Metrics to Watch this Holiday Season
The holiday season is in full swing. All the email campaigns you’ve spent the last weeks and months planning and proofing for are scheduled and starting to mail. The orders are (hopefully) stacking up and readying to ship. However, it’s not quite time to relax; this is the time to be vigilant.
While consumers are engaging in the peak of the shopping season, and tolerating — even anticipating — the increase in promotional emails, mailbox providers aren’t adjusting their filtering algorithms. It’s “business as usual” for the Gmails, Yahoos and Hotmails of the world, which means list hygiene and subscriber engagement are more important than ever. To avoid having your critical holiday campaigns sent to the junk folder or blocked altogether, you need to follow best practices with every aspect of your email campaigns. The following metrics can offer early warning signs of potential deliverability issues:
This metric indicates the number of invalid email addresses on your subscriber list. Brick-and-mortar retailers that collect email addresses as part of the checkout process are especially susceptible to gathering poor quality data — perhaps the cashier enters a bogus address to keep the line moving quickly, or the customer mumbles and the address is captured inaccurately. In either case, you're adding disreputable data into your email list. Sending communications without validating the address can negatively impact your sending reputation, causing harm to your email program. Keep a close watch on this metric, especially during the holidays when sending volume is higher than normal. If it goes above 5 percent, you’re in the “danger zone” and should slow down the pace at which you're adding new data to your email list.
Generally, consumers are more tolerant of increased marketing frequency during the holiday season. However, this seasonal tolerance doesn’t equate to a free pass. While consumers expect retailers to send more email and will often use their inbox to shop the best deals, they will also report unwanted messages as spam if the privilege is abused. Remember, the inbox is a subscriber’s personal space. Be respectful of the content and frequency you're sending. Racking up a high complaint rate (which can be defined as 1 percent to 3 percent, depending on the mailbox provider) can result in having your messages sent to the junk folder almost immediately. Therefore, monitor your complaints closely to avoid oversaturation of subscriber tolerance and loss of revenue because of filtering.
This metric indicates how effectively your email content is driving action. Consumers use the subject line and pre-header to decide whether they'll open a message. However, once the message has been opened, content that disappoints will result in a delete rather than a click. Clickthrough behavior is useful to assess whether the message strategy is effective, or if you're missing a conversion opportunity due to a disconnect between the promise (subject line) and reality (the offer). If the reality fails to align with the promise repeatedly, your brand equity will be diminished, leading to unengaged subscribers. With mailbox providers now using engagement factors in their filtering processes, continually sending to nonresponsive subscribers can lead to junk foldering or blocking of campaigns. Stay abreast of response rates by monitoring this key metric in order to alleviate the risk.
There's a lot going on this time of year, but staying diligent in measuring and assessing the performance of each campaign will pay dividends. Consumers can be unpredictable, and the faster you can identify and react to changes in metrics, the faster you can recover.
Bonnie Malone leads the consulting, client training, and knowledge and editorial organization of Return Path, an email data solutions provider.
Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and Total Retail.