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Holiday Preparedness

  |  September 14, 2011   |  Comments

Four ways to ensure your messages actually make it to consumers' inboxes this holiday season.

The lazy days of summer are behind us, and before we know it, we will be knee-deep in the holiday season. Hopefully, you've already developed your messaging strategy and schedule for Q4, but don't forget about steps you need to take to ensure those messages actually make it to consumers' inboxes. Just as you clean house for visiting relatives and decorate to get into the holiday spirit, do some housekeeping in your email database.

Your main objective should be to start the holiday season with the cleanest list possible. There are several ways to do this. First, take a look at your inactive subscribers. Target those who were at one time valuable to you and send them a reengagement message. Remember, it's OK to incent them with a little brand love if they confirm their opt-in status. Another segment to consider is the group of people that were active last December, but then went dark. They are likely to be your holiday deal hunters and shoppers. Send a message to them letting them know you are about to start your holiday messaging and ask them to reconfirm whether or not they want to hear from you again this year. Be specific and point out the benefits of your email program, like Black Friday previews or free shipping offers.

Second, be transparent about frequency changes. It's not uncommon for once-a-week mailers to become daily mailers during the holiday season. Consumers (and ISPs) are generally forgiving about increased frequency during the holidays, but if possible, offer subscribers options. Ask them to update their frequency preferences, and offer daily or weekly emails. Also, update your unsubscribe page with options for frequency. Letting recipients choose a decreased frequency rather than unsubscribing all together has been a very successful tactic. Plus, it can keep your spam complaints down. Another creative way to increase frequency while keeping engagement high is to develop a triggered series, based on something like the 12 days of Christmas, or top 10 trendy gifts.

Third, remove or correct erroneous data from your list. This is the right time of the year to put your list through a hygiene service to remove typos and known traps, or to correct syntax errors and other troublesome data on your list. Many retailers, for example, rely on POS to generate new email addresses. There will be an enormous uptick in store traffic and new email addresses over the next few weeks. These names are more susceptible to typos or related errors, which potentially translate to hard bounces, spam traps, or complaints. New names collected manually at the register or electronically online can also be made hygienic in real- or right-time to ensure their legitimacy and deliverability. Programs like these are typically cost effective and easy to do.

Fourth, ask active subscribers to update their shopping preferences. A lot can change in a year. Maybe grandma has moved from Boston to Miami and no longer needs those emails about the best down comforters. A child who wanted nothing but Spiderman gear last Christmas may have switched his loyalty to Superman. Ask your customers if they would prefer a mobile version of your email. This year, smartphones will be a key tool in holiday shopping, and being able to access your deal or coupon via email will make things easier for shoppers.

Rejuvenating lost email addresses, correcting bad addresses, and knowing your customers' preferences can really boost revenue in a major way. It's time to clean the house for the holidays and, throw away the five-year-old fruit cakes while you're at it.

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Rick Buck

Rick Buck is vice president of privacy and ISP relations, CIPP at e-Dialog, a provider of advanced e-mail and multichannel marketing solutions. Rick works with clients, ISPs, and privacy organizations to promote best practices around responsible marketing. He is an active member of the Direct Marketing Association where he sits on the Ethics Operating committee and previously served as the Ethics Policy committee chair. Rick is also a board member of the E-mail Sender and Provider Coalition (ESPC). Prior to his current role Rick served as vice president, business lists and data for Harte Hanks.

Rick is an accomplished speaker and author on such topics as e-mail deliverability, privacy, and CAN-SPAM compliance. Rick has over 20 years of experience in privacy, acquisition strategy, database management, and Internet marketing. He joined e-Dialog in 2000.

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