Black Friday Cyber Monday: Make sure you deliver in time

Image by Mike Cohen

During the busiest shopping season, namely Black Friday Cyber Monday (BFCM), an uptick in email volumes is often a given, but there are a number of things you can do to make sure your email sending performs at its best without getting yourself caught up in the net that is cast to catch the spammers. Are you a brand marketer, or providing email sending services to marketers?

What does a high volume commercial sender want at BFCM?

As an email sender, you want as much of your email delivered as quickly as possible to the user’s inbox. You want to re-engage as many customers as possible with the best offers. You have been holding back on these loss leaders’ deals for weeks and you want to get the word out. You are not the only one, every e-commerce business and retailer wants the same. Add to this fact that now even B2B SaaS solutions are utilising the BFCM period for promotion and you can see mailbox providers and users have a deluge of email to deal with at this time.

There are plenty of things that you can do over this period to minimise the risk of your email being delayed, rejected, or filtered. I could discuss segmenting your users, and not using BFCM as the time for re-engagement. I could suggest it is not the best time at all for that kind of marketing strategy, but that is not what you will want to hear. You want practical strategies that will protect your reputation, enhance your chances of delivery and protect your deliverability.

What do the postmasters want?

So, we understand what you are looking for as a sender. The postmasters of mailbox providers on the other hand, what are they interested in? They are the folks who have to manage the MTAs and storage servers handling the email you send. Years ago systems could creak under the strain of such an amount of email, and whilst that may still be an issue at some mailbox providers today, modern email software such as Halon MTA handle these spikes in volumes with relative ease. The concern now is primarily for the recipient.

Mailbox providers want to give their users the best possible experience, and spam needs to be managed effectively to achieve that. Despite what you might believe as a marketer, most recipients are pretty laissez-faire about a reasonable proportion of marketing messages getting filtered to spam, even if opted in, if it means their inbox experience is enhanced.

The real dangers with your reputation and deliverability lie not just in the period around BFCM but also in what happens to your reputation the weeks and months after. We know one sure-fire way to do this is to generate complaints. That leads us to what the end-user wants.

What the recipient wants

The receiver of commercial email wants to get relevant, timely information and offers. During the period of BFCM, they have been primed, trained to look out for only extremely high-value offers. There are plenty of times where it is not appropriate to send emails to past customers and assumably you are a sophisticated enough marketer to know how to make those hard decisions about segmenting out some of your user base from offers.

Even if you do everything right during the BFCM period, targeting the right people with the right offer, there are still challenges. Many sending platforms experience issues during these busy days. These issues can lead to delays, and for some senders and recipients, these delays are so severe that the email is delivered even after the offer has expired. As a customer, there is little more infuriating than receiving an incredible offer that is no longer eligible. While this hurts your brand reputation, it certainly hurts your credibility.

How is it even possible that an email you send on Thursday arrives on Sunday? It normally comes down to functionalities in the MTA used by the sender for retrying messages that are not immediately accepted by the recipient’s mailbox provider. Looking at the MTA will help you understand such issues.

Where the issues are for sending services?

Delayed or failed deliveries are almost always due to issues with the email content. Are you a business using an email sending service provider (ESP) to deliver marketing or transactional email? Others using the same service will potentially not be following all the same best practices you are, not keeping up with list hygiene, ensuring stellar permission practices, or even targeting their offers. Once resources are shared, you will potentially be impacted in some way or the other. This is whether you use a shared IP or domain for sending and tracking or not. At the end of the day, the email will all need to go through the same MTAs, and other users’ delays can impact you.

Many ESPs will keep retrying the delivery of your email message for several days if the initial delivery attempt fails. These do not show up as bounces or deliveries during that period in your dashboards. If your email message ends up in such a queue it could well end up being delivered after your offer expires. If your ESP uses a modern and well configured MTA such as Halon, this issue need not exist, as it allows you to configure variable retry times and strategies on a per-campaign or per-message basis. Ask your ESP if they support this feature.

What should a brand marketer do?

So in light of all that we have read and learned in this post, what are the 5 things to remember as an enterprise marketer when it comes to planning BFCM campaigns?

  1. Black Friday/Cyber Monday is not the time to dust off your list and email everyone who has ever purchased something of you in the past 25 years
  2. Run the best possible offer and send only to those who would be interested
  3. Ensure you are not delivering email after the offer expires
  4. Ensure your ESP or sending software can handle expiring delivery of messages in a timely fashion
  5. Do not run flash offers over this period if your ESP is not able to terminate delivery in a timely manner

Now you understand why the issues come up during the BFCM period. You can see that by following the advice above, you can minimise your chances of being filtered or having an email delivered that might tarnish your reputation.

Do you operate MTAs and struggle with roadmap gaps due to inflexibility, or poor delivery performance due to lackluster queue management? Please take a look at how our modern MTA can revolutionise the way you build email infrastructure, and don’t hesitate to reach out.

Are you operating email services?