December 23, 2014

Email Marketing Chart: How to improve deliverability

SUMMARY: According to ReturnPath, 13% of email from permissioned email marketers never makes it to the inbox in the U.S.

For Brazilian marketers, that number is an even more painful 40%.

This week, we'll look at a chart that shows the email deliverability improvement tactics of 593 of your peers. We'll also provide tips from three experts who, collectively, were involved with more than 7 billion emails sent over the past year.
by Daniel Burstein, Director of Editorial Content

In the MarketingSherpa Email Marketing Benchmark Report, we asked marketers:

Q. Which of the following tactics is your organization using to improve email deliverability rates?

View Chart Online

Click here to see a printable version of this chart

I then reached out to three email marketing experts to get tips to help you improve your company's email deliverability.

Reactivation campaigns

Only 17% of marketers launched reactivation campaigns. However, Ryan Phelan, Vice President, Global Shared Services, Acxiom, explains in Tip #1 how a reactivation campaign, when seeded with segmented messaging, can be an effective way to get more value out of your email list. Here's Phelan's take:

Tip #1: Segment … but faster and more

Ryan Phelan: Think about this: Given the movement of receivers over the last 18 months, do you think it's going to get better [easier] or more stringent on the criterion that gets your message into the inbox?

If you answered 'Get better' then you're wrong.

Look at the movement of the industry. Gmail, Yahoo and Microsoft have all had substantial changes in their UX [user experience] and processing. More engagement based and greater focus on how your message is acted upon, [rather] than [straightforward spam rules like] if you have "Free" in the subject line.

The faster we start to segment with messages that make sense to the end user, the better we start getting at not being filtered into the spam folder.

Do something different this year. Make a change in how you execute your programs. Even a simple segmentation can help or trying a win-back campaign to help cut your deadwood.

We used hyperlocal messaging to drive attrited customers [attrition] of a global communications company to communicate with their friends. By appealing to a national audience in a highly relevant and local way, we achieved a 26% increase in connections from the attrited audience [verses the] control.

Do something that continues to move the needle. You'll see massive change in your programs.

Maintaining an opt-in only list

Surprisingly, only a minority of marketers (39%) reported that they maintained an opt-in only list. Loren McDonald, Vice President, Industry Relations, Silverpop, an IBM Company, encourages marketers in Tip #2 to give customers a reason to opt-in — and engage — with their email to improve inbox deliverability rates.

Let's see what McDonald had to say:

Tip #2: Give customers something they want to receive — content

Loren McDonald: Focus on increasing engagement through improved content that provides value to the subscriber beyond just your latest sale, product, service or promotion. Incorporate what I call "white-space" emails into your cadence. These emails can educate, provide tips, be fun, ask questions, entertain and show your brand's personality, but they must stand out from your regular stream of self-serving promotions.

Done correctly, these "white-space" emails will stand out from competitor emails and can surprise and delight your inactive or unengaged subscribers into waking up and paying more attention going forward.

Keep in mind these value-add emails are not a "one and done" tactic but should be implemented on a regular basis. The net benefit, of course, is that increasing the number of engaged subscribers will improve inbox deliverability rates.

Repermission campaigns

Only 7% of marketers send repermission campaigns. However, Dennis Dayman, Chief Privacy and Security Officer, ReturnPath, advises marketers in Tip #3 to send a win-back campaign to inactive subscribers at least every three months, among other advice to look beyond basic deliverability and focus on engagement rates as well. Dayman says:

Tip #3: Don't just get into the inbox; get an action from your subscribers

Dennis Dayman: I'm not sure deliverability is really that big of a concern for those marketers that are performing best common practices. The idea of deliverability has sort of changed in that you can get to the systems more readily today if you're doing the right things, like not spamming to lists you bought, but I think what marketers need to be concerned with are engagement rates.

Many senders have noticed changes in the way that ISPs do their filtering, notably at the big four of AOL, Yahoo, Microsoft and Google, and have been scratching their heads as to what changed and what can they do now to get delivered back to the inbox.

The major email providers are already using, or plan to use, a broad set of engagement metrics to determine inbox placement, not just clicks and opens as has been widely reported, to determine the level of user engagement for different senders.

An example is when you see a bolded subject line go unbold because the user opened the email — that is considered engagement.

You have to really work on the call to actions more today than in years past. You have to get those users to interact with the email and or convert to your website in order to satisfy the ISPs need to know that the user wanted your communications. To do that, you should:
  • For starters, obtain the highest level of permission possible for your business model. Set expectations accordingly from the start on things like offer type and frequency, and send a welcome message that reminds subscribers of all these items and allows them to unsubscribe easily if they get cold feet.

  • Create a preference center. Offer your subscribers more of a choice in things like frequency of messages or types of messages received based on their interests. Encourage your subscribers to change their preferences over unsubscribing to keep them happy and engaged.

  • Look at your cadence, a measure of engagement, as opposed to frequency, which is a measure of volume. Only send to these addresses when they are in the market and more likely to respond. If certain groups are only in business, or responsive, once a quarter, only send to them once a quarter. Mail your active users more frequently as long as they are active and in the market.

  • Send a win-back campaign to your inactive subscribers at least every three months, and make sure you do optimization testing for all of your campaigns to drive higher response rates. It's especially important only to send relevant campaigns to this segment, as relevancy and response are highly correlated. If your subscriber has only bought men's clothing, don't send them campaigns on sales of women's clothing.

  • Use segmentation techniques on clickthrough behavior, something already available to most marketers. Fine tuning your list this way likely will generate more revenue from your existing list. It also prevents email delivery from worsening as well as unnecessarily spending more money to increase list sizes.

Try to reach a higher level of sophistication with your data to achieve these results. Marketers, now more than ever, need to lose the "batch and blast" mentality for the sake of both response and deliverability.

You can meet both Loren McDonald and Ryan Phelan at MarketingSherpa Email Summit 2015 at the ARIA in Las Vegas, where Phelan will be discussing "Segmentation 101, 201, 301, 401 … in six minutes or less."





Related Resources

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