4 Steps to Ensure a Successful Holiday Season By Warming Your Email List

4 steps to successfully onboard for the holiday season

Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on October 7, 2019. It’s been updated as of the current publish date to reflect the most recent insights.

With predictions that 2020 will be the largest year ever in terms of ecommerce-driven sales, which are projected to top $1.1 trillion dollars for the first time in history, it’s more important than ever to start preparing for Cyber Weekend now in order to ensure a successful year.

But if you’re not building relationships before the holidays hit, then you’re going to miss out on acquiring potential new customers. And if your emails aren’t even reaching your current and potential customers around the most critical time of the year, you’re going to miss out on sales—especially considering 60 percent of 2019 Cyber Weekend sales were driven by consumers who engaged with an email from a brand prior to Q3 that same year.

In order to properly warm your list before Cyber Weekend and make this the best holiday season yet, your best bet is a 30-day warm-up period when you’re getting started with email marketing or onboarding with a new marketing automation provider

If you start blasting emails out to your entire list, you risk damaging your sender reputation, which will hurt your revenue potential during this critical time of the year—your emails could be marked as spam or they might not even make it to your subscribers’ inboxes.   

In order to ensure you’re ready to have a great holiday season, here are the four key steps to properly warm your domain if you’ve just joined or you’re thinking of switching over to Klaviyo ahead of Cyber Weekend.

Read the guide to your first send

"We switched to Klaviyo last October. The onboarding process took about three weeks to get fully integrated and all of our flows going. Our 2018 Q4 had a 74% increase in overall revenue compared to 2017, with a 21% increase in email revenue"

Kirra Bixby, Media and Marketing Manager at KiraGrace

4 steps to properly warm your list 

In many ways, email deliverability is an art as opposed to a science. Your goal is to set yourself up for long-term success. 

While Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook, and other inbox providers will have the final say on your inbox placement, I can help you maximize your deliverability based on what I’ve learned by onboarding tens of thousands of customers. By no means does this guarantee success, but it will help to mitigate as much of the risk as possible. 

You can complete these steps in just two days (assuming you have content ready to go), but it’s important to keep in mind that step four will take the full 30 days to complete because that step is dependent on performance. 


Step 1: Sync with your previous ESP, integrate with your ecommerce store, and install sign-up forms 

Integrate and migrate data over from your previous email service provider (ESP) to your current ESP if you haven’t yet. By doing this, you’ll bring in your historical open data from previous campaigns. 

This is a must because you’re going to want all your data in Klaviyo as you start to build segments of engaged customersthose who are more likely to open your emails. 

It’s also important to sync purchase history data from your ecommerce store. This information will allow you to identify highly valuable customers to target. 

In addition to bringing over this data, it’s a good idea to also install email sign-up forms. This is important because it will help you ensure you’re capturing any new email subscribers. 

Once you’ve collected their email addresses, you can then begin nurturing them right away, helping to build your engagement rate and your sender reputation. 

Step 2: Implement automations that receive the highest engagement 

Build automations that generate high engagement rates as you’re warming your list. Examples of highly engaged automations include a welcome series, abandoned cart messages, browse abandonment messages, a post-purchase thank you message, or any sort of transactional email

These are considered to be high-engagement automations because customers who receive these emails recently took an action (such as signing up for your email list, purchasing a product, etc.) and are more likely to be engaged. 

Having a high email open rate early on in the warm-up process will help you build a strong sender reputation, which is important for your long-term success. 

Step 3: Build out highly-engaged segments 

The next step is building out highly-engaged segments. Similar to targeting engaged customers and prospects within your automations, you can build segments (or dynamic groups of customers) who are likely to interact with your emails, which will help establish your sender reputation. 

For example, rather than sending to your entire newsletter list, create a segment of your newsletter list that’s highly-engaged. 

Depending on how often you’re sending emails, adjust the criteria appropriately. Common examples of highly engaged segment criteria are:

  • Someone who has opened or clicked an email from you in the past 30 days 
  • Someone who has opened or clicked an email from you in the past 60 days 
  • Someone who has opened or clicked an email from you in the past 90 days

These customers are more likely to open an email from you since they recently read one of your emails. The more engagement you get on your emails, the more it’ll help you build your sender reputation. Use this engagement criterion at the end of all your segments to ensure you’re sending your emails to a list of engaged subscribers.

Step 4: Slowly begin sending campaigns to highly-engaged customers 

After you complete these steps, you can begin warming your domain with on-off email sends. But you don’t want to blast out an email to all of your subscribers. 

It’s important to maintain at least a 20 percent average open rate with your campaigns during this 30-day warm-up period to ensure future deliverability, so you’ll want to pay close attention to the metrics of each campaign. 

Here are some additional tips to consider when you’ve made it to this step of the process:

  • Send three campaigns out per week with the goal of getting at least a 20 percent open rate from each. If you haven’t had deliverability issues in the past, send to the segments above over the course of the three week period: 
    • Week 1: Opened or clicked in the last 30 days 
    • Week 2: Opened or clicked in the last  60 days
    • Week 3: Opened or clicked in the last 90 days 
  • Target the first campaign to an audience of under 20,000 people in the first hour of the send. 
  • When increasing send volume, don’t the audience size by more than 50 percent for each subsequent send. 

Throughout this process, it’s important to monitor your performance and iterate on your campaign and flow emails. Look at your open rates, flow analytics, and total unsubscribes and adjust accordingly to keep your open rates at 20 percent or higher.

Already in the spam folder? Find out how to get out

Don’t have time to warm your list? Follow these tips

If you follow these four steps within a 30-day period, you’ll be ready to make the most out of your email marketing strategy in time for the holidays. 

But if you sign up for Klaviyo after it’s too late to start a full 30-day warming process, there’s still hope. You can still successfully generate revenue this holiday season and build a very strong foundation for 2021 and beyond. 

If there are less than 30 days before Cyber Weekend, here are some tips to improve deliverability rates now:

  • Integrate your previous ESP and ecommerce platform. This will allow you to have information available at your fingertips so you can start to identify highly-engaged customers. 
  • Turn on automations. Turn those new email subscribers who come in during this busy time of year into purchasers by building out a powerful welcome series or capture potential lost sales by creating an abandoned cart flow
  • Pre-build a segment of first-time Cyber Weekend buyers. Nearly 70 percent of first-time Cyber Weekend buyers didn’t make a purchase with the same brand after their initial purchase. Now that you know this information ahead of time, treat any new Cyber Weekend customers differently than the rest of your customers in 2020. By creating a segment of these likely one-time purchasers, you can develop a unique 2020 communication plan that warms these customers into repeat purchasers. 

Why you need to warm your list for Cyber Weekend 2020

When Cyber Monday alone last year hit over nine billion in sales, you shouldn’t have to miss out on sales just because you didn’t properly warm your list. Start preparing today to make sure you make it to your customers’ inboxes when it matters most.

What will Cyber Weekend look like for ecommerce businesses in 2020? Read the five predictions.

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