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Your New Year’s Resolutions for Email Deliverability and Engagement

Article by John Landsman

We’re witnessing the annual wave of earnest declarations regarding diet, alcohol, smoking, exercise, relationships, education, career, hobbies, travel and all manner of other intentions for self-betterment.  Even if we don’t honor every resolution we make, it’s a healthy process.

Let’s apply this practice to your customer communication plan for 2019. Making email best practice resolutions can only help, especially when your business is highly dependent on email to drive traffic and revenue. Set your goals now and (try to) stick to them so that next holiday season is a Deliverability breeze.

Here’s the inescapable logic.  No email gets opened or clicked, nor drives a single penny of revenue, if it can’t reach the customer’s inbox.  Reaching the customer’s inbox requires that mailers observe key best practices as to deliverability management.  Best practices must also include optimizing customer engagement, because we know that ISP spam filtering protocols are increasingly based on this subscriber engagement factor.

The critical importance of this logic has been extensively documented, but its amplification remains necessary, because marketing emailers continue to experience challenges — mostly self-created — in getting their email delivered.  Case-in-point:  in just the past thirty days, within various sectors of the retail space, we’ve seen an average of between 40-60% of email volume ending up as spam.  And this during the Holiday shopping period, when optimizing every message’s impact Is so critical.

So . . . here’s your 2019 Email Resolution Checklist.  How many items can you check-off?

Foundational Deliverability Items

  • Make sure SPF, DKIM & DMARC are set up correctly. Our Reputation Advisor tool can identify any glaring issues.
  • Focus on maintaining a healthy list. This means basic list hygiene practices, and identifying and suppressing inactive and dormant subscribers. Our Dashboard tracks the Inactive % of your list over 3-, 6- and 12-months.
    • Prevent invalid addresses from signing up. Automate checks for common typos in the domain name and top-level-domain, reject the signup of obvious role account addresses such postmaster@ and abuse@, as well as list aliases such as info@, sale@ or support@.  Also do not attempt to send to malformed addresses. Use javascript in the signup form, if you aren’t using an ESP and are coding your own signup forms.
    • Use double opt-in (a/k/a “confirmed opt-in”); no passive opt-in; no pre-populated opt-in boxes; no hiding opt-in language in separate “terms and conditions.”
    • Allow and encourage subscribers to create and update their profiles, so they can receive email consistent with their preferences.
    • No third party or purchased lists. Just don’t do it.  Using third party or purchased lists is against most ESPs’ terms of service.  If you must, plan on sending a separate permission-pass campaign, and do not further email any address that does not confirm permission.
    • Include a permission reminder in each message footer, showing how the customer signed-up. This helps reduce false abuse complaints.
    • Bounce handling: remove an email address from your list after it hard-bounces once, or soft-bounces three times.
    • Unsubscribes: No mailings after an unsubscribe, even if it’s an unsub confirmation email.  In the unsub protocol, be sure to ask if the customer is trying to change her email address.
    • Avoid mailing standard content to subscribers who haven’t opened an email in 30 to 90 days or more. If you do deploy a reengagement campaign to inactive subscribers, try doing so over a separate IP address from your normal traffic, to protect your IP and domain
    • Make sure your “from-name” and “from-email” are closely tied to your brand. Recipients mark email as spam if they don’t know where it’s coming from.

Key Drivers of Subscriber Engagement

Equally important are the basic factors driving consumers to engage with the emails you send. The more engagement, the less spam.  It’s the old “relevance” hymn:  curating message content to your customers based on their status, location and browse/purchase behavior. If your customers become accustomed to receiving relevant email, they’re more likely to continue engaging with each successive campaign you send.

  • Program Across the Customer Lifecycle, from sign-up confirmation and welcome messaging through incenting first purchase, through various steps in the buying cycle, through upsell and cross-sell, and messaging around reactivation. Talking to your customer based on her status solidifies your relationship and improves the odds of her ongoing engagement, beyond just promotional messaging.
  • Target your email to those customers most likely— through preference, browse or purchase data — to buy what you’re selling.
  • Personalize subject line and body content based on buyer segment. This can include customer name and location, but the most successful subject lines we see are those that tell their recipients what’s inside that email.
  • Interactivity: Include message content that draws the recipient to engage with the message beyond merely opening it; e.g., links to product information and reviews, or other special offers; videos; purchase CTAs.
  • Subscriber contact frequency optimization: Over-mailing drives subscriber disengagement and opt-outs.  Develop a contact frequency protocol based on testing frequencies in segments based on subscriber engagement.
  • Testing: Send yourself a test email and make sure content renders properly. Make sure to include the full URL and absolute paths to images and links.  Use Design Tracker to test rendering on all devices.  Develop a plan to A/B test your email subject lines, body content, creative, offers.   See which performs better.   Apply those learnings!

There is demonstrable business upside to every one of these practices.  It’s your career.  Why leave money on the table?

To explore eDataSource’s Deliverability Consulting Service Packages, please see:   https://www.edatasource.com/deliverability-packages/