The Age of Email

Relied upon by many, the email channel is a staple in the personal and professional lives of senders and recipients around the world. In October, email will celebrate its 50th birthday… and it’s been quite the journey.

Age of adoption

In October 1971, email was born when Ray Tomlinson sent the first ever email. Ray’s expertise was centred in engineering, and with the insufficiency of telephones at the time, he felt there was no reliable way for people to leave messages for each other. However, he believed that computers – and email – could fill this void.

Initially, email was used as a channel for a small circle of university researchers, government employees, and members of the military within the U.S. Department of Defense. The email use case was exactly as Ray had previously uncovered – it was a method for direct yet efficient communication. Soon after, the appeal of email as a channel, with uses beyond professional communication, began to appear.

In 1978, the first mass email marketing campaign was sent. Gary Thuerk sent a campaign to 393 addresses to announce the launch of new computers. This resulted in a slap on the wrist from a high-ranking Pentagon official, but also generated $13 million in sales for Thuerk’s company. The risk paid off and a precedent was set.

Adoption spread further in the 80s amongst intellectuals and academics, and as computers and the internet became commercialised, this set email on a path toward widespread global adoption.

Age of acceleration

Email was now being adopted all over the world – a trend that would only accelerate in the 90s. This increase in popularity was due largely in part to the development of two major areas: the World Wide Web and Hotmail.

Hotmail was born in 1996 as a free service, and this is how it remains today. Hotmail offered people the opportunity to access email at a pace that was not possible prior. Often a common barrier to the adoption of new technologies, ease of use was not an issue for Hotmail. The service was easy to access and easy to use, putting Hotmail – and email – on a path toward accelerated adoption.

If you’ve ever heard the phrase “sticking your head above the parapet”, you may know what’s coming next! Email had entered the world’s stage and brought a lot of positive attention unto itself, but with that positive attention also came negative attention. A combination of inexperienced users, lack of tools to filter emails, and legal loopholes bore the spam phenomenon. Spam became a global concern within governments and companies during the late 90s. There was a new demand for services that would help reduce spam in the ecosystem. This caused the emergence of companies such as Return Path and forced mailbox providers to up their game.

Age of access

Microsoft had paved the way with the Hotmail webmail service. Following the growth of the channel’s adoption and popularity, others began to pay attention. This led to the launch of Gmail by Google in 2004.

Gmail addressed many early adopters’ concerns, offering powerful spam filters and extensive storage. It was yet another option for the world’s consumers to access their email. According to the DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker 2021, sponsored by Validity, Gmail has grown to be the most popular mailbox provider today, leading with 38% of consumer mailbox shares in the UK. This number increases even further in regions such as North America (53%).

Having a mailbox is all well and good, but in the 2000s, accessibility of email was about to take another leap by going mobile. Blackberry set the pace by introducing email to mobile phones, but it was limited to professional use. The second gamechanger of the age of access was about to show its hand.

Apple and the introduction of the iPhone has forever changed how we interact with our phones, and email fits right into that equation. Access to multiple channels and email was now available at our fingertips. A hyperconnected world awaited us all.

As we see to this very day, the age of access will never be static. Smart watches, speakers, and fridges (yes, fridges!) aim to disrupt the way we traditionally interact with the inbox. In fact, the DMA found that 12% of millennials consume personal email via a smart watch or smart speaker. Adaptation is a cornerstone of the modern email ecosystem.

Age of adaptation

In the previous decade alone, both senders and recipients alike have been forced to adapt to new ways of interacting with email as a marketing channel.

We’ve seen both technology and legislation impact the way senders operate, with the introduction of Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), respectively. This was all with the intention of protecting the email user from modern day threats and tendencies. An email ecosystem that is consistently adapting and evolving is critical for long-term stability and reliability.

Today’s roaring 20s have gotten off to a slow and unexpected start, but this has provided a landscape for email’s best qualities to shine and for consumers to further drive marketers to improve the quality of their work. Consumers have shifted away from typical offers/promotional content and have demanded relevance and empathy, instead. This year, 2021, was the first time UK consumers identified relevance as the leading reason to like emails from a given brand, rather than emails containing offers.

The email ecosystem has evolved throughout its 50 years and will only continue to do so. Email has often been touted as an outdated channel, but ongoing demand from consumers and adaptation from both senders and the wider ecosystem proves otherwise. As evidenced by the rising budgets being committed to this most popular of marketing channels, the age of email is far from over.

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Email ROI: Many Happy Returns

Email celebrates its 50th birthday in October! Ray Tomlinson is widely acknowledged as the godfather of email, sending the first message way back in 1971, followed seven years later by Gary Thuerk who “hijacked” this largely government/military tool to send the first email marketing campaign. The rest, as they say, is history!

In saying “many happy returns”, we’re not just acknowledging a milestone. Email consistently ranks as the most effective channel for marketing return on investment (ROI), underpinned by relevance and high levels of consumer trust.

ROI literacy is essential – we often talk about “selling to power” where the primary issues are driving growth, competitive differentiation, and increased shareholder value. Establishing value means using a different language: economic value-add, payback period . . . and ROI.

But calculating ROI isn’t easy, and this hurts when you need to demonstrate program value to secure budget and new investment. In our most recent episode of State of Email Live, we reviewed this important topic.

Benchmarks: ROI, budgets, and key challenges

Each year, the Data & Marketing Association (DMA) produces a definitive set of ROI benchmarks. The 2021 edition of the Marketer Email Tracker report, sponsored by Validity, contains good news:

  • Despite the many challenges posed by the pandemic, email ROI has grown to a healthy 38:1 an 8.2% year-on-year increase.
  • Because subscribers respond to offers through multiple channels, attribution is complex and it’s impressive that 71% of marketers can confidently calculate their email ROI.
  • Of course, it means 29% can’t calculate ROI, and this increases sharply for less senior roles and for those working at smaller businesses.
  • Email’s ROI effectiveness is reflected in spending plans, with average email budget as a percentage of total marketing budget now over 20% for the first time.

Securing budget and resources remains a major email challenge at precisely the same time fresh investment in data and technology is most needed. While pandemic spending on email increased as businesses diverted resources from other channels, securing new investment remains tough, especially for program owners who struggle to prove their ROI.

A sender’s perspective: ROI measurement & benefits

We were delighted to welcome Melissa Dallek, Customer Contact Strategy Manager at Walgreens, who shared thought-provoking insights around the importance of ROI for their email program:

  • One challenge with email ROI is the channel is so highly cost effective. You’d have to be really bad to generate negative ROI, and it’s easy for key stakeholders to take that effectiveness for granted.
  • Attribution challenges arise from customers responding through multiple routes/channels (not just clicks). Walgreens calculates ROI at a database level, using control groups to establish revenue effectiveness and providing granular reporting at campaign level.
  • It’s important to consider a broader set of metrics that complement ROI. Identifying whether subscribers are acting on the primary call-to-action, responding to specific areas of interest (e.g. Covid vaccinations or gamification effectiveness), and knowing how much additional revenue is added from ongoing optimisation are all crucial reporting elements.
  • Proving effectiveness is definitely helpful for securing additional budget. There’s no harm in being able to demonstrate a serious revenue contribution. Walgreens has recently made a big investment in mass personalisation, underpinned by strong confidence in a healthy payback.
  • We were delighted Melissa confirmed her spend with Validity is highly ROI positive – not just from best-in-class deliverability (although that’s important!), but also from significant process efficiencies like automated reporting and comprehensive industry research.

Connecting the ROI dots: Validity’s solutions

For Validity, delivering positive ROI to our customers is crucial. We regularly talk about our philosophy of “trust your data”, and this also extends to trusting the solutions generating the data. We regularly work with clients to help them measure their effectiveness, and doing so objectively is important. To help further sharpen our ROI story, we retained Hobson & Company to create a new set of ROI tools and processes. As part of their discovery process, Tammy Klein from Hobson interviewed a broad cross-section of Validity for Email users and identified their biggest challenges:

  • Ensuring emails are reaching subscribers’ inboxes.
  • Increasing the proportion of emails with which recipients actually engage.
  • Reducing the time required to plan, execute, and monitor email programs.

She then explored how they use Validity’s Everest email success platform to address these challenges and how they quantify the benefits, identifying five dimensions:

  • Average deliverability rates increase from a 70-80% range to a mid-high 90% range.
  • Open rates and click rates could increase by 10-25%.
  • View Time Optimization improves open and click rates anywhere from 30-150%.
  • Administrative tasks reduce by as much as 60-75%.
  • Elimination of point solutions and/or contracted services saves an average $5K-$10K per solution/service.

Tammy calculated that for an email program sending 20 million messages per month, achieving these benefits will deliver an additional $1 million in revenue over a three-year period.

If you would you like to hear more from our wide-ranging ROI conversation, the webinar recording is available below. Hobson has also written an excellent white paper on the topic, which you’ll find here. Finally, to learn more about how Everest can help move the needle for your email program’s ROI, reach out to us here to set up a demo today.

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How Will Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection in iOS 15 Affect Email Marketing?

Apple’s announcement of its plans to introduce Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) has sent reverberations around the world of email marketing. Changes to the Mail app will limit the use of tracking pixels while also masking the users’ IP address, meaning the open tracking and location tracking of these users will be severely impacted.

Apple’s changes to protect mail privacy are evolutionary, not revolutionary

While this announcement may come as a shock to email practitioners, it’s actually just another step in the ongoing journey towards greater respect for consumer privacy. As long ago as 2012, Google had already introduced privacy tools allowing users to opt out of tracking. More recently in Europe, GDPR now considers tracking pixels to be a form of cookie – a Q4 2019 judgement by the European Court of Justice confirmed this meant proactive consent should be obtained for their use.

Since then, email senders have become more proactive when it comes to notifying their subscribers about the use of tracking technology. The DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker report shows 41% of senders now have language for this in their signup processes, while 43% include text about tracking in their emails. Marketers have benefitted from this greater transparency – GDPR wrote many established best practices into law, and this “halo effect” has seen a large majority of programs reporting clear improvements in deliverability, engagement, and revenue. US senders should expect similar benefits as new regulations like CCPA provide consumers with greater visibility of personal data collection, and the rights to access their data, or have it deleted.

The signal accuracy provided by pixel-based open tracking has also degraded over time. Verizon Media’s Marcel Becker spoke at Validity’s Summit event last year and talked about how open rates, when compared with what he knows to be the truth as a mailbox provider (MBP), tend to over-report by up to 3X. Reasons include the use of techniques like image caching, image pre-fetching, and automatic image enablement/disablement, which all create bias.

Email marketers have been responding for some time already. As the DMA report shows, only ¼ of senders use open rates to measure program relevance, with clicks used twice as widely. Sending platforms like Campaign Monitor and Sensorpro have already introduced functionality that lets senders suppress pixel tracking on demand at campaign level, and many individual programs are currently developing the ability to enable/disable pixel tracking at individual subscriber level.

The loss of pixel tracking worsens the subscriber experience

However, we shouldn’t readily dismiss the value of pixel tracking data. It provides useful insights around levels of subscriber engagement that inform tactics like personalization, dynamic content, and triggered messaging. Used responsibly, this data creates increased relevance and value, and its absence will create the very real risk of a degraded subscriber experience for these users.

There are also potential implications for engagement-based email deliverability. In their best practice guidelines, major MBPs like Microsoft, Gmail, and Yahoo all encourage only sending email to engaged users. The latter specifically advises to “send mail only to users who choose to get and read your messages . . . consider unsubscribing users who don’t read your messages.” Even Apple advises the periodic suppression of inactive or disengaged subscribers!

Senders should adjust their approach to optimizing email results

Of course, Apple is a significant player in the email market and Everest’s Mailbox Provider Health reporting shows their mail clients form is ± 30% of a typical email list. Less-informed email marketers could be tempted to move to a more “spray and pray” approach, but this would be a mistake. So, now what? How should senders respond to ensure they continue achieving optimized performance for their Apple users?

  • Keep practicing good deliverability habits. For Apple, important factors include maintaining a good sender reputation, full email authentication, use of active opt-in permissioning, consistent use of IP addresses and sending domains, and the prompt removal of opt-outs and unknown users. Validity customers can obtain further detailed guidance from their help center.
  • Find new data points. Senders will need new data points they can use to connect the dots directly between deliverability and clicks. As shown above, full visibility of sender reputation and inbox placement provides a strong starting point. Accurate measurement of data quality, use of a universal feedback loop, and comprehensive DMARC reporting will further move the performance needle. For senders who want to be on the front foot as they respond to this new challenge, having all this functionality within a single email intelligence platform like Everest will be a big differentiator.
  • Stay educated. There is still plenty to learn about precisely how Apple will implement this new functionality. If selection of the “Don’t protect” option means pixel tracking remains in operation for these subscribers, senders have a major window of opportunity. It will mean a far more transparent approach, educating their customers about their responsible use of tracking, and clearly articulating the more relevant communications and genuine two-way exchange of value that it enables. In this way, when Apple subscribers are presented with their MPP options, they may opt for continued tracking, confident they will benefit from doing so.

At Validity, we are strong advocates for ethical marketing and support initiatives that promote consumer privacy. Balanced with this is a core philosophy of having our customers’ backs, and our engineering team is already testing these new features from Apple so we can provide the most up-to-date and actionable guidance. We’re the global leader when it comes to providing email intelligence, and our customers will also be global leaders as they use that intelligence to continue delivering the best-in-class performances that are their benchmark.

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E-commerce: How to Attract New Customers with Newsletters

Marketers and customers will agree: data is gold, and knowledge is essential to ensure the relevance of communications. However, the challenge of data collection remains. As consumers become increasingly suspicious of brands, they are less inclined to share their personal information. Newsletter subscriptions are one of the data collection tools at marketing teams’ disposal, as they can use it as a starting point for establishing relationships with new customers.

To work in the best possible way, a customer journey must include many steps: recruitment, registration forms, double opt-in, registration confirmation, and a welcome email. None of these steps should be overlooked before starting a fruitful customer relationship, but how do we know which tools to use, which messages to send, and which strategies to adopt?

To answer these questions, Validity’s Loïc Péron, Director of Customer Success South EMEA & BENELUX, conducted a study in February and March of 2021 assessing the newsletter subscription procedures of 70 brands across France, the UK, Spain, and Germany. In March 2021, he presented his findings at Inbox Expo as part of a presentation titled “Newsletter signup forms, pop-ups… Learn how you can improve your registration rate” (you can find a link to the full presentation at the bottom of this page). Here are some of his key findings:

Find the ideal spot for the registration link.

The location of the registration link on the webpage is decisive. Our research shows more than 45% of brands integrate the registration link directly into the customer’s account. This is particularly relevant for well-known brands such as Ebay, where the customer is used to logging into their account and can therefore subscribe to the program on their own. However, the same does not apply to companies with a weaker brand image.

Fortunately, there are other alternatives, such as integrating the registration link into the footer (30%), into the page header or body of the page (5% respectively), or even directly into a pop-up (2%). It is quite common to find subscription links in a website’s footer, which users tend to go to when trying to contact a brand. For the French brand Darty, the signup call-to-action is integrated into the body of the page, attracting consumers with special offers.

Use offers to motivate data sharing.

Eighteen percent of websites have set up “promotional tools” or “incentives” within their subscription forms, and these can take many shapes.

In the most widely used approach, the promotion comes first. Whether the offer is a percentage off or a fixed deduction (e.g., a promo code for £5 or 10 € of the total cost), this incentivisation can increase the capture of larger customer segments. With the gamification of marketing still popular, the integration of a lottery is also used as an incentive. In this instance, the customer’s registration is automatically entered in a draw for a predefined prize. This approach isn’t without risk, as it could potentially recruit opportunistic subscribers who are not really attracted to the brand or its products.

Other brands – particularly German brands like Lidl and Obi – are far more transparent, clearly stating the benefits of their programs by using creative and attractive visuals.

Collect more than one email address and segment.

It is not enough to simply collect an email address. Once the consumer has been won over and registered, it is important to position this commitment as a genuine value-added exchange. Marketers must go further by developing the customer knowledge that helps them to send more personalised communications.

To achieve this, some brands encourage users to share more personal information. As part of Marks & Spencer’s newsletter subscription, first and last names are sourced, as well as any additional information users are willing to share (date of birth, title, etc.). Adidas asks for this type of data using follow-up emails that form part of the customer journey. Brands like FNAC in France and Spain offer ultra-detailed preference centres where each subscriber can specify their areas of interest. This way, segmentation and ultra-personalisation of campaigns can be used to deliver optimised performance that leads to improved customer experience and loyalty.

Ensure good reception of communications.

All subscriptions result in emails being sent, and email is a highly-valued marketing channel. As part of this trusted relationship, users need to know their data and consent will be handled confidentially and in accordance with the European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). Use of double opt-in allows consumers to be contacted by email to confirm their registration. Validity’s study shows 100% of German sites, as well as some Spanish ones, have implemented this approach.

Once new subscribers are registered, sending a welcome email is a must. Brands should ensure it is sent immediately after subscription for maximum effectiveness.

The spam folder remains a pet peeve of marketers in 2021. Our research revealed that 6.6% of the sites studied saw their first message land in the spam folder. However, some brands were proactive, suggesting to their customers that they check their junk mail and spam if they didn’t receive a confirmation email in their inbox.

The world of marketing is currently experiencing a small revolution with the disappearance of third-party cookies. Email will become increasingly decisive in providing the ability to monitor customer behavior within CDPs (Customer Data Platforms) and analytical tools. In this context, newsletter subscription is an essential tool for collecting customer data in a consensual and transparent manner. Brands should see this as an opportunity to get to know their consumers better. By acquiring data and customer knowledge without having to go through expensive service providers, brands can build qualitative and lasting relationships.

Click here to watch the full presentation, “Newsletter signup forms, pop-ups… Learn how you can improve your registration rates,” or to watch any of the additional five sessions Validity’s email experts held at Inbox Expo.

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On Track for Email Success

In regard to email relevance, how wide is the gap between marketers and consumers when it comes to defining what this important concept actually means? And what are the reasons for their fundamentally different perceptions?

These are questions the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker – sponsored by Validity – is designed to answer. The report provides a definitive view of the email landscape, informed by over 200 expert senders. This year’s edition is especially relevant as it provides one of the first full snapshots of the Covid-19 pandemic’s impact on email senders and how they’ve responded.

There are a number of good news stories:

  • Most popular marketing channel. Email remains the preferred marketing channel (72% of respondents), and this aligns strongly with consumer feedback (92%). Highly effective across all phases of the customer journey, email is particularly strong when used for post-purchase activity like receipts, order confirmations, and delivery updates.
  • Not just offers and promotions. While driving sales remains an important email objective, this has declined year-on-year (YoY). There has been a strong increase in focus on “softer” outcomes like relationship building, loyalty, and engagement. These changes strongly reflect the pandemic-induced shift towards more information-based content.
  • Positive trending of email KPIs. The majority of respondents noticed improved performance across a broad set of email KPIs: deliverability, open, and click rates; list size; conversions; and revenue. Meanwhile, negative metrics like opt-outs and spam complaints reduced. These trends reinforce the popularity of the channel described above.
  • More revenue and greater value. Email return on investment (ROI) is now 38:1 – an 8% YoY increase – while customer lifetime value (CLV) has risen to £36.64 – up 6%. Marketers’ ability to calculate these important metrics has also improved, strongly positioning them to prove program value and secure new investments.
    • Increased email budgets. All these points clearly highlight email’s effectiveness, so it’s no surprise to see marketers committing more of their budget to the channel. For the first time ever, over 20% of marketing spend is going towards email. It’s not a flash in the pan either – more than half of respondents (56%) expect continued growth over the next 12 months.

However, there are always two sides to every coin. The report also identifies critical blind spots that email marketers will need to address in order to maintain their positive trends:

  • A deliverability black hole. Two-fifths of marketers (41%) believe subscribers receive their emails on a “daily or more” basis . . . but only one-fifth of consumers (18%) agree they receive emails at this frequency. The 23% gap is remarkably similar to Validity’s published inbox placement stats1 in every 5 emails sent is going to spam/junk!
    • Activity monitoring. Despite being an established best practice, only two-thirds of email marketers (66%) track if customer email addresses are active or inactive, and only three-quarters (73%) treat these segments differently. This failure to differentiate based on activity levels will have a big impact on both deliverability and subscriber engagement.
  • Mind the relevance gap. This “engagement blindness” is clearly reflected in the difference in perception surrounding email relevance. Three-fifths of marketers (59%) believe their emails are relevant/useful, but less than one-sixth of consumers (15%) feel the same. Accurate targeting is about far more than “right person, right message, right time.” Email marketers need much more data – and the right tools – to create genuine relevance.
  • KPI blind spots. This also stems from how email marketers measure relevance. Click-to-open rates are the most popular KPI (49%), spam complaints (9%) far less so – even though they are equally important sides of the same engagement coin. Measuring a much broader set of engagement touch points will mean improved visibility of relevance drivers.
  • Data is the biggest challenge. While more data creates more visibility, it also creates more challenges. Budget/resourcing is traditionally the biggest challenge faced by email marketers, but has reduced by almost 10% over the past year. It’s been superseded by data and technology, which have increased sharply (10% and 14% respectively).

Addressing these challenges is everything we had in mind when we built our Everest email intelligence platform. As the pioneers of email optimisation and deliverability, Validity’s vision was to provide email marketers with full measurement of all stages of their email programs. Everest provides true 360-degree performance visibility, eliminating all the blind spots we’ve described above.

If you’d like to continue the Marketer Email Tracker discussion, we’d love to have you join our webinarTrain Your Email Brain! – on 17th June with the DMA’s Tim Bond and Trainline’s Alex Fadahunsi. In the meantime, contact us here to talk with Validity about how to move the needle on your email program’s performance.

The post On Track for Email Success appeared first on Validity.

Trump reportedly deleted his blog because he was upset people were mocking it and it had such a small audience

Donald Trump
Former President Donald Trump.

  • Trump deleted his blog because he didn’t like it being mocked, The Washington Post reported.
  • His team originally billed it as a social-media platform that would rival Twitter and Facebook.
  • But the blog ultimately had very little engagement and a shelf life of less than a month.
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

Donald Trump was upset because his blog had very little engagement and was widely mocked by the public, an advisor to the former president told The Washington Post.

The individual spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly discuss Trump’s plans, The Post said.

Wednesday’s revelation comes after the senior Trump aide Jason Miller told CNBC that Trump had permanently shut down his blog, which was launched on May 5. The former president largely used the blog, called “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” as he’d used Twitter, blasting out short, strongly worded statements praising those who were loyal to him, attacking Republicans who he felt had betrayed him, and spreading lies about the 2020 election and post-election audits.

Trump announced plans to launch a new “platform” after he was banned from all mainstream social media following the deadly Capitol insurrection on January 6.

His team billed the site as a social-media giant that would rival the likes of Twitter and Facebook.

“I do think we’re going to see President Trump returning to social media in probably about two or three months here with his own platform,” Miller said on Fox News’ “Media Buzz” in March. “This is something that I think will be the hottest ticket in social media.”

“It’s going to completely redefine the game, and everybody is going to be waiting and watching to see what exactly President Trump does, but it will be his own platform,” he added.

But an NBC News analysis found that Trump’s blog had a much smaller audience than his Twitter and Facebook accounts and that there was little engagement with the posts. NBC reported that in the week after Trump launched his blog, it drew a little more than 212,000 engagements, compared to the hundreds of thousands of likes and retweets a single tweet from the former president sometimes accrued.

Miller on Wednesday told CNBC that the blog “will not be returning,” and added, “It was just auxiliary to the broader efforts we have and are working on.”

Trump’s former blog now redirects to www.donaldjtrump.com/alerts. The page prompts users to sign up for “EXCLUSIVE updates” from the ex-president.

Read the original article on Business Insider

Top 6 Tips for Communicating With Consumers During a Natural Disaster

Natural disasters aren’t going anywhere any time soon – and unfortunately, it seems like the frequency in unprecedented natural disasters has increased in recent years. While you cannot control the severity or frequency of natural disasters, you can control how you handle your communication with consumers. You might be asking yourself, what does this have to do with email? The answer is: a lot more than you think.

With email becoming one of the top channels to engage with consumers, competition within the inbox is increasing. However, connecting with your subscribers on a human level is crucial to building the trust and authenticity that drives long-term relationships and establishes brand loyalty. Part of recognizing your consumers as humans is curating content that resonates with them and sending the right message at the right time. This is especially true when it comes to communicating with consumers who have been affected by natural disasters.

So, what changes can you make to your email program to better communicate with those experiencing hardships due to a natural disaster? Here are some tips:

1. Adjust your email program accordingly.

If you are a promotion-heavy sender and your products or services aren’t immediately needed during the natural disaster, consider pausing the promotions for a week – or even a couple of weeks – while the consumer tries to recover from the natural disaster.

2. Don’t forget about automated emails!

Automated emails are great because they require low maintenance once implemented. However, they are also pretty easy to forget about. While you are going through and adjusting your email program for a particular location or region, don’t forget to adjust your automated emails, too!

3. Send a separate email to consumers affected by the natural disaster.

Let them know you are thinking of them and hoping they are safe. Within the email, be empathetic of the situation and what your consumers are experiencing. During these difficult times, many are struggling financially and emotionally. Be sure to use your email to demonstrate awareness of the struggles people may be going through. Also, note that this is not the time to make light of the situation.

4. Provide critical information.

If your company is providing relief or adjusting any policies to accommodate hardships felt during this time, email is a great way to communicate any updates or changes.

5. Be helpful.

If you can provide any helpful resources, tips, or information, sending an email with the necessary information will help build that authentic relationship between you and your consumers.

6. If this event will impact orders or shipping, optimize your pre-header text to let people know.

This tip applies to anyone that might be affected, not just those in a particular region where the disaster occurred. Letting consumers know right away if their orders might be delayed is a great way to set expectations up front to avoid disgruntled customers down the line. Alerting consumers of the situation can be as simple as adding the notification within the pre-header text of the confirmation email.

Now that we know what to look for, here are some examples of brands that sent well-executed emails during natural disasters:

Publix

What we love:

  • Relevant and timely geo-targeting. Publix sent this geo-targeted email a couple of days before a storm was forecasted to hit to give people enough time to get prep supplies ahead of those storms.
  • Value added. Publix is not selling anything within this email! Instead, they offer links to the supplies checklists, which are a valuable resource for their shoppers. People will certainly buy from those checklists, but it’s not the focus of Publix’s message.
  • User experience. Once the subscriber clicks through, they are taken to a page that is just as impressive as the email. Not only does the landing page provide a seamless transition from the email, but it also includes:
    • A link to check the status of local Publix stores that may be closed due to the storm
    • Various supplies checklists
    • Store locator
    • Link to refill prescriptions (a critical reminder for many who may need access to medicine during the storms)
    • Links to the American Red Cross, Fema.gov, and other relief websites

U.S. Airways | MasterCard

What we love:

  • Empathetic tone. The email immediately starts with U.S. Airways offering their acknowledgment and sympathy for their cardholders who are facing hardships due to Hurricane Sandy.
  • List of services provided. Given the situation of many cardholders, U.S. Airways lists a few of the ways they provide relief so that these people can focus on the more essential things.
  • Creative aligns with the email’s sentiment. The tone of the email is very solemn and uses an all-text letter format signed by the CEO. Using this type of format shows that U.S. Airways acknowledges the severity of the issue and the devastation brought on by the hurricane.

Staples

What we love:

  • Highlights relief efforts. Staples is donating and providing assistance to those impacted and is sure to highlight these efforts. This is a great way to encourage consumers to participate and donate to various organizations partnered with their brand.
  • Excludes promotions. Staples refrains from including any promotional content within the email to keep the purpose of the message clear. This also helps support the authenticity of their efforts in helping communities affected by the disaster.

It’s important to remember that even once your targeted audience has been selected, an email has been created using the tips and examples mentioned above, and you are ready to hit send, this is just half the work. Be sure to monitor subscriber engagement metrics like opens, clicks, complaints, and unsubscribes, sender reputation metrics like spam traps and unknown users, and inbox placement metrics. Validity’s Everest platform is here to help ensure this campaign is successful and the relationship between the brand and the consumer strengthens – even during the darkest days.

The post Top 6 Tips for Communicating With Consumers During a Natural Disaster appeared first on Validity.

Data 101: What You Can Do Today to Improve Your Organisation’s Data

We all know clean and reliable data is critical to any high-performing organisation. Good data improves customer relationships, drives more effective marketing campaigns, and contributes to accurate pipeline management. However, to many organisations, data management can feel overwhelming.

We asked our very own William Zhang, Senior Account Executive, and Andrew Fragias, Product Manager and Certified Salesforce Admin, to sit down with us and talk about the many things you can be doing to ensure your organisation’s data is of high quality.

You can watch the full webinar below to discover all the tips and tricks they shared, but here are a few key points to get you started:

  • Andrew explained what data discrepancies are and how they can affect your database.
  • We discussed an outline of the best plan of attack to clean your data, including how to prioritise the process for the greatest impact.
  • We reviewed some of the key mistakes that can be made when applying data corrections, how they impact organisations, and how you can avoid them.

Plus, Andrew demonstrated how easy it is to implement some of these business-critical data changes. To get the full details on how to ensure your organisation’s data is clean and reliable, check out the full webinar now:

To learn more about how to improve your data quality, reach out to us today to set up a demo.

The post Data 101: What You Can Do Today to Improve Your Organisation’s Data appeared first on Validity.

Deep Dive into Sender Reputation

One of the most common questions email deliverability professionals get asked is, “How do I improve my sender reputation if all my mail is spamfoldered?” Before we can answer this question, we first need to understand email sender reputation.

Email sender reputation is how mailbox providers (MBPs) identify you as a legitimate sender. Each time you send an email campaign, MBPs collect important data that says whether you follow proper sending practices. The better your sender reputation, the more likely a MBP will deliver your emails to the inboxes of recipients on their network. A poor sender reputation could mean your mail is getting sent to spam instead of the inbox, which would negatively impact your email marketing ROI.

In this blog post, we’ll dive deeper into email sender reputation, the factors that affect it, and steps you can take to start improving your reputation and increasing revenue.

Your IP reputation is like your credit score

There are two key components of email sender reputation – the first is known as IP reputation.

In the early 2000s, spammers were trying new techniques to avoid spam filters (the most famous being snowshoe spam) and MBPs had to go beyond static blocklists and safelists to curb the spam. This led to the birth of IP reputation, as the connecting IP was one of the reliable parts from the mail headers.

We can think of IP reputation the same way we think of a credit score: the higher the score, the better the chances of making it to the inbox. A new IP starts with a neutral reputation. Based on the positive and negative signals that an IP exhibits, the reputation could either improve or deteriorate.

For example, if the reputation is scored on a scale of one to nine – one being good and nine being poor – the new IP would start at five. Its reputation would then change based on the signals a sender exhibits.

Here are some of the signals senders exhibit that determine IP reputation and email deliverability.

IP reputation signals:

  • Opens
  • Trusted recipient volume
  • Address book hit
  • Not spam report
  • Low spam complaints
  • Spam complaints
  • Spam traps
  • Bounces
  • Delete without open
  • Unsubscribes
  • IP netblock/ASN
  • Second received header
  • DNS checks – A/MX/PTR (fully qualified reverse DNS)

IP reputation is a great way for MBPs to rate limit email volumes, especially during spam runs or DDOS attacks on their servers. If you see a drop in your sender reputation, remember MBPs will spamfolder emails for a fixed time before you start seeing temporary failures (421.xxx errors).

A temporary failure, or deferral, is an early signal that notifies a user when they are having reputation issues. As a sender, it is important to look at both a drop in your engagement rates, as well as a spike in deferrals.

Your brand takes precedence for domain reputation

As mentioned earlier, IP reputation is a good defense mechanism for obvious spam mails and spam runs, but spammers are an ingenious bunch (duh!). They figure there are quite a few trusted IPs they can piggyback their malicious mail onto.

A couple of years ago, most spam was from free webmail accounts. IPs belonging to these servers tend to have a good reputation or can be found on most of the receivers’ allowlists. Anti-spam professionals realized they needed to supplement IP reputation along with domain reputation and look for additional signals to feed into the reputation algorithm.

Your domain reputation is based on your sending domain instead of your IP address. This means that your brand takes precedence when it comes to MBP filtering decisions.

There was also a push in authentication around this time (IPv6 adoption accelerated this, too) and we see more and more email service providers (ESPs) signing emails with security protocols like DKIM and DMARC. Email authentication helped in reducing usual “From” address spoofing, and receivers had a few domains in the headers that they could rely on.

Domain reputation signals:

  • DKIM “d=” domain – RFC5322
  • From address/domain
  • Return-path domain
  • Authentication results – Domain-based alignment
  • ARC headers
  • Message body URLs
  • Message content
  • X-headers – added by ESP
  • List unsubscribe
  • Engagement – Open rates, click rates, click to open, etc.

How to improve email sender reputation

Most major MBPs have either IP reputation or domain reputation in their arsenal to combat spammers. So, if you have hit rock bottom at an MBP, how can you improve your email sender reputation? Here are a few tips to get you started.

1. Monitor KPIs.

Most reputation issues arise due to a lack of monitoring. Have a check on ESP dashboard for KPIs like email delivery rates, complaint rates, unsubscribes, and engagement rates. You can also utilize Validity tools like reputation monitoring for spam traps, Universal Feedback Loop, seedlist testing to check mail placement, and DMARC to ensure a spoofer is not derailing your email program.

2. Reduce send volume.

The first step to improve sender reputation is to cut back on the volume of mail being sent. This is helpful at MBPs where IP reputation has higher influence. The lower the reputation, the lower the threshold of accepted mail volume.

3. Remove old or unengaged addresses.

Mailbox providers like Gmail are more reliant on engagement data, so restricting sending to less than 90-day openers would yield better results. This article should provide a good idea on how to sunset older addresses.

4. Do a post-mortem of the drop in reputation.

The last thing you want to do is continue the older practices you had in place which caused the drop in reputation. Check for the source of the issue. Is it a recent poor list that caused higher bounces and unsubscribes? Is it a gradual drop in reputation due to hitting a high volume of recycled spam traps and lower engagement? Take necessary actions like subscribing to Google Postmaster Tools for additional data points, or utilize Validity list cleaning to reduce the number of invalid addresses. Add a sunset strategy for old addresses and put eligible candidates in a re-engagement campaign.

Conclusion

Maintaining a good sender reputation is a continuous process, and it can prepare your marketing program to handle spikes in email volume. By utilizing an all-in-one deliverability solution like Everest, you can proactively monitor and manage all the signals affecting your sender reputation, enabling you to reach more people and achieve your ROI goals.

The post Deep Dive into Sender Reputation appeared first on Validity.

All About Email Verification

Email is consumers’ preferred channel for receiving marketing communications, and the basis of any email marketing program is the quality of the mailing list. Having a database of accurate email addresses is an asset for any business, but just like a home or a car, these databases require regular maintenance. So, what does it take for businesses to avoid problems and keep their mailing lists healthy? The answer is email verification.

What is email verification and why is it important?

Email verification ensures the email addresses on your mailing list are real before you send to them, preventing you from wasting time, money, and resources targeting bad email addresses. Email verification reduces the risk of high bounce rates, spam trap hits, and blocklistings – all of which can negatively impact IP reputation and deliverability. These factors can also cost money, as wasted cost per acquisition and reduced customer lifetime value mean diluted return on investment (ROI). You can check your IP Reputation score on our website, or get a more detailed report within our Everest solution.

Some common approaches to validating new email addresses include double opt-in (DOI) and coding manual rules. However, each of these approaches comes with potential downsides:

  • DOI creates a longer sign-up process for subscribers, who may not click the confirmation link. On average, 25% of new subscribers drop out of a DOI process, resulting in a loss of potential revenue.
  • Coding manual rules is time-consuming and risks human error. Plus, the rules can quickly go out of date.

A simpler, more effective, and more cost-efficient option for email verification is BriteVerify.

What is BriteVerify?

BriteVerify is the industry’s longest standing and most complete email and contact verification solution. BriteVerify checks for:

  • Whether address elements are in the correct order, there are no spaces or commas, and the @, dots, and domain extension are in the right places; and
  • Whether the email domain exists by pinging the mailbox provider to confirm the email address is active.

The solution can also identify role accounts (support@, info@, etc.), which I would recommend removing from your lists. These kinds of addresses do not belong to individuals, and high levels of these addresses may be a sign of list harvesting by mailbox providers (MBPs).

Where should email verification be implemented?

Based on my experience, stopping bad addresses from entering your database at the time of sign-up using webforms or point of sale (POS) systems is most impactful. When given verbally or handwritten, addresses are more likely to be inaccurate.

Often, if forced to provide their email while making a purchase, people will deliberately provide disposable addresses. Such email addresses will self-destruct and are only valid temporarily. Inline verification will immediately prompt the user to correct the address.

With BriteVerify, senders can also bulk cleanse their full email databases using a simple drag and drop process, validating all addresses in a single pass.

When should email verification be implemented?

If you are unable to implement real-time email verification, you should clean your lists at least once every six months, or more frequently if you have large volumes of daily sign-ups. Remember, email addresses do not stay valid forever as people change jobs or get married, and email databases decay naturally by about 22.5% per year. MBPs will typically generate bounce notifications for dormant email addresses for at least six months, after which they may be repurposed as spam traps.

Conclusion

The average email customer lifetime value (CLV) is £35, which is around AUD$60. Therefore, every bad email address has a significant financial impact because of wasted acquisition costs and future revenue that will no longer be earned. With millions of customers entering and leaving CRMs daily, email verification plays a crucial role in boosting your marketing efforts. Click here to learn more about how BriteVerify can help you improve the quality of your mailing list.

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