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Loyalty Programs and Holiday Mailing

As Cyber Monday sales top $7.869 billion for 2018, a 19.3% year-over-year increase from 2017, many marketers are eager to “reward” their customers for their loyalty with ongoing promotions and offers to the inbox. It’s a great strategy when executed correctly. Brands are able to create special, individualized offers for existing customers and continue to drive sales through the rest of the holiday season. But there is a very important, often overlooked, caveat to this marketing strategy. Loyalty programs should always be treated as promotional, and not transactional, messaging.

Particularly for senders with dedicated transactional IPs, the idea of sending loyalty campaigns as a transactional message is tempting. Transactional campaigns are highly engaged with (receipts, shipping confirmations, recall notices, etc.), and typically have much higher delivery rates as a result. But this should never act as justification for the “ends justifying the means” of a bad mailing practice. In this case, the bad far outweighs the good and it’s your customers who could end up paying the price.

Keyword: Transaction

When asking yourself, “can this be sent as a transactional message?” consider the keyword in that sentence: transaction. Is the goal of this message to convey information about an existing transaction? Or is the intention to drive a further transaction? If the answer is to motivate a new purchase, the message is promotional. Period. Through this lens, loyalty programs clearly fall into the latter category. 

You may be thinking, “But this loyalty/reward was earned because of an existing purchase. It’s a logical follow-up communication. Clearly, that makes this transactional.” However, the intent of the message still needs to be considered as the determining factor. Ultimately, the reward in question is meaningless unless a further transaction is completed by the customer. It is still a tool to drive further sales. And when it comes to protecting your transactional mail, it is better to be safe than sorry. 

Promotional vs. Transactional

Keep in mind that ISPs don’t distinguish or care if the IP you are sending from is promotional or transactional. All inbound mail will be treated with the same scrutiny. Delivery will still be determined based on reputation and reputation is still based on all standard mailing metrics. Loyalty programs run the same risk of spam complaints, delete without opening rates, or bounce/trap rates as any other promotional message. The difference is the reputation impact they can have on a transactional stream of mail is far disproportional to that of general promotional mailing. Don’t risk the delivery performance of those critical messages that need to get to your subscribers’ inboxes. Keep loyalty programs promotional.

And read this blog post for further information on promotional vs transactional mailing guidelines.    

Getting your message delivered is vital to revenue performance. A slight increase at the top of the funnel can make a huge difference to your bottom line. Check out our guide Do More With Email Deliverability and Privacy for tips to tackle email deliverability and privacy.       

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