Word-of-Mouth and Referral Marketing Blog

How To Improve Email Deliverability of Your Emails – in 5 Easy Ideas (+FAQs!)

email-deliverability-ecommerce-mailtrap

This guestpost was shared by our friends at Mailtrap.

One of the most annoying things that any eCommerce business faces is emails that fail to be delivered. Oftentimes, these are very important emails – account or order confirmations, payment issues, well-targeted campaigns. If they miss an inbox, they won’t generate any income for you. And for a store that relies on emails to generate a significant portion of a revenue, this can be incredibly frustrating.

Luckily, there are several things you could do right away. Check how your emails are performing with email deliverability testing tools. Follow along as we share how to boost the deliverability of your emails.

What is email deliverability?

First things first, let’s clarify what all of this is about. Deliverability is often referred to as Inbox Placement. It’s the “art” of delivering emails to the recipient’s inbox and bypassing all the spam and similar folders on the way.

And it’s sometimes quite a challenge to get the expected results. Recipient’s servers are doing their best to block any phishing or malware from going through. Believe it or not, there are many people who would love to impersonate you in order to swindle sensitive data from your clients.

Spam is also a serious issue. Each client email now comes with sophisticated spam filters. They’re intelligent and learn along the way but might mistakenly send a legitimate email or two into the wrong place.

According to the latest Return Path report, only 85% of emails land in the recipient’s inbox. Given the significance of emails in eCommerce, this 15% can lead to serious losses in revenue.

For example, sending three abandoned cart emails rather than one results in 69% more orders, according to Omnisend. If one, two or even all three of these emails fail to be delivered, you’re immediately losing a lot of money.

When a welcome email with some personalized offers arrives in your clients’ inbox, it has a 82% chance of being opened. It’s much more than any future email you’ll ever send. If such email skips an inbox, you’re not only missing out on a sale opportunity but also causing a confusion to a prospective client.

How to improve the deliverability of your emails?

We’ve gathered five key things that have a tremendous impact on getting emails delivered. Focus on those at first and when you’re starting to feel a difference, feel free to explore the topic further.

Towards the end of this article, we’ll also include Frequently Asked Questions that address some situations you may find familiar. We hope these will help you as well!

Let’s begin.

1. Segment your Mailing List for 100% more clicks and 10% fewer unsubscribes

Over the years, you’ve probably accumulated a lot of customer emails. Some bought from you before, others signed up for a newsletter, and some contacts were on a waiting list for a product that was out of stock.

improve email deliverability ecommerce - creative abandoned cart email food52

Making abandoned cart emails a bit more creative is always a good idea

Right before a Black Friday or Spring sale you may be tempted to blast all of them with a general, promotional newsletter. Patience you must have, as Master Yoda once said.

There’s little chance each of your contacts is interested in your entire offer. There may be one or two items they would consider. But since such mailings are usually filled with dozens of items they don’t care about, they’re unlikely to devote any time to even opening it.

Those already tired of your emails will eventually mark them as spam, to make things worse. And both – poor open rates and spam reports – negatively affect the deliverability of future emails.

I strongly recommend segmenting your lists. The deeper your segmentation, the better chance someone will be genuinely interested in what you’re sending. Here are some ideas for what you can segment based on:

  • History of purchases
  • Gender, age, location or other demographics you have access to
  • Self-declared interests (many sites ask users what they’re interested in and send them content based on that)
  • Browsing history

Once you have completed the segmentation, create content personalized for a given group.

MailChimp claims that segmented campaigns result in 14% more opens, 100% (!) more clicks and nearly 10% fewer unsubscribes than general mailings. If you’re not getting the results you expected from your email marketing, segmentation should be the first step.

improve email deliverability ecommerce - animated gif email humongous halloweekend sale postable

An animated gif helps draw the eye – and brings a smile 

2. Clean the List (and send a Win-Back email)

Every email list gets a bit dusty over time. If you check yours, you’ll find there plenty of folks who never opened your emails or haven’t done so in many months. Maybe they bought from you years ago or simply left an email to participate in some giveaway.

There’s little point in sending regular emails to all these contacts again. This can only make things worse.

Intercom examined the odds of opening an email on the Xth attempt. According to this study, after 9 unopened emails, the 10th one has only a 2% chance of being opened. The 14th email drops to 1%.

You could just remove these emails and your stats would get better right away. But they’re probably worth yet another chance and with the right approach, you may win back some of them.

I recommend moving them to a completely different list and running a re-marketing campaign on them.

A direct message with strong copywriting

3. Grow your list in the right way

There are many different methods of growing your mailing list. People could be joining it because you give them many incentives to do so (discounts, early bird access to items, etc). Others enjoy the content you share or are genuinely interested in new items in your store.

More people could be on your mailing lists simply because they bought from you seven days or seven years ago.

Often, a purchase results in someone being added to a mailing list. Frequently it happens without their knowledge and getting your store’s special deals may be the last thing they’re interested in.

My suggestion would be to make it very clear when you’re adding someone to a newsletter or any other campaign. Sure, adding everyone who purchased is a great way of quickly growing a list. But the very first campaign will result in multiple spam reports or, at best, unsubscribes.

A well-tested method is a double opt-in. When someone chooses to join your mailing list (even by ticking a checkbox on your page), they’re immediately emailed a request for confirmation. Only after they confirm it, they’re added to the mailing list.

It doesn’t create any friction. It just ensures that your lists feature people genuinely interested in hearing from you.

You may also be tempted to purchase a mailing list to quickly acquire thousands of subscribers. While it’s tempting, especially for a small store, it’s unlikely to pay off in the long term.

To gather these contacts, bots scrap millions of websites and “write down” every email address they can find. As a result, the list will contain plenty of inactive accounts as well as so-called spam traps (sending to which will get you blacklisted).

Even the real accounts on the list are probably far from your ideal target group (unless your company name is Amazon). They’re spread around the globe, between different age groups and interests. And probably they’ve never heard of your brand and are likely to choose someone they’re more familiar with.

You may generate a few sales by emailing such a list over and over again and, given how cheap such lists are, the ROI may be promising.

But the negative effects of this will be numerous bounces, spam reports and a much worse performance of your future campaigns.

You may also be interested in more list building techniques as well as some great welcome email examples.

improve email deliverability email - Bombas Referral Email - refer a friend get free socks

(getting creative when promoting a referral program can really pay off)

4. Take care of the infrastructure – Authentications give Credibility

Frequently, infrastructure is the last thing on our minds. However, it makes a lot of difference in deliverability. If you are to be a top tier sender, there are several things you should focus on. And the sooner you do it, the better for your email reputation.

First of all, if you haven’t done so already, register a company domain and associated email address. Sending order confirmations or latest deals from a personal Gmail or Yahoo! account should be a big no-no. Not only does it look unprofessional, email servers don’t take such messages seriously, especially if they come in large volumes. As such, they’re more likely to be discarded.

Secondly: authentications. Since spoofing is a serious problem in many industries, several methods have been developed to make spoofers miserable. The most commonly used are SPF, DKIM, and DMARC.

Each one is added to your domain and gives your emails additional credibility. When your email arrives, a server will check if it has been authenticated and how. Failing to provide any authorizations will negatively impact deliverability.

Some platforms will take care of some authentications for you. When using other platforms, you’ll need to work with a developer to set things up, although it’s a fairly quick process.

Make sure you choose a reliable platform for sending your emails. Read reviews online and ask about deliverability statistics. If you use an eCommerce platform to run your store, check how the emails are sent. Some ESPs such as Magento will use default methods with rather poor deliverability. It’s worth investing your time to find a reliable option.

5. Be Consistent in Mailing Activity – Don’t Suddenly Spike Sending!

Mail servers very much appreciate regularity to the point where they may discard emails if sudden spikes in email activity occur on your end.

Of course, you are not required to follow a certain schedule. No one tells you to email your leads twice a week and do it only between 9 and 10 am. However, it pays to be regular. For example, if you were sending an email campaign every two weeks, sending three in a single week may appear suspicious to incoming servers.

Similarly, if you were emailing just 2,000 contacts per week and suddenly email 50,000 contacts, it may not go over well with the deliverability decision-makers.

Readers are also more likely to open emails if sent on a regular basis. A weekly roundup of the best deals, sent at a specific time, is almost always a good idea.

An occasional promotion outside of a regular schedule won’t hurt. But if you were silent for most of the year and then deliver a dozen of similar emails in a pre-Christmas period, they’re unlikely to bring you any significant ROI.

If you’re about to start sending a high volume of emails, try not to contact the entire list at once. Instead, follow an approach known as ‘warming up an IP address.’ First, send a batch of emails to one of the segmented groups. Contact another a day or two later. Gradually increase the volume until you reach the desired size of your audience.

It can slow you down a little bit, true. But with this tactic, the servers will learn to trust your IP and you also won’t overwhelm the audience with too many emails.

Going forward, you’ll be able to email even the entire list and you’ll enjoy improved deliverability.

your card was mailed

Postable brightened up their transactional email with a cute gif

Frequently Asked Questions

There are a number of questions that might come to you. The following are answers to some common ones:

Q: I have an annual sale coming up and want to notify my entire list. How should I approach this?

A: First of all, make sure your IP is warmed up properly. If you haven’t reached out to your list in the months prior to the sale, take baby steps. Send several smaller campaigns in the weeks proceeding the sale to get the audience used to your emails.

When the time comes for a bigger campaign, split the list into several groups. For example, email the first group on Tuesday at noon, another in the late afternoon and another in the evening.

If you have a list that is distributed across different time zones, use this method when determining the time to send. A lot of research has been done to determine the best time to send campaigns. Click here for an example.

The language you choose to use also matters. A lot of spam messages have words like ‘cheap’, ‘free’, ‘discount’, ‘buy now’, or ‘90% OFF’ in the subject line. Email clients will often filter emails filled with this terminology, assuming they’re unwanted.

Get a bit more creative when composing your emails. Focus on the value your offer brings to the recipients and convince them it’s you they should buy from. There’s a lot of great words that can boost your conversion right away.

improve email deliverability ecommerce - warby parker welcome email make you smile

Warby Parker’s welcome email is a good example of an email that makes you smile right away. It doesn’t need to be all about selling to generate results – it’s branding

Q: I’m planning to organize a giveaway to grow my email list. Is it a good idea?

A: This depends on what you’ll be giving away and who the target audience is.

You want to have people on your mailing list who are genuinely interested in your offer. They will guarantee good open rates and lack (or have fewer) spam reports.

A giveaway can be a good idea but it needs to target your desired audience and (ideally) no one else. Offering the latest iPhone in exchange for signing up for a newsletter about animal nutrition will attract all sorts of subscribers, some of which may even have pets and be interested. Most will unsubscribe or send a spam report right after the first newsletter.

On the other hand, throwing in a contest that rewards the winner with a year of free food for their beloved pet may just work. You’ll attract a fairly concise group of dog owners who may take a lot of value from your future tips and promotions.

improve email deliverability ecommerce - west elm welcome email with discount code

West Elm sends an attractive welcome email that offers a discount code right away – who wouldn’t spend a few moments contemplating such an offer?

Q: Aside from newsletters, what types of emails are worth sending in eCommerce?

A welcome email is a really nice way of starting a relationship. This email is sent immediately after someone joins your mailing list and is used to thank them for joining. A welcome email is also a great way of setting the right expectations and introducing the readers to what’s in store.

Sending ‘abandoned cart’ notifications is often a good idea. Many platforms can help you track down users who began the process of purchasing a product/service but didn’t complete it. You can send them an automatic email, reminding them about it and giving them some incentive to finish. “Complete the purchase by 6 pm on Friday to get a freebie” seems to do a pretty good job.

Another good example can be post-purchase follow-ups. These emails are usually sent a few days after an item is delivered and can include:

  • A request to leave a review or share feedback
  • A suggestion of related products
  • A tip on how to get the most out of the recent purchase
  • A simple ‘thank you’ note from the team

These emails are usually well perceived and can boost engagement with your audience. They can also lead to an upselling opportunity and help build a relationship with a customer.

Wrapping up

As an owner of an eCommerce store, email is probably your main form of communication with clients. Since so much depends on getting those emails delivered, investing a bit of time in that is never a bad idea. Implement the tips we mentioned and you’ll see improved results in no time.

Best of luck!


Andriy Zapisotskyi is a Growth Manager at Mailtrap, a product that helps people inspect and debug emails before sending them to real users. He has over 5 years of experience in the field of marketing & product. Andriy loves to network with people. Running is his hobby and he enjoys discovering new places. You can connect with Andriy via Linkedin or Facebook.

Raúl Galera

Raúl Galera

Raúl is ReferralCandy's partner manager.