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Destination Inbox: Your Guide to Successful Email Deliverability 


You’ve probably heard the old philosophical question: If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? The same can be asked of email campaigns. Whether it’s a welcome series or a post-purchase email, your campaign may be one of the best out there, but if no one opens it — or if it fails to reach your subscribers — did it ever truly exist? And worse, did you waste valuable resources in the process?

Email deliverability, or your success at getting email messages to your subscribers’ inboxes, is crucial to turning a great email marketing campaign into an effective one – one worthy of the time and effort it took to develop. The loyalty and revenue potential you can cultivate from a successfully implemented email campaign are things no retailer can afford to miss out on.

But even though deliverability is a crucial piece of the process, many retailers don’t fully understand it. How can you affect deliverability? How is it calculated? And most importantly, how can you improve it?

Permission to Engage the Inbox

Deliverability success – or failure – boils down to two key elements: permission and engagement. If you lack the former or drop the ball on the latter, be prepared for consequences.

Permission can be implicit or explicit. Implied permission relates to a person who has perhaps bought something from you or engaged with your business but hasn’t specifically signed up for marketing emails. Explicit permission is obtained from someone who directly gave you permission to send them marketing emails.

Explicit permission is better for deliverability. If you don’t have explicit permission, people are less likely to open and more likely to delete your message – or even report it as spam – which can destroy your marketing reputation. When it comes to email deliverability, it’s always better to ask permission than to seek forgiveness. An easy way to obtain explicit permission is with a pop-up or form on your site. When someone subscribes, send an email asking them to reconfirm their permission.

You need to engage. Once you’ve obtained explicit permission, there’s still more work to do. Deliver exactly what you said you would: no more, no less. Over- or under-delivering can lead to complaints and lower engagement. Engage with your customers by providing relevant, timely content that is tailored to them.

If customers find your content irrelevant, regardless of permission, they won’t open your emails, and they may even mark them as spam. Internet service providers (ISPs) view such behaviour as a user voting down the relevance of that message, which causes them to block future emails from that sender. Eighty percent of marketers have deliverability problems stemming from irrelevance, spam complaints and other issues. Don’t be one of the four out of five emails that doesn’t make it to a customer’s inbox. Be the one that gets through by sending the relevant email your customers knowingly signed up for and want.

Tips for Managing a Quality List

How can you maintain a quality list of engaged, active subscribers and avoid unnecessary deliverability emergencies? These tips will help:

  • Content is king. Make your emails personal, timely and relevant.
  • Be consistent. Spikes in email send volumes can trigger filtering.
  • Don’t be afraid to say goodbye.  Set a time frame for removing inactive subscribers. Delete subscribers who haven’t opened or responded to your emails during that period. Customers who don’t engage with your content may not be a good fit for your brand anyway, so don’t fear the unsubscribe button.
  • Don’t automatically subscribe e-receipt recipients. An e-receipt program doesn’t give you carte blanche to add these same customers to your list. Ask customers who sign up for e-receipts whether they want your marketing emails. Never assume they do.
  • Don’t hide the unsubscribe. Keep it front and centre so your customers can have an out if they want one. The last thing you want them doing is marking your message as spam.
  • Offer a preference centre. Give your subscribers a sense of control: Ask how often they’d like to be contacted and what messages they’d like to receive.
  • Authentication is key. ISPs pay attention to authentication. Keep an eye on important records such as DKIM, SPF, Sender ID, MX and A records. Include DMARC if it is applicable to your brand.

Improve Your Deliverability

Measuring deliverability means measuring how successfully your emails are reaching your subscribers. To meet your business goals and to ensure your email program is on track, verify that your email service provider measures these important metrics:

  • Sender rating. Your sender rating shows the quality of your lists and emails based on various calculations, including spam complaints, level of engagement and internal measurements to help you optimise your deliverability.
  • Delivery rating. Like sender rating, but refers to a single email.
  • Deliverability rate. This is the number of emails that are accepted by the ISP compared to the total number of emails that you send. A lot of complaints coupled with low delivery rates will negatively affect your deliverability.

How can you ensure strong deliverability? Start with your customers. Create goals for your product, and think about your buyers by asking who they are and what they expect.

Respect Your Customers

It might sound simple, but effective deliverability is best achieved by treating your customers with respect, and that means getting permission to send engage them. Minimising complaints from and maintaining engagement with your customers is crucial to good deliverability practices. By cultivating relevant and personalised content and listening to your customers’ feedback, your brand will be on the right track to successful email deliverability.

Shannon Ingrey is the General Manager of Oracle + Bronto in Asia Pacific.

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