Behold The Inbox: Five Factors that Influence Email Deliverability

August 9, 2018 Spencer Kollas

While it might have been previously thought of as an arcane science of data geeks or business analysts, deliverability has become a mainstream discipline for today’s email marketers – and for good reason.

Getting deliverability right is not just about ensuring your emails are delivered, but it drives metrics all through the sales funnel and ultimately, boosts revenue. With better sender reputation and engagement, your clicks, opens, conversions, and list churn will achieve the results they deserve. For example, The White Company increased both their open and click-through rates by 66% and had a 31% increase in revenue – by strategically working on their deliverability and gaining certification from our partner Return Path.

The industry norm is that 21% of opt-in commercial emails never reach the inbox, according to Return Path. They land in spam folders or get blocked. That’s a possible loss of one-fifth of your potential audience at the outset — directly impacting the success of your email programs.

When we consider there are around 207 billion email messages sent each day – against 500 million tweets and 1.3 billion Facebook logins – the sheer volume of the channel should not be underestimated, and clearly deserves some focus.

When looking at ways to improve inbox placement and ROI there are five factors: Data, Reputation, Personalization, Validation, and Engagement.

1. Data

The first consideration is your data strategy. How do you collect your data and what do you do with it? How are people reacting? Managing an email list is a balancing act. You want to identify the largest possible list – but also the best possible list – so you are not only reaching the inbox, but engaging customers with relevant information. Don’t forget the cost of customer acquisition is many times more than retaining customers, so understanding your data in order to maximize retention is time well spent.

Consider whether the methods of collecting data are up to snuff – social media, orders, call centers, or trade shows –then understand what your data looks like, what the risk is, and build a strategy to protect your brand. Companies feel 25% of their contact data is inaccurate. Therefore, every time you collect four email addresses for new customers, one is likely to be wrong. There are ways to work with companies to resolve such poor address collection such as confirmed opt-in or email validation. It’s critical to aim to put the best possible information into your system up front, before anything is sent.

2. Reputation

Reputation is based on how your brand operates and who you partner with. ISPs will look at engagement (are people engaging with your brand, or are you attracting lots of complaints or spam), spamtraps (if you are hitting lots of these, it causes major problems), complaint rates, and unknown users.

3. Personalization

Don’t place customers in a one-size-fits-all customer journey. Use the cross-channel data you have to match their requirements shown by their buying behavior, always make the content relevant and in the channel in which they want to engage.

4. Validation

What do you monitor? There are a huge number of metrics available and working with a partner can provide sender reputation intel including inbox monitoring, blacklist monitoring, and design optimization.

5. Engagement

ISPs will now look at user engagement and this is becoming important in their filtering decisions. Major mailbox providers are leveraging their community of users to determine if email is spam or not. Spam complaints and deleted-unread behavior are negative metrics, however not-spam and messages that get replied to or forwarded make you look like a good sender. The point is to try to reduce negative behavior and amplify the positive ones.

One area where filtering based on engagement can be a problem is during the holiday season when brands might be sending to many disengaged users. The ISPs will look at this unfavorably. Working with a deliverability partner can improve not only reputation and inbox placement, but improved throughput which is essential during peak high volume periods.

Whether you work with in-house experts or external partners, focus on these five activities to ensure your emails land in your customers’ inboxes.

About the Author

Spencer Kollas

Spencer Kollas is the Vice President, Global Deliverability Services at Cheetah Digital. He is a recognized industry leader in email deliverability and subscriber engagement. For more than a decade, Kollas has worked with the world’s foremost email marketers in more than 30 countries around the world, helping them to connect with their customers and increase the return on investment (ROI) of their email marketing initiatives. Kollas was named a Top 50 Email Marketing Influencer on Social Media by Vocus, Inc. and is quoted frequently in industry publications such as Direct Marketing News, MediaPost, FierceCMO and others.

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