With the holiday week upon us marketers are kicking their programs into high in hopes of achieving maximum inbox placement, clicks and ultimately, conversion. The economy has made the battle for holiday dollars fierce. Consumers are looking for the best deals and marketers are eager to pack their inboxes with as many relevant offers as they can.
It’s understandable that sending a volley of emails detailing fantastic products, promotions, specials, exclusive savings, buy one get one, two for the price of one, discontinued stock discounts and other offers seems like a really good idea. And in essence it is a good idea when you consider how important it is for you to make sales and impressions ahead of the Black Friday/Cyber Monday super retail events.
However, I would urge caution before letting lose your creative advertising talent without first thoroughly vetting the deliverability of those efforts. You see your competition is doing the exact same thing. In order for you to succeed you have to differentiate yourself from every offer in the inbox, but we’ll get to that in a moment. First you have to actually reach the inbox and let me caution you by saying, not all inboxes are created equally.
As we start the holiday week it appears as though 3 of the 4 major global ISPs, AOL, Gmail & Yahoo! all show deliverability in what we commonly accept as the industry standard range: approximately 80% inbox. As you can see there are fairly broad variations with AOL at times slipping below 80%, while Gmail appears to offer the best deliverability with a peak of over 90% inbox placement.
If we accept that 1 in 5 emails never reaches the intended inbox, and winds up either blocked or in the spam folder then Hotmail appears to be doubling that metric with deliverability averaging just over 66%. This means that almost 2 in every 5 emails lands in the spam folder or doesn’t reach the intended recipient.
By now your lists have been pulled and your segments readied with offers and digital collateral to engage your customers across any and all channels simultaneously. However, it’s never too late to spend a few minutes and consider tactics and methods for ensuring your messages actually reach your customers.
- Less is more – email is not a volume sport where you deliver every message to every person who ever signed up for an email. Quite the contrary, the less you send, and the more targeted your messages are, the more likely you will build a positive reputation at the receiving ISPs.
- Email only active users – consumers change email address, close accounts and ISPs routinely turn closed or inactive accounts into spam traps or honey pots. If you email every one on your list since the dawn of time you will invariably deliver messages to spam traps that will cause the rest of your wanted mail not to arrive.
- Find your optimal delivery window – track your competition’s emails, see when they send them, most marketers believe that Tuesday and Thursday AM are the best times to deliver email, look for opportunities where your brand can stand out from the crowd because you’re not launching your emails during the thickest marketing pushes. Remember, the first email to reach the inbox is often the message at the bottom of the list.
- Authentication is key – test your domains and IPs, ensure that you have the proper and valid SPF/SenderID, DK & DKIM records for all outbound email traffic. Help the ISPs by differentiating your email traffic from the vast volumes of SPAM lobbed at ISPs on a daily basis.
- Send constant volume – in keeping with the paradigm of less is more, less more often is often better than more at one time. By sending constant manageable volumes you will establish and build a strong reputation, given you’re emailing people who want to receive your messages, rather than that one final push where you launch a major campaign across IPs that irregular amounts of traffic sent across them. Active IPs with positive reputation have more chances of delivering email to the inbox than inactive IPs that suddenly show volume spikes.
- Test your email templates – creativity abounds around the holidays, but keep in mind you have a brand to protect. Make sure whatever special templates you use are single column, include a text part if you’re sending multi-part mime, and that you’ve thoroughly tested the content to ensure deliverability at the major ISPs before going to market with one-off designs.
- Stand out from the crowd – leverage data across channels to make smarter decisions as to where and when your customers are engaging with your brand. If you can track activity and link shares across social networks instead of sending social fans emails, try and communicate with them through social media.
By taking a few basic steps marketers can help ensure that they will stay at the top of their customer’s inboxes rather than at the bottom of their spam folders. As the week goes on we will be providing you key information to help you see and contextualize your efforts. We’re tracking deliverability and other metrics across mailers and ISPs around the globe. Look for updates as we get closer to Cyber Monday and then a post-mortem analysis the day after.
-Len Shneyder | @lenshneyder
IBM EMM Product Marketing MGr.