your products and services successfully, it’s crucial to understand your subscribers and what they want from you. The simplest way to do this is by offering them options through a preference centre. This allows subscribers to indicate how often they’d like to receive communications, which channels they prefer, and what categories of content interest them. Other controls include the option of a snooze button if they wish to pause communication for a period.

The introduction of a preference centre is particularly important with the arrival of Apple’s Mail Protection Privacy (MPP). MPP removes pixel tracking functionality and makes inferring subscribers’ interest from open rates less reliable, meaning more focus will need to be placed on asking subscribers outright.

Triggered emails

You should also consider implementing triggered emails based on subscribers’ behaviours. An example of this is sending an automatic email to customers who have left an item in their online cart after a certain period. Maybe they’ve decided they don’t want to purchase the item, but it’s also possible they’ve become distracted and will appreciate the reminder. Triggered emails are extremely affective. In fact, when it comes cart abandonment emails, these generate ten times more revenue than other marketing emails.

While sale season presents a fantastic opportunity for retailers and marketers, it’s also often the time when mistakes are made. Don’t get distracted by your exciting new campaign and forget to maintain privacy compliance and other best practises you follow year-round. By marketing with consideration and care, you’ll help to ensure your communications are delivered, recognised, and acted upon this sale season.

William Zhang is director of sales for Asia Pacific at Validity Inc.