Ethical & Exceptional Email: How to Rank Top for Both

Ethical marketing is a hot topic right now, especially with the introduction of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) functionality. MPP strengthens subscriber privacy by restricting the use of tracking pixels and IP addresses to identify factors like email opens, device utilisation, and location.

It’s being presented as a challenge, but MPP also creates opportunities for progressive businesses. Transparent use of personal data builds stronger relationships, resulting in increased lifetime value. Forward-thinking marketers recognise it’s possible to square this circle by being ethical and exceptional.

Sarah Hawkes, Senior MarTech Program Manager at The Rank Group, is one of these marketers, and she joined us recently for a fascinating webinar on this topic. The Betting & Gambling industry is tightly regulated, but The Rank Group was early in recognising an opportunity to create a safer community where healthy, happy customers are more important than high-risk high rollers.

Sarah took us through the journey The Rank Group has been on to achieve this:

  • It starts with data, and the technology to harness it effectively. The Rank Group holds Fintech-like levels of customer data, and its biggest challenge (and opportunity) lies in using it responsibly to identify at-risk behaviour and nudge those players into safer waters.
  • This drives their “Keep it Fun” program. Sarah explained how Artificial Intelligence drives sophisticated propensity modelling, embedding their safer gambling philosophy into every customer journey. This feeds into their email messaging—their most important channel—and Sarah showed examples of the clever automated email messaging that is generated.
  • The Rank Group’s “above and beyond” approach to player welfare is deeply appreciated by their digital customers. This is reflected by the outstanding performance of their Certified email program, which generates 100% inbox placement rates across all major mailbox providers.

Sarah was also generous about Validity’s role in helping achieve this outstanding performance: “We have limited opportunities to reach out to our customers, so when we do contact them, the email has got to land! This is where our partners at Validity come in—Everest has been a game changer for us.” Sarah described her Validity CSM, Coralie Levi, as her “expert friend on the end of the line!”

Want to learn more about The Rank Group’s ethical approach to delivering high-performance email marketing? Watch the webinar recording below, and if you’d like to learn more about how Validity can help you achieve similar performance for your email program, schedule a demo today.

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Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection is Here

Today is the day

Apple just released iOS 15, which includes its latest privacy feature, Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). This has been a hot topic among marketers since Apple first announced their plans to introduce the feature back in June.

Regardless of how much (or how little) you chose to prepare your email program for this release, it introduces a huge change for marketers. Yes, change is hard, but this is not the first radical change the email industry has been thrown, and it certainly won’t be the last. You’ve successfully navigated industry shifts in the past, and we’re confident MPP won’t be any different. Validity is here to help ensure you have the right information and tools to continue to drive results through your email campaigns.

Your MPP refresher

So, let’s quickly recap what MPP is and the changes you can expect to see now that it’s live.

MPP prevents senders from using tracking pixels to measure open rates and device usage, while also masking recipients’ IP addresses to prevent location tracking. It accomplishes this by prefetching and caching email images at the time emails are delivered (provided the device is connected to the internet). This means all tracking pixels will fire, regardless of whether the recipient actually opened the email. Therefore, your open rates for this segment will skyrocket, but it won’t be because more people are engaging with your email.

MPP impacts all subscribers who use the Apple Mail app with MPP enabled, regardless of which mailbox provider they use. For example, if your subscriber has a Gmail mailbox but views all their email on their phone using the Apple Mail app, they’ll be subject to this process. Validity data shows that Apple Mail dominates email client usage with ~40% of global market share, so the impact to your subscriber base is significant.

With the release this morning, Apple users are in the process of upgrading their software and enabling the MPP feature. Therefore, the highly anticipated impact on tracking open, device, and location metrics is about to become very clear. If you have yet to adjust your engagement reporting strategy, there is an immediate need to do so.

Where to focus

Senders acknowledge that the open rate has become an increasingly flawed metric. However, opens have long provided signals for established best practices like engagement-based segmentation, triggered email generation, and identification of optimal send times to name a few – and senders value the metric for this.

Luckily, senders still have access to many other accurate signals that can provide a broader view of the engagement their programs generate. Here’s where to focus to overcome the changes introduced with MPP:

  1. Inbox placement rates. Unlike delivered rates, which simply measure sent less bounced, inbox placement rates can be used as a proxy for open rates. Mailbox providers consider subscriber engagement (whether positive or negative) when making spam filtering decisions. Therefore, great open rates mean better inbox placement.
  2. Sender reputation signals. Similar to inbox placement rates, your sender reputation is impacted by subscriber engagement. So, your reputation scores provide important clues as to whether emails generate positive or negative engagement. Great open rates = stronger reputation = better inbox placement!
  3. Deeper funnel metrics. Metrics deeper down in the conversion funnel, such as clicks, website visits, and conversions, did not go away with MPP. In fact, they provide even stronger indications of subscriber interest than your open rates did. Combining these metrics with your deliverability metrics (listed above) allows you to connect the dots and effectively measure true campaign performance beyond opens.
  4. Zero-party data. There is now a greater need to focus on acquiring “zero-party data.” This is data customers intentionally and proactively share. If subscribers genuinely value their privacy, but also want to receive relevant and personalized messages, they will provide the information to brands they like and trust. With zero-party data, you can continue to have access to valuable subscriber data that you lose with MPP and can use this data to deliver the relevant and personalized communications your subscribers expect.
  5. List hygiene. Regular list validation becomes even more critical in an MPP world. Many senders rely on open rate data to inform their inactive strategies. Now, you can no longer rely on this information to make decisions to suppress inactive email addresses. Instead, you must put more focus on regular validation of the email addresses you’re sending to so you can identify addresses that are no longer working. If you don’t, you’re likely to see a hit to your reputation and inbox placement.

Here to help

We want to ensure you have the tools and information you need to turn MPP into a win for you and your email program. Our email success platform, Everest, allows marketers to measure true email engagement, beyond open rates, to evaluate email campaign success and make data-informed decisions with crucial insights into inbox placement rates and sender reputation signals.

To address the changes introduced with MPP, the team has introduced new engagement features so senders can continue to make actionable decisions based on the data available to them. Everest users can segment subscribers by email client to remove the noise that MPP has introduced into email reporting. Everest also allows users to glean value from the Apple Mail data, as it still provides value for recipient email address validation and inbox placement confirmation.

Conclusion

Apple’s release of MPP is another step in a longer journey towards greater focus on consumer privacy. Although the changes might feel overwhelming at first, it is a great opportunity to reevaluate your engagement reporting strategy and place more focus on the metrics that matter.

As you start to observe changes to your engagement metrics (if you haven’t already), don’t panic. You have the information you need to look beyond your skewed open rates for a more complete and accurate view of campaign performance.

Our team is working hard to test the impacts of MPP now that it is live. Continue to check our blog as we’ll be providing updates with our latest learnings, and we’ll continue to find innovative ways to make your team successful in navigating change in the email ecosystem.

In the meantime, learn more about how Everest can help you continue to drive results through your email campaigns despite these shifts.

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An Exciting DemandTools Announcement at Dreamforce 2021

Validity has had a long, storied history at Dreamforce, dating back to the CRMfusion days when DemandTools was still in its infancy. We’ve come a long way in two decades, and in parallel, have seen Salesforce grow in unprecedented ways.

The evolution of Salesforce and DemandTools

In March 1999, Salesforce was created so businesses could store customer data in a shared space rather than in disparate systems. By July 2000, this innovative way of storing customer data took off and over 5,000 businesses were using Salesforce.

However, working in a shared space meant more opportunities for bad data to be entered into the system—sometimes more than once. To combat this issue, CRMfusion launched DemandTools at Dreamforce 2004, which empowered users to deduplicate data in bulk and gave them more control over the management of their data and its quality.

Since then, both Salesforce and DemandTools have evolved significantly and have completely transformed the way we manage our data. Here are a few of the highlights:

  • 2005: Salesforce introduced the AppExchange at Dreamforce 2005, upgrading itself from a software to a platform.
  • 2008: DupeBlocker was released as the first real-time duplicate prevention tool for Salesforce.
  • 2010: Salesforce started connecting to other systems (i.e., Finance, Customer Success, and more).
  • 2021: Salesforce’s customer base has grown to include over 150,000 businesses.

Watch our Salesforce+ on-demand session

Although this year will be very different than in years past, we are extremely excited to be Gold Sponsors of Dreamforce 2021. While we won’t have team members in San Francisco attending, we do have a really exciting on-demand content session waiting for you starting September 21st.

Our very own Chris Hyde (SVP, Global Head of Data Solutions) is joining me to present a fantastic on-demand session as part of the inaugural slate of Salesforce+ content for Dreamforce. Our session, “Five Lessons from Automating Over 80 Million Data Quality Jobs” (and yes, we really did!), is a lesson-packed walk down memory lane, from the dawn of Salesforce through to the modern age and future of CRM data hygiene and much more.

We fit a lot of great content into 18 minutes and hope that you’ll join us for the session. Be sure to register for Dreamforce here for FREE!

…and one more thing

It wouldn’t be Dreamforce without some big and exciting news. We’ve got something years in the making that we’re thrilled to be announcing in our Salesforce+ session. Here’s a hint: It’s going to bring something critical into DemandTools itself for the first time. Be sure to tune in to see what we’re unveiling, and after the session, don’t forget to join our VIP list so you’re first in line to receive exclusive access and updates on this exciting launch!

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Bridging the Gap to Email Marketing Success

When it comes to email, most marketers think they’re doing a great job sending relevant and informative communications, but their customers don’t always agree! Based on key findings from this year’s DMA Email Research Series (sponsored by Validity), we’ve produced a fabulous new infographic highlighting some of the biggest perception gaps, as well as the data email senders need to close them.

A direct line to email success

We discussed these gaps in September’s State of Email Live webinar, where we were joined by Rabia Khan, Marketing Chapter Lead at Direct Line Group (DLG). She talked about the challenges these gaps pose for her programs and how she deals with them. Key to her success is laser focus on deepening customer relationships by creating end-to-end, highly personalised customer journeys. We discussed:

  • The increasingly unreliable nature of open rates—highly topical with the introduction of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection—and alternative data points DLG uses to compensate.
  • Why relevance depends on addressing the who/what/when/why (subscribers typically only focus on the “what”), how relevance has both explicit and implicit elements, and the role of zero-party data in delivering increased relevance.
  • Why click-throughs are only one of several routes subscribers use to respond to interesting emails, and how to harness (and measure) the many alternate ways they express their interest.

No gaps with great deliverability

One gap DLG certainly doesn’t worry about is email deliverability. Rabia’s programs are generating near-100 Sender Scores (best in class!) while average inbox placement rates are a phenomenal 98.5%—well above the 85% global benchmark for comparable senders. She was generous in her praise for the critical role Validity plays in helping achieve such outstanding performance for this business-critical channel.

Data takes the lead

Our Validity colleague Rafael Viana complemented Rabia’s observations with a brand-new set of global email analytics. Volume trends have been flat recently—perhaps due to Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, and Father’s Day all taking place in H1—but are clearly trending upwards as Northern Hemisphere summer holidays come to an end and peak sale season approaches. Slightly worrying, important negative KPIs like trap hits and bounce rates are also rising. Senders should address this now to avoid deliverability pain during the revenue-critical period that’s approaching.

While it’s important to maximise the effectiveness of all marketing channels, there is definitely still room for further adoption of email! View our new infographic to fully understand where the biggest measurement gaps are. Then, learn about how to close these gaps for your program (and the data you need to bridge them) by listening to the webinar recording below.

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Improving Email Engagement by Turning Inactives Into Actives

In our latest State of Email Live webinar, we were joined by Craig Hood, Email & SMS Lead, Global Channel Excellence at AstraZeneca. Poor email engagement is one of the biggest challenges marketers face, and Craig’s experience managing the challenges of a global email program operating in 20 countries made him well worth listening to.

Rafael Viana set the scene with Validity’s latest email analytics, showing global email volumes are already setting new records as we approach this year’s peak sales season. A recent dip in global deliverability is creating downward pressure on open rates (although click rates are holding steady).

This puts the importance of engagement segmentation firmly in the spotlight, especially with recent DMA research showing only two-thirds of email senders have an “active vs. inactive” strategy in place. This has been front-of-mind for AstraZeneca, and Craig shared his top tips:

  • Even when you are achieving great email deliverability, you cannot rest on your laurels. While AstraZeneca achieves near-100% inbox placement rates (IPRs), new deliverability challenges are continually emerging.
  • For Craig, these challenges are made more complex by a multi-market, multi-segment audience that is both B2C and B2B. The Covid-19 pandemic has seen communications with health care professionals (HCP) become more business-critical than ever.
  • To address this, Craig’s team has carried out comprehensive data analysis to build a new engagement segmentation strategy. It specifically targets low-risk, inactive segments for re-engagement and ongoing communication.
  • Specific tactics include detailed bounce log analysis to identify false positive records that would otherwise be flagged for suppression, and extensive use of PowerBI (a Microsoft business analytics service) to identify the low-risk elements of their “Non-Responders” segment.
  • These initiatives have seen HCP engagement increase by 10-15%, while consumer engagement has shown an initial uplift of 14-20%. AstraZeneca is also generally benefitting from improved IPRs and reduced complaint rates.

As Craig summarized: “You can’t just set it and forget it – we’ll keep on improving our analysis to find increased ways to send more emails to low-risk segments.” We highly recommend listening to the full webinar (below) to learn more about his plans.

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The Do’s and Don’ts of Seed Testing

While your email service provider (ESP) can provide you with valuable metrics such as delivery rate, bounce rate, complaint rate and more, it’s important to consider the “big picture” when tracking the success of your email program. Seeding your email campaigns—or sending your campaigns to a list of test email addresses—can help you to see the big picture by allowing you to get a sense for how your emails will be perceived before you send them, as well as where your emails will land once they’ve been sent. With these insights, you’ll be able to effectively optimize and troubleshoot your email program.

Let’s break down the process of seeding a campaign.

What is a seed list?

A seed list contains real email addresses provided by your deliverability tracking platform and is used to monitor your email campaigns. By using a seed list to track inbox placement, you can view deliverability metrics with mailbox providers (MBPs) such as Gmail, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

What is a seed test?

A seed test involves sending your email campaign to the addresses on the seed list, gathering valuable data, and identifying issues before sending your campaign to your audience. The top benefit of a seed test is being able to see inbox placement metrics. These metrics determine if your campaign is landing in the inbox, the spam folder, or going missing. This information tells you if your subscribers are able to see your campaign or if it’s going straight to the spam folder.

A seed test can also provide the data to help you diagnose why your emails are hitting the spam folder or going missing. Checking the header data, authentication (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC), link validation, and design rendering can let you know what steps you need to take to improve your inbox placement rate.

Best practices for seed testing

Now that you have a better idea of what seed testing is, you should know that there are many do’s and don’ts when it comes to seed testing. Here are some of the most important things to keep in mind to get the most out of your seed tests.

Seed Testing Do’s

  • Optimize your list. If 45% of your audience has a Gmail address, adjusting your seed list to have the same percentage of Gmail users will give you a more accurate representation of overall inbox placement based on your subscriber list.
  • Run seed tests at a regular cadence. You’ll get the best insights when you have comparison data and can look at trends to see the big picture. If you notice an increase in spam placements for campaigns, you’ll have the historical data to help you identify if any changes occurred during that time frame that could have had an impact on your placement rates.
  • Omit the seed addresses from your performance metrics. While seed addresses are real email addresses, there’s no one behind them opening and engaging with your campaigns. If you include these in your performance metrics, it may unnecessarily lower your open- and click-through rates.

Seed Testing Don’ts

  • Don’t set it and forget it. Just like all emails, seed lists and tests need constant monitoring and attention to ensure they are working correctly. By monitoring your seed tests and your seed list, you can make sure the seeded emails aren’t being reported as missing due to being moved to a suppression list at your ESP because of inactivity. Plus, we are adding new seeds to the seed list all the time. You’ll receive notifications when a new seed address is available, so don’t forget to be on the lookout for these alerts and update the list accordingly.
  • Don’t ignore the results. Seeing higher spam placement than expected? Since seed addresses are supposed to indicate what your real subscribers are experiencing, if our seed addresses are reporting spam, there’s a high chance your subscribers are also seeing your emails in their spam folder. Try to fix the spam placement issue as soon as possible before it turns into a bigger issue, such as a block at an MBP. If you need help getting started, Validity’s Help Center is full of resources to troubleshoot deliverability issues!

Seed testing is an important part of your overall email strategy, as it will provide you with critical insights into your campaign performance. This is just one piece of the big picture, however, and should be looked at alongside other valuable data points to help you have the best inbox placement and engagement.

Validity’s email solutions can help you adjust your test procedures and provide you with the data you need to optimize your email program. With Everest, you’ll gain detailed insights into your campaign performance, be able to identify and resolve issues, and have access to the largest global seed list in the industry. Learn more about Everest here, or to get started right away, schedule a demo.

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Top 3 Ways to Avoid Email Spoofing Attacks

It’s hard to overstate the impact of COVID-19 on the email landscape. Marketers have leveraged the email channel to communicate with subscribers more than ever before. Volume has skyrocketed and, as covered in our June State of Email webinar, there’s no sign of slowing down. It should come as no surprise that nefarious characters have been emboldened by the crisis and are getting in on the action. Scammers and spammers have capitalized on the uncertainty of the pandemic and influx of email to launch domain spoofing attacks, which increased by 220% compared to the yearly average during the height of the pandemic. Though spoofing isn’t a new strategy (in fact, it’s been around since the 70s), it has exploded into a global security threat in recent years.

What is spoofing?

The definition of spoofing is the forgery of legitimate email. Although it sounds simple, it is actually a very complicated issue that can stump even the most experienced email marketer. A quick Google search reveals various types of spoofing attacks and how they’re orchestrated. These attacks come in many forms, including IP and domain spoofing, phone number spoofing, GPS spoofing, and more.

Domain spoofing tends to be the most prominent. In domain spoofing attacks, scammers leverage an existing brand’s reputation to trick unwitting subscribers into providing sensitive data. They gain access to subscribers’ personal data by deceiving them into engaging with messages, opening compromised attachments, and clicking on links. Ultimately, each type of spoofing attack has the goal of impersonating a legitimate source to gain access to sensitive information, commit fraud, and/or spread malware.

What kind of impact does spoofing have?

It’s reported that 90% of cyberattacks start with an email, which means it’s our job as email marketers to protect our subscribers like family. Of course, spoofing attacks don’t exclusively harm consumers; there are long-term implications that can be devastating to the brand, as well. The loss of brand reputation, subscriber trust, deliverability issues, and revenue is only the surface of damages caused by spoofing attacks.

Loss of brand reputation and subscriber trust. Subscriber trust is essential for any successful business. As a result, it’s common for spoofed messages to bear logos, branding, and other visual cues that mimic a legitimate brand. This makes the subscriber more comfortable, increasing the likelihood they will provide personal information. More than ever, as an exchange for providing sensitive information, subscribers expect brands to take every step to ensure safe and secure online interactions. Failure to do so may have dire consequences – according to the InfoSec Institute, a technology training company specializing in digital privacy and security, customers are 42% less likely to engage with that organization in the future.

Deliverability. We would be remiss if we didn’t mention the potential impact of spoofing and phishing on email deliverability and inbox placement. As mentioned above, customers are less likely to open legitimate messages following email fraud, and mailbox providers (MBPs) may not deliver messages to the inbox. Validity’s data suggests that on average, inbox placement rates dropped 10% at Gmail and 7% at Yahoo following a spoofing attack. The same study found that read rates dropped by 18% at Gmail and 11% at Yahoo post-attack. Thus begins the cycle of lower subscriber engagement and a poor reputation with the MBPs.

Loss of revenue. Spoofing and phishing attacks can also come with significant financial consequences. According to the 2019 Thales Access Management Index, domain and website spoofing was responsible for $1.3 billion in losses in a single year, making it critical for marketers to understand the risks of spoofing and the ways it can be prevented. This figure increases when considering the internal-business costs, such as resources to investigate and manage the crisis, system and security updates, and additional training.

How can you avoid spoofing?

Email authentication is critical in identifying and addressing spoofed messages. Authentication refers to techniques that provide verifiable evidence that an email originates from a legitimate source – it is email’s way of proving the message comes from who it claims to come from by validating domain ownership. The following authentication protocols are the top three ways to avoid spoofing attacks:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): SPF records list which IP addresses are authorized to send email on behalf of domains. SPF helps mailbox providers and filtering systems recognize the difference between forged and legitimate email. SPF checks are run based on the path the email took to get from its origin to its destination.

Unfortunately, SPF authentication has a few pitfalls in terms of validating the message source. For example, SPF breaks when a message is forwarded. It does nothing to protect brands against cybercriminals who spoof the display name or Friendly-From address in their message (the most visible address for recipients). This is where DKIM comes in.

  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM): DKIM is an authentication protocol that adds a digital signature to every sent email message. The signature is a header added to the message and secured with encryption. MBPs and receiving servers use DKIM to determine whether the message was changed or altered during transit. When a message has been signed using DKIM, MBPs that successfully validate the signature can use information about the signer as part of a protection from spoofing and phishing.

However, DKIM doesn’t tell MBPs how to treat a message if the signature can’t be validated. MBPs weigh DKIM verification failures based on their internal spam filter algorithms, along with other sending reputation factors, to determine if email should be placed in the inbox or the spam folder. To help tell MBPs what to do if DKIM and/or SPF fail, senders can implement DMARC.

  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC): DMARC addresses exact-domain spoofing and phishing attacks by preventing unauthorized use of a domain in the “From” address of email messages. DMARC is quite different from the other authentication methods. It is a framework that sits atop SPF and DKIM authentication, rather than working in silo alongside it. DMARC allows the sender to specify how unauthenticated or suspicious messages should be treated by MBPs. It helps mail administrators prevent hackers and other attackers from spoofing their organization and domain.

The true beauty of DMARC protection lies in the three available policies which allow senders to instruct the MBPs on how treat unauthenticated mail. The three options are:

    • Policy is ‘none’ (p=none): MBPs will take no action and deliver the mail as normal
    • Policy is ‘quarantine’ (p=quarantine): MBPs will send the message to spam/junk
    • Policy is ‘reject’ (p=reject): MBPs will drop the message and it will not be delivered to recipients

Often, senders aren’t aware of a spoofing or phishing attack until it’s too late. Implementing SPF and DKIM is step one; implementing DMARC is step two; receiving, monitoring, and interpreting the reports DMARC provides is step three. These reports are crucial, as they provide insight into the authentication results sent from your domain, help identify potential domain spoofing, and keep track of authorized third parties sending emails on your behalf.

Although digesting this report sounds cumbersome, Everest’s Infrastructure tool simplifies the process into one pretty dashboard. We will validate your DMARC, SPF, and DKIM records and interpret your DMARC reports to show the volume sent based on your inbound reports. Once there is sufficient data within Everest, you will receive a DMARC Compliance rating, which is calculated by the volume sent from your sending domains that authenticates with SPF and/or DKIM and aligns domains with the visible “From” address.

Billions of consumer mailboxes are protected by DMARC because top MBPs such as Gmail, Microsoft, and Yahoo respect it. Given the risks of email spoofing and phishing, and the fact that nearly 90% of email attacks are based on fake sender identities, adopting DMARC is more important than ever. While DMARC setup can be complicated, there are lots of resources available to help you get started. At Validity, we aim to drive DMARC adoption and boost email security by making the process easier to understand, and the data more actionable.

Conclusion

How secure is your email program? What is your DMARC Compliance rating? With more than 3 billion domain spoofing emails sent per day, it’s your responsibility as an email marketer to make sure you are protecting your brand and your subscribers. You can click here to learn more about how Everest can help secure your email program, or contact us to schedule a free demo.

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An Antispam Masterclass for Great Email Marketing

Email is highly prized for its measurability. Senders regularly benchmark their performance against historical yardsticks – and against their competitors! This continual quest to “know what great looks like” drove record registrations for our latest webinar. Special guests included Anna Frigerio, Insight Manager at the DMA; Stéphane Decamps, Head of Anti-Abuse & PR at Vade; Guillaume Séjourné, Head of Product Management at Vade; and Validity’s Mathieu Girol, Director of International Data Services.

Anna reviewed the DMA’s newly published Email Benchmarking Report 2021 (sponsored by Validity). Merging data from a broad cross-section of email service providers (ESPs), the report confirms email’s role as a highly effective marketing channel, despite the challenges posed by the pandemic. Unexpected findings included performance uplifts for B2B (did working from home create more time for email engagement?), and not-for-profits saw big rises in their open and click rates – a heart-warming illustration of people’s willingness to support good causes during tough times.

For more fascinating stats and expert analysis, check out the full report.

Of course, metrics are irrelevant if emails don’t get delivered. An unwelcome side effect of email’s success is the corresponding rise in spam, and security vendors like Vade are constantly evolving their technology to identify fraudulent senders. This means it’s more important than ever for legitimate senders to avoid looking “spammy.” Guillaume and Stéphane provided a wealth of practical advice on how to achieve this:

  • Build a strong sender reputation (IP and domain) through consistent use of display names, domains, and email headers.
  • Carefully monitor the negative impact prospecting mailings (sent by affiliate partners, for example) can have on first-party campaigns.
  • The importance of top-drawer data quality to ensure senders’ programs are not hitting spam traps.
  • Leverage all available feedback loops, and promptly suppress complaints received through these FBLs.
  • Be aware of the risk posed by “replay” campaigns, where fraudsters repurpose legitimate senders’ email creatives by replacing the links.

Mathieu was on hand to discuss Validity’s data partnerships, and how they help to promote good senders, block bad senders, and provide actionable insights to maximise deliverability. Vade, for example, is deeply embedded in Validity’s Certification program, and accredited senders benefit because they are allowed to bypass Vade’s reputation filters. Marketers who would like to benefit should schedule a demo to look at Everest, Validity’s all-in-one email marketing solution.

We encourage you to watch the full webinar (below) to benchmark what great looks like, and to find out how to achieve greatness for your own email program.

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How to Grapple With Apple

The dust is settling following Apple’s announcement in early June of plans to introduce Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) for its native Mail client users. This feature prevents email senders from using tracking pixels to measure open rates and device usage, while also masking recipients’ IP addresses to prevent location tracking.

While Apple acknowledges the impact a degraded open signal will have for legitimate purposes (e.g., activity measurement and use of live dynamic content), its customer-first philosophy means it won’t be swayed from its privacy-first position.

MPP is expected to launch in September 2021 (although it could possibly launch as late as November). There is still time to prepare, so let’s review what we’ve learned since the announcement.

It’s not entirely new.

What Apple is introducing with MPP is nothing new, with major mailbox providers (MBPs) like Gmail and Yahoo already blazing this trail. The following table summarizes their respective approaches.

Image caching means the email images (including tracking pixels) are downloaded from the original server and stored on the MBP’s proxy server(s). Subsequent views of the cached image will always load from the proxy server. For pixel tracking purposes, this means only the first download is recorded, meaning multiple interactions with an email cannot be measured.

At first glance, Apple’s plans are similar to what Gmail and Yahoo already have in place. Senders will already have an understanding of the more limited data they receive from these MBPs.

The key question is about when the caching happens. With Gmail and Yahoo, it takes place when emails are opened. Senders deploying unique tracking pixels for each subscriber (using an identifier like subscriber ID or email address) will record each subscriber’s first open, although multiple opens will not be recorded.

However, testing carried out by Validity’s engineering team using a beta version of iOS 15 shows that Apple is pre-fetching all images at the time emails are delivered (provided the devices are plugged into a power source, and connected to the internet). This means all tracking pixels will fire, irrespective of whether the actual recipient has opened the email or not. It also means the time recorded for when recipients open their emails will be inaccurate. In other words, this open signal is more degraded than the existing signals from Gmail / Yahoo and effectively devoid of value to a marketer, aside from being a broad indicator that mail was accepted for delivery. 

How broad is the likely impact?

It’s important to understand the difference between MBPs and email clients. MBPs are companies that host subscribers’ mailboxes, while email clients are software applications people use to read their emails. This distinction is important because MPP is not a specific feature for iCloud mailboxes (the MBP). Rather, it is a general feature in the Mail app, which is the default client on all Apple devices (iPhones, iPads, and Macs).

For example, if you use the Apple Mail client to read emails sent to your Gmail address, any pixel-based tracking generated by those interactions will be impacted by MPP (as described above). However, if you have an Apple email address but use an Outlook account to read those emails, pixel-based tracking will not be impacted.

Data from Validity’s Everest platform shows that the most popular MBP is Gmail with ± 40% of global market share, followed by Microsoft, Yahoo, and AOL (all ± 20%, respectively). Apple only represents ± 2% of global email addresses.

However, when it comes to email client usage, Apple (iPhone & Mail) dominates with ± 50% of global market share, followed by Gmail (± 25%), Outlook (± 8%) and Yahoo Mail (± 5%). Gmail and Yahoo figures are almost certainly underreported because of image caching. Total opens are typically 1.5x greater than unique opens, so on a like-for-like, Apple’s share is probably closer to ± 40%, compared with ± 33% for Gmail.

This is important because MPP applies specifically to all users of Apple’s native Mail app. The numbers suggest significant volumes of Gmail and Microsoft emails are read in one of Apple’s email clients, meaning open rates from these subscribers will also be impacted when Apple’s changes become effective. It’s likely Apple will ship this feature as “on by default,” further amplifying the impact.

What challenges will email senders face?

Senders acknowledge that open rate has become an increasingly flawed metric. Factors like image caching and automatic enablement can create heavily skewed reporting. That said, opens have long provided the signals for established best practices like engagement-based segmentation, triggered email generation, and identification of optimal send times to name a few – and senders value the metric for this.

There is a need for email senders to become less reliant on open rate data by taking a broader view of the engagement their programs generate.

  • • Senders need to acquire new subscribers who are pre-primed to engage. Subscribers themselves have a part to play. If they genuinely value their privacy, they will provide the information needed to receive relevant communications from brands they like.
  • • Senders need new data points that directly connect the dots between deliverability and response, illustrating the decision process that moves subscribers from receiving an email to the start of their post-click journey.
  • • Senders also need to shift their focus deeper in the conversion funnel, where the metrics provide a much stronger indication of subscriber interest and hold greater value for marketers.

How can senders address these challenges?

Let’s take a look at five approaches email senders can take to address the challenges mentioned above:

  • 1. Zero means hero: Greater privacy awareness means more focus on acquiring “zero-party data.” This is data customers intentionally and proactively share, including preference center data, purchase intentions, and personal context. Senders should prioritize collection of this data by promoting their preference centers and using progressive registration/profiling tactics. Many consumers are data pragmatists, sharing personal data when there is perceived value in doing so. It’s important to clearly establish this value at sign-up, as consumers will provide higher quality personal data (including their primary email address) when this happens.
  • 2. Reputation metrics: A sender’s reputation is often likened to a credit score for email marketers. It provides a view of how MBPs see their email program and whether their emails are likely to be accepted, filtered, or rejected. Most major MBPs use subscriber engagement in their spam filtering algorithms, so reputation scores provide important clues as to whether emails generate positive engagement (by getting opened and read) or negative engagement (by generating high complaint rates).
  • 3. Data hygiene: Most senders use open rate data for their inactives strategies. Non-responders are either moved to a different cadence/frequency or suppressed from receiving further emails. Spam trap monitoring has a role to play – especially recycled traps which have been repurposed by MBPs for being dormant. A rise in recycled traps indicates recency management needs to be strengthened, and trap aging analysis helps measure this trend.
  • 4. Inbox placement: Unlike delivered rates, which simply measure sent less bounced, there is a virtuous circle between inbox placement rates (IPRs) and open rates. Senders achieving better IPRs benefit from better open rates. However, with spam filtering increasingly informed by subscriber engagement, the reverse also holds true– great open rates mean better IPRs! This means inbox placement monitoring provides a partial proxy for open rates. When IPRs drop, diagnosis should extend to factors like changes in subject line strategy, content, and offers as possible causes.
  • 5. Route to response: Metrics deeper down in the conversion funnel, such as clicks, website visits, and conversions, are still available. They provide much stronger indications of subscriber interest and are more valuable because of this. Senders should also pay far more attention to spam complaints – clicks and complaints are two sides of the same engagement coin, and both are equally important to determining the strength of the engagement signal they generate. Senders should also get these metrics into a single reporting suite, overlaying them against the deliverability data to establish full connections between cause and effect.

Conclusion

Apple’s announcement of MPP is another step in a longer journey towards greater focus on consumer privacy. Senders need to better understand what drives their subscribers to engage, be more intentional about how they acquire new subscribers, and place more focus on measuring the metrics that matter.

Validity’s Everest email success platform provides many of these crucial insights, helping senders reach more people, increase engagement, and deliver improved efficiencies for their email programs. Reach out to us today to schedule a demo.

Learn more about how consumers think about the marketing emails they receive by downloading a copy of our Consumer Email Tracker report. For further insights into the most important email metrics and how to use them, our Guide to Email Marketing Metrics is also essential reading.

The post How to Grapple With Apple appeared first on Validity.

Around the World in Data Privacy

Our July 7th State of Email Live webinar was truly a global affair. Validity’s Tori Garcia, Danielle Gallant, Sophie Jean, Rafael Viana, and Sandra Schubert joined us to discuss all things data privacy in different parts of the world.

Before embarking on our world tour, we had the privilege of hosting Karie Burt, Chief Data & Privacy Officer from MeritB2B. She shared her insights on legislation and why her US-based company has proactively adopted some of GDPR’s key principles as its global standard.

Legislation paves the way. Although legislation can sometimes be imperfect, Karie firmly believes it provides a great framework for companies to really start thinking about data privacy and get ahead of the game.

GDPR’s “halo effect”. You will often hear us praising GDPR for delivering more robust data quality, stronger consent, greater transparency, and more choice. This in turn has led to customers having more trust, being more engaged, and most importantly, spending more money!

So, it’s great to hear that by globally embracing a privacy and compliance philosophy informed by GDPR at MeritB2B, privacy has become part of the company’s DNA and enabled better client engagement. In Karie’s own words, “Smart businesses now think about privacy as a business driver.”

All aboard the data world tour! Our fantastic Validity data experts gave us a whistle-stop tour on privacy laws in eight key markets. Here are some highlights:

  • • Alongside GDPR, EU-operating businesses also need to be aware of ePrivacy when it comes to all aspects of online communication, including emails.
  • • Much like the US’ state-by-state approach with data privacy, Germany’s 16 federal states all have their own separate laws and authorities – a real mind boggler!
  • • In California, CCPA is already about to be superseded by CPRA. Across the US, the legislation landscape is massively complicated by multiple laws passed by individual states, rather than one comprehensive federal law – just like Germany!
  • • China’s version of GDPR is soon on the way, with PIPL now in its second draft phase. In Australia, new laws now mean unsubscribing must be a simple and straightforward process.

Below is the full video so you can experience this data privacy world tour in full. For more information on this topic, feel free to grab a coffee and check out our new eBook, “Guide to Global Privacy and Compliance”.

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