Maximizing Email Deliverability During the Holidays

It’s time to start making your plans for the holidays. If you want to get anywhere near decent email deliverability during the holidays, the time to start working on this is right now. 

And while I’ll go over quite a few strategies to improve your deliverability, the main point I want you to take away from this is to start early. But more on that later

The holidays are tricky. It can be the best of times, and it can be the worst of times. It all depends on how well prepared and educated you are about the specifics of holiday email marketing.

With that said, let’s look at the specific strategies you want to implement in order to make sure you get the most out of the holidays and make it a positive episode for your business.

1) Start early, or suffer the consequences

If you study why an email marketer suffered horrible delivery during the holidays, you will find many “mistakes” and reasons, and we’ll cover all of them today. 

However, what you will also find, is that all of these mistakes come back to a larger mistake that ties them altogether – they did not start planning and implementing proper strategies in time.


If you start frantically trying to plan what and which and how many campaigns you’ll send for the holidays right as you’re about to do it, I can guarantee that you will suffer from terrible deliverability, lose a lot of subscribers and ruin your reputation with email inbox providers.

So if you take away one thing from this article, please at least take away this one point. The time to start planning your holiday strategy is now. It’s not “early”, it’s just the right time to start.

2) Hygiene time, no better moment than right now

If you’re like most email marketers, you understand just how crucial list-hygiene is to your email marketing success. And further, if you’re like most email marketers, you probably put it off and procrastinate on doing it.

That’s ok, you’re human after all. And besides, if you’re not on Emercury yet, you aren’t getting the list-hygiene benefits included with every Emercury account. We make list-hygiene much easier and more effective than other platforms, and in fact it’s included in every paid plan. 

Why? Because it’s the single most important thing to improve your email deliverability and we’re kind of famous for our “obsession” with deliverability. No wonder so many big-list owners are moving to Emercury.

But I digress. Back to the topic… 

Here’s the deal – the holidays are harsh. And while a marketer gets punished for lazy hygiene throughout the year as-it-is, during the holidays the “punishment” is many times larger. 

So if you’ve been putting it off, this is the perfect time for some housekeeping

List-hygiene is a broad topic that’s beyond the scope of this article, so you might want to read this article on list hygiene, and go through our different articles on email deliverability in general as well.

Specifically when it comes to the holidays though, you should do at least the bare minimum.

Identify the people who have been inactive for a longer time, and if appropriate either add them to a suppression list, unsubscribe them, or send them a re-engagement campaign. 

Do this well in advance of the holidays so you don’t end up sending any holiday offers to cold emails that will hurt your deliverability. 

Hint: If you’re an Emercury customer you get access to a support team that helps you with list-hygiene any time you ask. So if you haven’t moved yet, this might be the right time to do so.

3) Consider implementing a preferences center

Technological progress is a good thing, but it does have its downsides. When it comes to email marketing, we often get obsessed with the latest features and automation techniques.

In the process we forget that older techniques still work amazingly well and should still be used (alongside the shiny new stuff).

When it comes to personalizing the experience of the subscriber, these days we have very fine ways to automatically “uncover” what a subscriber likes and dislikes.

We can build automations that track what they click and don’t click on. In fact, we can build automations that fill out custom fields and assign tags based on what emails people open or do not open.

And we’ve covered all of that in our special guide “Converting Leads to Customers using Email Automation”. 

However, in the process of implementing these latest techniques, we might forget that it’s still ok to actually ask people what they like. 

This is where implementing a preferences center can come into play, and making sure to implement it before the holidays hit is a great idea. It is simply a page where people can actually choose what kind of emails they want to receive more or less of. 

That way when people get an email that doesn’t interest them during the holidays, instead of having to hit subscribe, they can click on that “change subscription preferences” link instead. And in there, they have a lot more options than a straight-out “unsubscribe”.

So how do I implement a preferences center?

The best way to do this is to build your own preferences page thats suited to your exact business model and how you segment people’s interests. 

There are ESPs out there that brag about having a “preferences center” feature, but the truth is the odds are that a pre-built preferences-feature won’t fit your exact needs.

Doing your own custom solution can actually be quite easy. All you have to do is use your favorite form solution and create a form where people can choose things they want to unsubscribe from.

You can then map their answers to certain lists, tags or custom fields inside of your email marketing software. If you’re an Emercury customer, our support team can help you with this. Just ask.

4) Work on your segmentation and personalization

Just like everything else on this list, this is something you should be doing throughout the year. However, during the holidays it becomes crucial to the point where it determines whether you do well or get your deliverability crushed to pieces.

Why? It’s quite simple actually. During the holiday season people get bombarded with emails and it is very easy for them to get annoyed at “bulk mail” that does not interest them.

The solution? Send them content that actually interests them. How? Through segmentation and personalization.

Basically, you want people to get an offer or campaign that’s as close to personal as possible. The way you achieve this is to segment people by all of the data you have gathered about them. 

This may include gender, age, location, previous purchases or any of the custom fields that make sense for your business (more on that here). 

To learn more about how to actually do segmentation, feel free to check out our popular article – 7 Segmentation Tricks that Unlock ROI

And if you want to make all of this a lot more automatic and effortless, do check out our ultimate guide – Converting Subscribers to Customers (On Autopilot)

5) Consider the importance of consistency, and craft your plans around that

Do you want a surefire way to make inbox providers “suspicious” of you and downgrade your delivery? Start acting erratically and in a random way. 

And if you want to ensure good delivery, do the opposite. Make sure that you are as predictable as possible and try to keep at least some level of consistency. 

This means that if you typically send 2 emails a month, don’t all of a sudden send 2 emails in one day. Your delivery will suffer pretty badly. The same is true if you change your sender name, email domain, or email address.

Now, again, this is something you want to pay attention to year round and avoid sudden changes in your email sending. 

However, this is most likely to happen to you during the holiday season, when you realize that you’re running out of time and have to start sending all those holiday offers. If you don’t plan for it in time, you will end up with (what appears to inbox providers as) erratic behavior.

So all of this ties back to the first point, start making your plans and strategies early. 


As for the specific plans that you need to make?

If you’ve been reading our deliverability blog, you should already know this. 

  • You need to scale your volume slowly and gradually in the lead up to that big holiday season. As a general rule your holiday volume shouldn’t exceed more than double the volume in the period leading up to it.
  • Plan to split your campaigns so different parts are sent at a different hour. Ideally if you did enough segmentation your campaigns would be based on a segment. So one segment gets their version at 14:15, the other gets it at 14:45, etc.
  • Bonus Tip: Odd times can help as most marketers just choose rounder times such as 14:00 and that’s when most email providers and inbox providers are swamped most
  • And don’t forget: Make sure that your IPs are warmed up

6) Work on your subject-line-writing skills

Email marketing is a very high ROI channel, so even if you’re not that good at writing subject-lines, you’ll still make a lot of money. This is one reason that a lot of email marketers never improve a lot of their skills. 

However, the holidays are here to change that. During a period like this the subscriber is flooded with emails and the volume goes through the roof. It is far more competitive than at other times of the year. And having a great subject line is pretty much a must.

So look at this as an opportunity to get good at your subject-line-writing skills, which, in turn, will increase your profitability during the rest of the year as well. All around a good thing.

How to write irresistible holiday subject lines

Personalize the subject line. 

You wouldn’t do it in every email, but it totally makes sense during the holidays. Something like “A special {holiday name} offer for {subscriber first name}” makes a lot of sense and fits the situation

Don’t be afraid to use sales-driven words and phrases

This includes things such as “special promotion”, “free shipping for {holiday week}”, “{holiday} savings” etc. A lot of these might be too strong and even a bit spammy during regular times, but are totally normal, and even expected during the holiday season.

Ask holiday-related questions

And take note, questions make for great subject lines in general as well. Especially if you personalize them, that is something like “{FirstName}, {the question}”.

During the holidays you might ask something like “{Name, need some cool gift ideas?”, “Wondering what to get yourself this Black Friday?”. Basically you want to somehow take the offer inside of your email and turn it into a question.

Feature your offer prominently, no need to be subtle about it

In general you want most of your emails to avoid direct sales offers. In fact, most emails you send people should be almost entirely about giving them value, with only a subtle nudge towards one of your offers. 

Normally, direct sales-driven promotional emails should make a small percentage of the emails that you send. However, this is not the case during the holidays. In fact, your subscribers expect and want you to make them a holiday offer of some kind. So there is absolutely no need to be subtle about your pitch.

Depending on your business and your offer, your subject line can boldly say something like “Free shipping with every order, only for {holiday-adjacent days}”. Or something like “50% off our most popular plan, only during {holiday week}”. Perhaps even something like “{Your Service} All Access 48 Hour 50% Off Sale!”

Bonus: Don’t be afraid to use emoji in your subject lines during the holidays

They totally fit the holiday spirit and actually come across as fitting the situation, while helping you stand out.

During the rest of the year you wouldn’t use emoji in your subject lines (rarely or never), however during the holidays they totally make sense. So feel free to “festively” decorate your subject lines with some “festive” emoji

7) The most important thing – having an expert on your side

All of these tips are going to work for you if you implement them properly. However, we had to keep each of these points brief for practical reasons. Going into detail about everything you might possibly need to know – would have resulted in a 200 page book.

It’s a lot easier to do holiday email marketing right if you have an expert on your side. And that’s exactly what you get when you join Emercury. 

We are not just an “email sending platform”, though we’re pretty good at that as well. We actually became famous and have all these 5 star reviews because of the quality of the service. When you join Emercury it’s like getting a team of expert email marketers and business consultants right on your side.

If you’re interested in giving it a try, you can sign up for our free plan over here, schedule a demo, or contact us for more information.

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