Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Email

Our latest State of Email Live webinar featured a stellar lineup of guests, including Mary Wellen from the Wildlife Conservation Society, Magnus Eén from Westwing, and Validity’s own Rafael Viana.

Black Friday recap

To begin, Rafael provided fresh insights into email performance on Black Friday:

  • Email sending volumes were 70 percent above the year-to-date daily average, even higher than the 66 percent uplift we saw last year.
  • Since September, global open rates have risen following the introduction of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP). But on Black Friday, we saw a sharp decrease in open and click rates.
  • However, the increased email volume meant that total website traffic from the email channel was still considerably greater.

It wasn’t all good news though—Black Friday unsubscribe rates reached 0.2 percent, more than double the 0.09 percent YTD average. This shows the importance of limiting subscriber fatigue when sending email campaigns.

Fifty years of email

This year, email celebrated its 50th birthday.

It all began back in 1971, when Ray Tomlinson sent the first email saying, “Test 123.” Since then, email has become the preferred communication channel for marketers and consumers, scoring highly for trust and relevance with consumers, and for measurability and ROI with marketers.

But there are always new challenges, even for tried-and-true communication channels like email. This year was no exception: The BBC released a report on spy pixels in email, Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) in June (“Pixelgeddon!”), Apollo acquired Yahoo and AOL for approximately five billion dollars, and COP26 sparked new concerns about email’s carbon footprint.

As we approach Christmas, supply chain disruption remains a major concern. Email will have a key role to play in a “Don’t wait, communicate” brand strategy. Wish lists, back-in-stock communications, and proactive outreach about delivery dates will be valuable tools to help brands manage their customers’ expectations.

Q&A: A celebration of email with Mary and Magnus

Our birthday festivities included a broad-ranging Q&A session with our guest speakers.

They shared why they love email, their most successful email campaigns (and disasters!), their favorite email technology, and their predictions for email in 2022.

Read on for a preview of our Q&A with Mary and Magnus.

Why do you love email?

Mary: As an email marketer, you need to wear creative and analytical hats, so the work and challenges are always different. Email is thoughtful, strategic, and analytical. It’s also the most personal form of communication with your supporters. They’ve asked to hear from you. Email is a unique opportunity to engage them and encourage them to stay loyal to your brand.

Magnus: Love is sometimes hard to explain—but I’ll try. I love email for its simplicity, constant evolution, great community, and excitement. Email has become core to online identity. As such, it presents a great opportunity for online businesses—if it’s done right.

What’s your favorite piece of email technology?

Mary: Everest. I use the dashboards every week, and I love the alert feature because you can set it and forget about it, knowing you’ll hear if there is a problem.

Apart from Everest, I’ve used several email systems over the years. Salesforce Marketing Cloud makes data retrieval and email automation easy. There are also lots of cool features like Contact Builder and Einstein that make it possible to analyze subscribers at a micro and macro level.

Magnus: I’d have to say AMP for email. I think AMP has huge potential to make email more useful and interactive. I also love Postfix, which first piqued my interest in email and made me more aware of how things worked. Finally, Excel for visualizing data to monitor discovery and help guide decisions regarding email programs.

How is Apple MPP affecting your email program?

Mary: We’ve definitely seen inflated open rates, so we’re relying less on that as a metric and focusing more on click rates, unsubscribes, and conversion rates. It’s made us realize open rates aren’t that important—clicks and revenue are our most important KPIs. We’ve had to change some of our trigger emails to become click-based instead of open-based.

Magnus: We can no longer trust the open signal. We’ve adjusted our segmentation to be more flexible. We don’t include open signals in the calculation, but this might change. People are still waiting to see the true impact of MPP.

What are your email predictions for 2022? What’s the next big thing we’ll see?

Mary: More email! Email was our shining star on Giving Tuesday, especially in terms of revenue and engagement. While all other channels were flat, email was up 33 percent year-over-year. We’ll also see AI in terms of inbox placement and personalization. Using Validity, we can already leverage AI for email deliverability based on user behavior, and I think capabilities like this will continue to expand.

Additionally, we’ll see more drive for increased personalization and content based on preferences and engagement.

Magnus: Email won’t go away anytime soon. Since I started, I’ve heard plenty of predictions about email dying because of SMS and Facebook messages—but it hasn’t happened yet.

Senders will still use open rate data, just maybe not how they did previously. Email privacy will remain an important topic. User-generated content (UGC) has the potential to boost email programs by promoting diversity and sustainability. In short, email will remain more relevant than ever.

To hear more insights from Mary and Magnus, watch the full webinar here. 

The post Celebrating the 50th Anniversary of Email appeared first on Validity.

How the Great Resignation is Affecting Your Data

Earlier this year, an unprecedented number of professionals quit their jobs or stepped into new roles in response to the pandemic. This initial wave of resignations resulted in an ongoing trend of employees leaving their jobs, more commonly referred to as the “Great Resignation.”

Resignations initially picked up steam in April and stayed high throughout the remainder of 2021. Nearly four and a half million Americans quit their jobs in September 2021 alone, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. In October, employers struggled to fill with a record-breaking 11 million open jobs. Signs indicate this trend will continue in 2022.

You’re likely aware of the substantial impact the Great Resignation is having on the job market and the economy. But did you know it’s also affecting your company’s CRM data?

Let’s dive deeper into the Great Resignation, the specific ways it is affecting your data, and steps you can take as a CRM admin to minimize any negative impact on your business.

This rise in resignations will have both direct and indirect effects on your data (if it hasn’t already). Here are a few ways your data could be impacted by this workforce shift:

Low data quality

When people quit their jobs or transition into new roles, it affects the quality of your data. Contacts’ phone numbers, email addresses, job titles, company names, financial information, and even residential addresses can change, rendering much of the data in your CRM useless.

This presents a big problem for your bottom line. Forty-four percent of businesses estimate poor-quality data results in revenue losses of over 20 percent, according to Validity’s State of CRM Data Management report. Additional impacts of poor-quality data include incorrect sales forecasts, failed inventory management, sales team inefficiencies, and reduced ROI from marketing campaigns.

Loss of data knowledge

Resignations outside your company aren’t the only ones you need to worry about. If your own employees hand in their notice, you need to be prepared.

When data management professionals leave your team, they take their knowledge with them. This loss of knowledge can harm your data. Even if you hire people to fill the empty roles, it will take new hires time to learn the ins and outs of data management at your company—especially if most of your data processes are manual.

There may even be certain processes none of your remaining employees know how to execute, meaning you may not have access to certain data, or you may be at risk of improperly handling the data you do have access to.

Compromised data security

People take data with them when they leave their jobs, and this puts your company at risk.

Nowadays, data is portable, which presents an increased risk of exposure on its own. Coupled with the rise in resignations and the number of people working remotely, the risk of data exposure is greater than ever.

Data exposure peaked at the same time the US experienced a massive increase in resignations. The three-month period between April and June 2021 saw 61 percent more exposure events than the previous quarter. Cloud sync agents, removable media (primarily USB drives), and corporate collaboration tools like Slack, Google Drive, and OneDrive all contributed to the exposure of data in 2021.

When data falls into the wrong hands, it’s devastating to the well-being of a company and its employees, customers, and partners. Therefore, preventing and reducing exposure should be a top priority for your data management team.

How can you minimize the negative impact on your data?

While the Great Resignation will almost certainly affect your data, there are steps you can take to mitigate the damage and prevent future harm.

Tighten data security measures

Tightening data security measures is crucial to preventing and reducing data exposure.

You can start by:

  • Establishing strong passwords
  • Securing laptops and mobile phones
  • Setting up a firewall
  • Scheduling backups to external hard drives or in the cloud
  • Limiting the number of people who have access to important data
  • Educating employees about data security

You should also acquire login information from employees before they leave your company, so you’re not locked out of important accounts.

Automate data processes

Consider automating data processes you currently execute manually. Not only does data automation save time, but it can help prevent roadblocks in case members of your data management team resign.

The simplest way to begin automating data processes is by implementing a tool that can do it for you. For example, a data management platform like DemandTools gives you the power to dedupe, standardize, import, manage, modify, and assign records automatically. Plus, you can save processes you’ve already completed for automation, so you won’t be left wondering what to do if members of your data management team resign.

Employ tools to help you maintain high-quality data

When people quit their jobs or transition into new roles, their information changes. To minimize the negative impact on your data quality, consider implementing a contact verification tool.

With a solution like BriteVerify, for example, you can perform bulk validation of your data to identify email addresses that have changed, become disabled, or no longer exist so you can remove them from your campaigns. You can also check to see whether the phone numbers and mailing addresses in your system are current and/or in use.

Conclusion

With resignations rising as we enter Q1, there’s no time to waste when it comes to protecting your data and its quality. Follow the above steps to ensure your data is secure, accurate, and report-ready going into 2022.

To learn more about how to effectively manage your data, download our eBook, The Dirt on Data Quality.

The post How the Great Resignation is Affecting Your Data appeared first on Validity.

Are You Rickrolling Your Email Subscribers?

Email is a rockstar tool for engaging with fans who sing your brand’s praises. But if you’re not following common email best practices, there’s a chance you may be Rickrolling your subscribers.

For those not familiar with meme culture, Rickrolling involves tricking someone into listening to Rick Astley’s 80s pop song “Never Gonna Give You Up.” While Rickrolling is an effective way to troll your friends, it will only disappoint your email subscribers and cause them to tune you out.

Let’s take a look at how Rick’s lyrics apply to creating an effective email marketing strategy. Feel free to sing along.

Never gonna give you up

It takes time to build a substantial subscriber list, so it can be hard to give up on addresses. But many major mailbox providers (MBPs) use engagement metrics like opens, clicks, unsubscribes, and spam complaints to determine your legitimacy as a sender. At a certain point, it’s better to give up on disengaged addresses before they damage your sender reputation.

If we’re looking to Rick for email advice, he’d remind us not to give up without a fight. Re-engagement campaigns give subscribers a second (and sometimes a third or fourth) chance to show they’re still in love with your emails.

Follow these steps to create a re-engagement campaign:

  1. Set a baseline for what you consider to be disengaged. (E.g., subscribers who haven’t opened or clicked through an email in more than six months).
  2. Craft a series of emails that incentivize interaction. Some re-engagement campaigns specifically ask subscribers to “Click here to confirm you want to continue receiving our emails,” while others include special promotions to entice subscribers to shop. Once a subscriber has taken action, you can consider them re-engaged.
  3. Suppress addresses that don’t respond. After the last chance email, stick to your word and suppress disengaged addresses from your sends.

Never gonna let you down

The best marketers know email is a conversation: It involves speaking and listening. Every campaign is a chance to engage your audience with content that matches their needs and interests. Don’t let your subscribers down with campaigns that ignore what their behavior is telling you.

If you aren’t already tracking subscriber preferences, there are plenty of ways to gain insight:

  • Create an email preference center. Encourage your subscribers to indicate what types of content interest them (promotions, newsletters, new product announcements) and how often they’d like to be contacted.
  • Look into your data. You may already know what customers want. Perhaps you see better conversion rates when you share quotes from product reviews. Look for patterns in customer behavior and apply effective strategies to create more engaging campaigns.
  • Use A/B split testing. Each campaign is an opportunity to learn about your subscribers. Split testing can help you assess audience preferences for subject lines, copy, or creative elements like “Shop Now” buttons or stylized text.
  • Send a survey. It never hurts to ask questions, especially if you don’t know why people sign up for your email program. Don’t be afraid to ask subscribers what they want.

Offering content that delights your audience keeps them clicking and helps your deliverability, since many MBPs look at engagement when determining inbox placement.

Never gonna run around and desert you

Sending emails on an unpredictable schedule gives subscribers the runaround because they never know when you might reach out. As a result, they’re less likely to anticipate your messages.

You should have different cadences for your various email streams. Here are a few examples:

  • Welcome series. After the opt-in, your initial welcome message should go out as soon as possible. Additional messages can be sent over the course of the following week(s) to introduce your brand, social channels, and other aspects of your business.
  • Promotional messages. It’s good to be top-of-mind when customers are ready to buy, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to email them every day. If you’re in an industry with monthly or quarterly purchase cycles, you can probably get by with a weekly cadence. If your customers make frequent purchases, multiple sends per week may be right for you.
  • Triggered campaigns. Emails sent based on subscriber behavior (like abandon cart emails) have their own unique cadence. Follow up within 24, 48, and 72 hours of a customer abandoning their cart.
  • Account statements. You may be legally required to send these on a monthly basis, but don’t forget this is a set cadence, too. If you desert customers by not sending their statements, you can get hit with hefty fines.

Keep an inventory of every email stream to show how often you’re contacting individual addresses. Your most active recipients may engage with promotional emails, rewards program messaging, newsletters, and account statements.

Your less engaged audience may only open one newsletter per month. Give subscribers the option to receive fewer messages. This helps you maintain a regular schedule and lowers the likelihood of complaints.

Never gonna make you cry

Email subscribers may want to break up with your brand if you don’t have a secure infrastructure. Over 90 percent of cyberattacks start with email, and improperly configured authentication records leave you more vulnerable to spoofing and phishing attempts.

If private data is compromised, your subscribers won’t be the only ones singing the blues.

Your brand reputation can be damaged and you may be held financially liable. Regulations like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA) and the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) hold companies financially responsible if personal information is exposed in an attack.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to keep your emails safe from spoofing. Start by focusing on these three authentication protocols:

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF) lists the IP addresses that can send email on behalf of domains.
  • DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) adds a digital signature to every email.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting and Conformance (DMARC) tells MBPs how to treat emails that fail SPF and DKIM checks.

For example, a DMARC policy set at p=quarantine tells MBPs to send emails that fail the SPF and DKIM checks to the spam folder. If a spammer tries to impersonate your domain and fails DMARC, their message won’t go to the inbox. With a DMARC policy of p=reject, MBPs will block emails that aren’t specifically from your domain.

Never gonna say goodbye

Email addresses that damage your deliverability and hurt your reputation deserve a big wave goodbye. We’re talking about spam traps, or addresses that are set up for the sole purpose of identifying spammers.

MBPs see spam trap hits as a sign of poor list hygiene, and they’ll dock your deliverability accordingly. Send a high percentage of spam traps and your domain could be blocklisted.

Fortunately, there are some easy ways to ensure you’re practicing good list hygiene:

  • Suppress inactive addresses. Addresses that haven’t opened or clicked in over a year are potential recycled spam traps. These are addresses that once belonged to an actual person, but after a period of inactivity, the MBP turned them into a spam-catching account.
  • Enable confirmed opt-in. When someone subscribes to your list, send an email asking them to confirm their opt-in. This removes any doubt that they want to receive your campaigns.
  • Conduct regular list validation with an email verification tool like BriteVerify. You can either scrub your subscriber list regularly to remove risky addresses, or better yet, integrate the verification tool with your sign-up process to prevent addresses from ever hitting your list in the first place.

Once you’ve identified bad addresses, remove them from your sends. You should start to see improvement in your Sender Score and inbox placement over time as MBPs learn you’re a responsible sender.

Never gonna tell a lie and hurt you

It’s important (and in some regions, legally mandated) to respect subscriber privacy and preferences. Make sure you’re requesting permission as part of your opt-in process.

Opt-in forms should clearly indicate what subscribers will receive and subscriber benefits. Follow opt-in best practices, including:

  • Demonstrate value. Answer the subscriber question, “What’s in it for me?” As a subscriber, will they get early access to new products? Can they expect exclusive promotions? Make sure they understand the value of opting in, then deliver on that promise.
  • Make opt-in a choice. Auto-enrolling people in your email program is almost certain to generate a high number of spam complaints. It can also result in significant fines, depending on where your subscribers are located. Subscribers should give explicit permission before you contact them.

Conclusion

L-Astley, the wonderful thing about email is it doesn’t have to be the same old song and dance every time you hit send.

Whether it’s improving engagement, re-engaging inactive subscribers, or strengthening your infrastructure to prevent scams, there’s always something you can do to avoid Rickrolling your subscribers. Keep delighting them and they’ll never want to give you up!

To continue learning about email best practices, check out our eBook, Secrets of Best-in-Class Email Senders.

The post Are You Rickrolling Your Email Subscribers? appeared first on Validity.

4 Ways Admins Can Encourage CRM Adoption

As a Salesforce administrator, you’ve probably faced adoption issues when getting your team to use the tool. You aren’t alone: Traditional CRM software is notorious for low adoption rates due to outdated interfaces, unnecessary complexity, and manual data entry.

CRM adoption problems can have costly ripple effects, including missed deal opportunities, low team productivity, and poor-quality data entering the CRM. (According to a recent study from Validity, 44 percent of participants estimate a loss in revenue of 5-20 percent due to low-quality CRM data.)

This is mind, CRM admins can’t afford to take a hands-off approach to encouraging CRM adoption. Particularly during COVID-19, when your team needs to be productive as possible to keep relationships consistent and mitigate the pandemic’s financial toll on your business.

Unfortunately, you’re the go-to person when your team has complaints about how difficult it is to find data, update multiple record types, and load and edit related items.

To transform your CRM from a hindrance into a business benefit, sales and marketing teams are turning to software tools that promote Salesforce adoption and improve data quality. GridBuddy Cloud, from Validity, is one market-leading option.

The need for accessible data 

The average sales rep spends 17 percent of their day manually entering data. That’s almost a full day per work week.

To use Salesforce successfully, your end users need to access and edit their data quickly and easily. If they can’t, they’re likely to turn to good ol’ Excel or some other tool to keep their notes, resulting in out-of-date information in your database.

The faster your end users can find and update their Salesforce records, the easier it will be for them to be successful in their job. Success means they’ll come back and do it that way again. Voila, you have adoption. GridBuddy Cloud allows you to provide the Salesforce information you need in a single, editable view, whether you’re in sales, service, marketing, system administration, or any team using Salesforce.

Instead of clicking through multiple records and waiting for tabs and windows to load, your end users can load all the objects they need—related or unrelated—in editable GridBuddy Cloud grids. These grids can be embedded onto Salesforce records to replace Related Items, or they can be built as full-page workspaces, granting quick and easy access to everything your users touch within Salesforce.

Read on for a step-by-step guide to boost your sales team’s productivity with GridBuddy Cloud.

1. Give them a central workspace

Asking your end users to navigate to each individual account, task, contact, and all the other objects they maintain in Salesforce virtually guarantees wasted time and low adoption. Instead,give them a workspace, or a tabbed page of grids.

Each tab can provide a grid showing their accounts, tasks, contacts, leads, and any other object they need to edit. In these tabs, your end users can update their records and related / unrelated items in a single view. When they’re done, they can click “save” to save all their updates at once.

2. Reduce unnecessary clicks

For end users who spend a lot of time clicking through ‘Related Items,’ you can vastly improve their lives by giving them an embedded grid on their Salesforce records. The grid can include related and unrelated items, allowing them to view and edit these records without leaving the Salesforce record. You could also embed a tabbed page of grids on the record, giving your users every related object they could want in on, editable location.

3. Pull data from multiple Salesforce orgs

An unusual feature of GridBuddy Cloud is the ability to pull data from multiple Salesforce orgs into a single grid. Then, users can update all data sources from that grid. This is especially useful for partners or teams who need to reference data from an old Salesforce org.

If users have Accounts in one Salesforce org and Opportunities and Contracts in another, they can create an Accounts grid and pull in the Opportunities and Contracts from a different Salesforce org. They can then update all those records from a single location.

4. Filter out irrelevant data

Make your grids as efficient as possible by filtering to show the exact data end users need. For example, if you’re looking at all Accounts, and you need to know which Accounts don’t have any related Contacts, create a cross-object filter to show Accounts without Contacts.

Another way to see the exact data you need is to create a grid pulling in children data from across the junction. If you’re on a Salesforce Opportunity record, you might add a grid to show all related Contacts, and within that, all Accounts associated to each Contact. With GridBuddy Cloud, you can show this level of editable data in a single grid.

Conclusion

Using tools like GridBuddy Cloud, teams improve their productivity and experience less frustration with Salesforce. They might even start to enjoy working in Salesforce. (Cue gasps of disbelief.) Tools like these couldn’t come at a better time.

CRM admins have their work cut out for them in 2021. Sales volumes are growing and business relationships are becoming more complex—adding large volumes of CRM data to the staggering amounts already created each day. (Current estimates reveal humans create 1.145 trillion MB of data per day.

Find out more about how GridBuddy Cloud can unlock your team’s productivity. Schedule a demo with our team of experts today.

The post 4 Ways Admins Can Encourage CRM Adoption appeared first on Validity.

How to Build Your SPF Record in 5 Simple Steps

Did you know more than 90 percent of all cyberattacks start with email? In the evolving email landscape, danger lurks everywhere. Phishing attempts and domain spoofing attacks skyrocketed during COVID-19, increasing by 220 percent during the peak of the pandemic. 

Even the most experienced marketing teams can mistakenly expose their email programs to harm. To protect yourself, your brand, and your customers from phishing and spoofing attacks, authenticating your email is paramount. 

 SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is an authentication protocol that allows senders to specify which IP addresses are authorized to send email on behalf of a particular domain. An SPF-protected domain is less attractive to fraudsters and is therefore less likely to be blacklisted by spam filters. SPF also ensures that legitimate email from the domain is delivered. 

Ready to create your SPF record? Follow these five simple steps.

Step 1: Gather IP addresses used to send email

The first step to implement SPF is to identify which mail servers you use to send email from your domain. Many organizations send mail from a variety of places. Make a list of all your mail servers and their IP addresses, and be sure to consider whether any of the following are used to send email on behalf of your brand:

  • Web server 
  • Your email service provider’s (ESP) mail server 
  • In-office mail server (e.g., Microsoft Exchange) 
  • The mail server of your end users’ mailbox provider 
  • Any other third-party mail server used to send email on behalf of your brand 

If you’re unsure of what your IP addresses are, reach out to your ESP to get a list of the addresses associated with your account or your IT System Administrator to compile a list of IP addresses your business uses. 

Step 2: Make a list of your sending domains 

Chances are, your company owns many domains. Some of these domains are used to send email. Others aren’t. 

It’s important to create SPF records for all the domains you control, even the ones you’re not mailing from. Why? Once you’ve protected your sending domains with SPF, the first thing a criminal will do is try to spoof your non-sending domains. 

Step 3: Create your SPF record 

SPF authenticates a sender’s identity by comparing the sending mail server’s IP address to the list of authorized sending IP addresses the sender publishes in the DNS record.

Here’s how to create your SPF record: 

  • Start with v=spf1 (version 1) tag and follow it with the IP addresses that are authorized to send mail. For example, v=spf1 ip4:1.2.3.4 ip4:2.3.4.5 
  • If you use a third party to send email on behalf of the domain in question, you must add an “include” statement in your SPF record (e.g., include:thirdparty.com) to designate that third party as a legitimate sender 
  • Once you have added all authorized IP addresses and include statements, end your record with an ~all or -all tag 
  • An ~all tag indicates a soft SPF fail while an -all tag indicates a hard SPF fail. In the eyes of the major mailbox providers ~all and -all will both result in SPF failure. Validity recommends an -all as it is the most secure record. 
  • SPF records cannot be over 255 characters in length and cannot include more than ten include statements, also known as “lookups.” Here’s an example of what your record might look like: 
    • v=spf1 ip4:1.2.3.4 ip4:2.3.4.5 include:thirdparty.com -all   
  • For your domains that do not send email, the SPF record will exclude any modifier with the exception of -all. Here’s an example record for a non-sending domain: 
    • v=spf1 –all 

Congratulations! You’ve created your SPF record. Now, it’s time to publish it. 

Step 4: Publish your SPF to DNS 

Work with your DNS server administrator to publish your SPF record to DNS so mailbox providers can reference it. 

If you’re using a hosting provider such as 123-reg or GoDaddy, then this process is fairly simple. If your ISP administers your DNS records or if you aren’t sure, contact your IT department for support. Email service providers typically publish SPF records for sending domains on your behalf. 

Step 5: Test! 

Test your SPF record with an SPF check tool. You’ll be able to see what recipients see: A list of the servers authorized to send email on behalf of your sending domain. If one or more of your legitimate sending IP addresses is not listed, you can update your record to include it.

No program is bulletproof  

Don’t assume your email marketing program is bulletproof. The costs of lax email program security can range from minor business disruptions to millions of dollars in revenue loss and reputational damage.   

Want more tips to maximize your email performance? Check out our eBook, “Secrets of Best-in-Class Email Senders.” 

The post How to Build Your SPF Record in 5 Simple Steps appeared first on Validity.

Apple MPP: How to Defy Email Gravity on Black Friday and Beyond

As we highlighted in our previous post, Apple MPP is already creating unexpected changes in email subscriber behavior.

After losing such an important guiding signal for list hygiene and recency management, senders should move quickly to minimize the negative impact on their programs.

There’s already a wealth of generic advice on dealing with MPP—advising senders to focus on alternative data points, lean into zero-party data, and so on. There’s far less practical guidance on specific tactics senders should use for their first post-MPP peak sales season.

In this article, we’ll share ten actionable tips and tricks to offset MPP’s impact.

1. Prime the pump

Since Apple MPP makes it harder to measure subscriber engagement, senders should focus on acquiring new subscribers who are more primed to engage in the first place. During peak sales season, many existing subscribers forward interesting offer emails to friends.

Encouraging these new readers to sign up will bring pre-engaged new subscribers into the program.

2. Remind me again?

Of course, the engagement pump also needs occasional re-priming. The DMA’s Consumer Email Tracker report (sponsored by Validity) shows over four-fifths (82 percent) of subscribers wonder (at least occasionally) how senders acquired their email addresses.

Taking just a moment to remind them plays a vital role in maintaining engagement.

3. The quest for clicks

Tracking pixels that always fire means reduced visibility into inactive and dormant subscribers, who will continue receiving emails long after they should have been suppressed. To combat this, many senders are now pivoting to clicks as an alternative to opens for tracking engagement.

This is a good thing in some ways—clicks provide a stronger signal of buying intent. The downside is that clicks generate fewer data points, so email marketers need more of them.

Some senders now use pre-header text (the so-called ‘second subject line’) as a click-through opportunity. It’s the most prominent element in any email body, so making it actionable will deliver a significant uplift in web traffic.

Senders can also get creative by providing subscribers with new reasons to click. “Rate this email” functionality, customer surveys, product reviews, and competitions are all excellent ways to provide more incentives to engage. Doing so while showing a sense of humor is a huge plus.

4. From hero to zero

As Apple MPP creates more focus on sourcing zero-party data (data customers intentionally and proactively share with brands) senders should be smart about how they request it. For example, date of birth is a powerful piece of personal data for marketers.

Incentivizing subscribers with the promise of a birthday present makes them more likely to provide this information.

5. What’s your preference?

The need for zero-party data means senders should make it easy for subscribers to manage their email preferences before they resort to spam complaints. While many emails contain a link to preference centers, few brands actively promote this functionality.

Subscribers should be encouraged to manage the types of messages and offers they receive.

6. Opt down, not out!

Good recency management means enabling subscribers to “opt down” to a reduced email frequency as a positive alternative to leaving the program completely.

7. Fight the fatigue

Peak sale season is relentless, now running from late October to mid-January. During this time, brands bombard consumers with promotional offers week after week. Without an accurate open rate signal, it’s harder to gauge when engagement starts to lag. During this extended period, senders should work proactively to mitigate email fatigue.

This excellent example from Dyson shows how. Subscribers who only want offers for certain products can set up a wish list. Those who don’t want a tsunami of Black Friday emails can take a temporary break and choose to resume messages after Thanksgiving weekend.

8. Cut out the complaints

When subscribers leave your program, let them go with grace and make the process as frictionless as possible. Nobody likes to see their list shrink, but unsubscribes are still preferable to spam complaints when it comes to maintaining a positive sender reputation.

Positioning the unsubscribe link prominently in the email header is a crucial best practice to maintain your sender reputation.

9. The Final Countdown

Countdown timers are a staple of peak sales season, used to create awareness and urgency as offer deadlines approach. However, MPP’s pre-fetching of email images means these times may be wrong, based on when emails were delivered rather than opened.

Senders should consider alternative tactics to mitigate false reads. In this arena, Mexican programs have shown the way, using relevant emojis and animated GIFs to create heightened awareness of expiring deals.

10. Invigorate with Validity

Apple MPP creates two new challenges for email marketers: measuring existing subscriber engagement and ensuring new subscribers are more likely to engage. Many of the examples we’ve shown are established email best practices that will quickly move the performance needle.

Need help mastering Apple MPP?

Validity helps email senders manage MPP in a variety of ways. BriteVerify helps ensure email lists remain high quality, Sender Certification preserves their inbox placement rates, and the Everest email success platform provides the new data points needed to identify and manage Apple Mail users.

Hickory Farms is a big fan. They run a highly seasonal program (conducting most business during November and December), meaning optimal peak season email performance is critical.

With help from Validity, their email program now enjoys near-100 percent inbox placement rates.

To hear their story, read the case study.

The post Apple MPP: How to Defy Email Gravity on Black Friday and Beyond appeared first on Validity.

The Appliance of Email Science: Consumer Appliances Poised for a Strong Peak Sales Season

Brands in the consumer appliances sector weathered the COVID-19 pandemic relatively well—especially those with a strong online presence.

For example, UK online retailer AO World saw sales increase by over 60 percent in 2020, and is now pouring those profits into improving their brand awareness and conversion rates. Research suggests that brands like AO will encounter a receptive audience this holiday season as the world sputters back into life post-pandemic.

Shoppers are expected to start “splashing the cash,” propelled by the money they saved during lockdowns. In the UK alone, households saved £220 billion since the onset of COVID-19. In the US, stimulus checks, rising stock markets, and fewer spending choices helped citizens save about $3.7 trillion.

Expect email to remain a strong channel

To continue their strong performance, consumer appliance retailers should seek ways to optimize their marketing programs now. Since email drove 20 percent of holiday web traffic in 2020, this channel should be a priority.

But this year’s peak sales season won’t be smooth sailing for email senders. According to Validity’s data, global email volumes are at record levels, making maintaining good deliverability difficult. Competition for eyes in the inbox—and share of wallet—will be brutal.

As we examine how consumer appliance brands can ramp up their email marketing programs, let’s take a look at Validity’s research into the typical email profile for this sector:

Consumer appliances: 10 quick stats

  • Subscribers receive an average 3.3 emails per week.
  • Fridays are the most popular send days, accounting for almost one-fifth of total traffic.
  • The most popular send time is between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m.
  • The average subject line length is 51 characters.
  • Only 63 percent of emails are optimized for mobile.
  • Sixteen percent of emails use subject line emojis. Nine percent use animated GIFs.
  • Emails are typically image-heavy, with an average weight of 1,300kb.
  • The average word count is just under 800 words per email.
  • Over half of all emails (53 percent) contain product discounts.
  • The most popular discount range is 70-80 percent, followed by 20-30 percent.

As we approach peak sales season, consumer appliances should follow these tips to position their email programs for success.

Times are changing

Email sending times are 3 hours later than last year on average. In the past, brands successfully targeted consumers during their morning commutes. But with many still working from home, commuter hours are less concrete. AO recognizes this shift and sends most emails at 6 p.m.

Unlike most consumer appliances senders, AO’s most active email days are Saturdays, on which they conduct 30 percent of their weekly activity. AO emails face minimal competitor activity on weekends, and their emails stand out in less congested inboxes.

Other brands should consider offsetting their scheduled sends in a similar way. Mailbox providers (MBPs) report 70 percent of all email volume is sent in the first 10 minutes of each hour, as senders nearly always schedule sends for the top of the hour. By starting their broadcasts just 10 minutes earlier or later, senders can enjoy reduced competition and increased inbox visibility.

Good to be choosy

As peak sales season grows longer, Black Friday now seems more like Black November. Managing subscriber fatigue is now a major challenge, especially due to downward pressure on deliverability.

The added complication of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) means senders must find new ways to let subscribers share their communication preferences in ways that don’t damage program performance.

Promoting your preference center is a good starting point. Especially as MPP degrades the open rate signal, using other approaches to source first-party data for segmentation and targeting is even more important.

Brands need to understand how consumers respond to email offers in ways other than clicks. This year’s DMA Consumer Email Tracker report (sponsored by Validity) revealed that email spurs many other engagement actions. After receiving a marketing email, recipients might write a product review, post on social media, phone customer service, or visit a brick-and-mortar store. Appliances brand Hoover makes these different engagement routes accessible in their emails.

Subscribers may want different communication options during high-volume sending periods. They may only want offers for certain products, or want a temporary break from promotions that don’t pique their interest. Dyson’s subscribers can specify which promotions they’d like to receive, or “snooze” their inboxes if they don’t want any Black Friday promotions.

Remember: It’s better to lose subscribers rather than receive a spam complaint. Include unsubscribe links in the email header, where they are more likely to be selected as the preferred option by those who no longer want emails.

All about image

Countdown timers and animated GIFs are effective engagement drivers but make emails heavier. The average image weight of consumer appliances emails is ± 1,300kb, well above the recommended 800kb threshold. Shark’s emails (below) are an average 3,400kb—over four times the recommended maximum. This creates an increased spam filtering risk due to low text-to-image ratios.

This also creates a latency risk: Subscriber engagement is determined during the first eight seconds of opening an email. Recipients won’t engage with your emails if they spend this time waiting for images to load.

Think allowed

Especially during peak-sales season, it’s vital for MBPs to see your email programs as best in class. Even the biggest MBPs have finite bandwidth and processing capacity, so they make throttling and inbox placement decisions based on senders’ reputations. An excellent way to achieve a better sender reputation is through Validity’s Sender Certification program, the world’s most recognized email allow list. Partnerships with over 100 global MBPs mean accredited brands like Currys enjoy near-100 percent inbox placement rates.

Many of the world’s biggest spam filtering companies recognize Certification. For example, Spam Assassin generates a spam score on a scale of -10 to +10, but accredited senders’ scores are discounted (Currys’ average score is -6.4). This provides much greater flexibility when using effective mail elements that might trigger spam filtering rules.

This year’s peak sales season presents unique challenges and opportunities for consumer appliances businesses. By implementing innovative strategies like the above, they can maximize their email performance well beyond peak sales season.

Learn more about the appliance of email science and how to optimize your email programs by watching the latest edition of our renowned State of Email Live webinar series.

The post The Appliance of Email Science: Consumer Appliances Poised for a Strong Peak Sales Season appeared first on Validity.

Apple MPP: Squeezing Until the Engagement Pips Squeak!

Since the introduction of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) on September 20th, we’ve monitored adoption closely.

One-third (32 percent) of all email “opens” are now generated by pixel fires from Apple’s proxy, according to data presented in the November edition of Validity’s State of Email Live webinar series.

When MPP launched, email marketers worried degraded open rate data would make it difficult to follow established email best practices like list hygiene, recency management, and journey automation. Potential implications included failure to identify and suppress inactive responders, and less effective targeting and segmentation.

Ironically, Apple’s own privacy policy acknowledged pixel tracking as a recommended best practice, stating:

“Pixel tags enable us to send email messages in a format that you can read, and they tell us whether mail has been opened. We may use this data to reduce or eliminate messages sent to customers.”

This statement has since been removed (the privacy policy was updated on October 27th), but Apple’s own postmaster guidance still states:

“We don’t offer a feedback loop (FBL). We do encourage bulk email senders to…periodically suppress inactive or disengaged subscribers from your mailing list so that only engaged subscribers keep receiving your emails.”

We’re seeing ominous early indicators that senders’ concerns were justified. MPP is taking root quickly, jeopardizing sender reputations and deliverability just when companies can least afford it—the business-critical peak sales season.

Here’s a look at what Validity’s latest global email data tells us.

Unsubscribe rates are decreasing

Let’s start with the good news: Unsubscribe rates have decreased by around one-third from the previous 12-month benchmark of 0.09 percent.

Graph showing average unsubscribe rate from December 2020 to October 2021.

The precise reason for this shift is not immediately clear. It may be that opting in to MPP has given people more trust in their emails and made them less likely to opt out. Or it could be that pre-loaded images are making unsubscribe links (often located in email footers) less accessible in fully rendered emails.

The shift could also be linked to another Apple innovation, “Hide my Email.” This feature allows Apple Mail users to generate unique, random email addresses for app and website use while keeping their personal email addresses private. Subscribers might be using this feature to identify and segment unwanted emails, and curb future emails by registering bulk spam complaints.

This hypothesis would support our following observations.

Complaint rates are increasing

Now for the bad news: Complaint rates have doubled over the same period. This increase is likely related to the decrease in unsubscribes.

One major Validity client shared an analysis of the user agent data for their recent complaints. According to the report, 97 percent of the increased volume came from the iOS Mail app.

Why is this the case? Prior research into Microsoft’s Spam Fighters program (more about this in the next section) may provide a clue. As part of the program, Hotmail and Outlook users provide feedback on the marketing emails they receive. These responses are used to train Microsoft’s spam filters.

However, many users sign up for the program expecting it to reduce the amount of email they receive and are outraged when they receive more.

Are we now seeing a similar disconnect with MPP? Could Apple Mail users be opting in thinking they’ll receive increased protection from junk emails, only to find this isn’t the case?

SRD rates are starting to soar

Participants in Validity’s Sender Certification program will be familiar with Spam Fighters because it generates the sender reputation data (SRD) number that forms one of their compliance metrics.

The Spam Fighters program asks Microsoft subscribers if their marketing emails are junk or not. Negative votes (as a percentage of total votes) form the sender’s SRD rate.

Graph showing average SRD junk rate from October 2020 to October 2021.

After trending downward for much of the year, global SRD rates suddenly changed direction, suggesting subscribers are now less enamored with the marketing emails they are receiving.

As peak sales season approaches, this trend seems likely to continue—and amplify. Validity research indicates that as email volumes grow (meaning more sampling), the percentage of negative responses also increases. This makes deliverability harder since this data feeds into Microsoft’s filtering decisions.

Data hygiene is diminishing

Reduced ability to identify inactive subscribers (because Apple Mail users always report as “opened”) increases the likelihood of recycled spam traps. Recycled spam traps are old email addresses no longer used by their original owners and reassigned by mailbox providers as part of their spam monitoring activities.

Graph showing an increase in recycled trap hits from September 2021 (when Apple introduced Mail Privacy Protection) to October 2021.

Reports show a clear increase in recent recycled spam trap hits. This shift may not be directly related to MPP—It could reflect senders mailing to less-active subscribers as they scale up for the peak sales season. However, this observation is consistent with the others and points to increasing challenges around maintaining high-quality data.

Email subscriber fatigue was already a concern prior to Apple MPP: Alibaba reported their slowest sales growth ever from this year’s Singles Day.

Consumer caution, aligned with fears of widespread supply chain disruption, suggests this slow performance may last the duration of the peak sales season.

Fortunately, Validity is well-positioned to assist:

  • Sender Certification preserves email programs’ reputations and inbox placement rates in the face of these additional negative signals.
  • List verification provides scalable validation to help maintain engaged and actionable email databases.
  • Our Everest email success platform provides new engagement metrics and analytics to deliver campaign success in a post-MPP world.

Stay tuned for next week’s blog post. We’ll provide 10 tips to help email senders offset the negative impact of these MPP-related trends.

In the meantime, learn more about MPP by reading our eBook: “What the Heck is Mail Privacy Protection?

The post Apple MPP: Squeezing Until the Engagement Pips Squeak! appeared first on Validity.

4 Tips B2B Email Marketers Should Take from B2C Brands

As an email marketer, you’ve worked hard all year to reach subscriber inboxesbut don’t take your foot off the gas yet.

Deadlines to meet end-of-year sales and marketing goals are approaching quickly. Unfortunately, marketing teams have their work cut out for them this year. Record email sending volumes mean stiff competition in the inbox.

To attract and engage recipients in this climate, cookie-cutter email campaigns won’t cut it. That’s why some B2B email marketers are searching for inspiration in unlikely places: their B2C counterparts.

To maximize your email performance during Q4 and beyond, consider these lessons from B2C brands:

1. Tokenization ≠ personalization

“Hi there, {{NAME}}!”

According to a recent study, 77 percent of sales and marketing professionals believe personalized marketing experiences make for better customer relationships.

But many marketing teams rely on simple tokenization instead of true personalization. Adding a contact’s name or company in an email opener might have been impressive ten years ago. But today’s email recipients are increasingly wary of low-effort marketing techniques like these.

It’s time to go further with your personalization. B2C brands are pros at using consumer intent data to send relevant content, like personalized product recommendations or store-specific promotions.

To deliver equally targeted messaging, B2B marketing teams should prioritize the acquisition of zero-party data (data customers share intentionally and proactively). Go-to methods of collecting this data include monitoring social media, sending surveys, or offering valuable content in exchange for a form submission.

Your subscribers might be more willing to share than you’d think. According to a report by Accenture, 83 percent of consumers are willing to share their data to create a more personalized brand experience.

After acquiring these insights, the question is what to do with them. Start by tweaking your messaging to talk about your customers—not your product. For example, some B2B software vendors use data to send monthly roundups of each customer’s performance using their product. This gives each customer touchpoint relevance and context—two can’t-miss ingredients in any successful campaign recipe.

Obtaining these insights is critical in a post-MPP (Mail Privacy Protection) world. Apple’s latest consumer privacy feature blocks senders from using tracking pixels to measure open rates, monitor device usage, and track location. Marketers typically relied on this information to deliver personalized and relevant campaigns, which makes acquiring zero-party data that much more important.

2. Re-vAMP your templates

You’d be hard-pressed to find a leading B2C brand sending plain text emails.

No-frills emails are effective in some contexts. But competitive marketing teams will see better results from experimenting with the many new email marketing tools at their fingertips.

For example, many B2C brands now leverage Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) to turn ho-hum emails into interactive experiences. Marketers can embed engagement actions directly within the email client, including onboarding workflows, customized content suggestions, updated pricing, and more. This is an untapped opportunity in the B2B world. B2B “conversions” typically require leaving the email and visiting an external site or form.

Early reviews from AMP adopters are optimistic. For example, US online loan provider LendingTree increased their email click-through rate by 86 percent after implementing AMP emails. There’s no reason why your business can’t shoot for the same results.

3. Talk like a human

Forget B2B or B2C. At the end of the day, we’re all H2H: human to human. Your email recipients are humans first—and they’re probably still feeling the effects of limited socialization due to COVID-19.

While B2C emails are known for warm, punchy messaging, B2B emails have a reputation for being more traditional. (Even, dare we say, boring?) This is partially due to the B2B tendency to “templatize” everything—including emails. Email templates are useful as businesses scale for success. But they usually include impersonal marketing speak that doesn’t exactly give readers the warm and fuzzies.

Forging interpersonal connections with your subscribers is paramount as consumer mistrust reaches an all-time high. According to a recent Salesforce study, a whopping 99 percent of consumers believe companies need to improve their trustworthiness.

Since email is often your first interaction with a customer or prospect, consider how you can humanize your tone to start building trust.

4. Don’t ignore peak sales season

At first glance, “peak sales season” seems like B2C’s turf—making it tempting for B2B teams to curb their campaigns and watch from the sidelines.

Remember: B2B marketers are still speaking to people—and most people are deeply affected by seasonality. Today’s consumers are conditioned to be receptive to tailored, seasonal emails and promotions. This means that B2B marketers have a lot to gain by giving their messaging a seasonal spin rather than regurgitating the same content throughout the year.

Remarkably, B2C brands have found ways to extend the peak sales season from early November through Valentine’s Day. In other words, what was once a tight six-week period now lasts almost four months.

Their secret?

They used the time to promote their best and most competitive offerings—and consumers began to alter their shopping habits in anticipation of peak season deals.

B2B teams should adopt the same mindset. Consider how your team can run promotions that encourage excitement and help customers celebrate the holidays. What’s the best deal you can offer right now?

Email is evolving–not dying.

For years, salacious headlines have declared email dead. But don’t be so quick to bury email alongside your landlines and Myspace password.

Email is still a top marketing channel for marketers (who love its measurability and high ROI) and email recipients (who rate it highly for trust and relevance). By implementing innovative strategies like those mentioned above, B2B email marketers can maximize their performance in any climate.

For more expert tips to optimize your email program watch our on-demand webinar: Email Is Not Dead: 3 Ways to Juice Your Email Marketing Program for Q4 and Beyond.

The post 4 Tips B2B Email Marketers Should Take from B2C Brands appeared first on Validity.

Peak Sales, Peak Headaches!

Our latest State of Email Live webinar featured another fantastic lineup of guests, including Kostas Karagkounis from Emarsys, Antony Humphreys from the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (a valued Validity customer!), and Validity’s own Tori Garcia.

We discussed the upcoming peak sales season, which is not only getting busier—it’s getting longer. A period that was once limited to Black Friday and Cyber Monday now extends through Valentine’s Day. And many brands now incorporate regional events like Diwali, Singles’ Day, Click Frenzy, and El Buen Fin into their marketing plans.

As a result, email marketers face mounting deliverability and engagement challenges. But with these challenges come opportunities. We spent time discussing both.

MPP: More pressure on profits

Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) makes it difficult for email senders to follow best practices like list hygiene, recency management, and journey automation. And as Tori explained, MPP adoption is increasing: One-third of all email “opens” are now generated by Apple’s proxy.

We also discussed the increasing volume of recycled spam traps, which will degrade sender reputation and deliverability just when senders need to reach their audiences most.

Drivers of change

Kostas referenced rising spam trap hits and Microsoft Sender Reputation Data (SRD) rates to explain why peak sales season will be a different (and tougher) proposition this year.

Due to the massive email volume coming their way, technology providers like Gmail and Microsoft will be forced to prioritize inbox placement based on sender reputation. This comes at a time during which marketing teams are under enormous pressure to recover sales revenue lost due to COVID-19.

Further complicating matters, consumers have (in theory) increased spending capacity, but many are experiencing crippling “digital fatigue” that impacts their willingness to engage with email content.

Birds-eye view

The biggest mistake email senders make during peak sales season?

According to Antony, it’s failing to take a birds-eye view of the larger email landscape. Email senders should remember their program is just one of millions. Even if they employ best practices for sending emails, they’ll still be impacted by many others that don’t.

Antony emphasized the critical importance of using email verification solutions to maximize sender reputation and performance during peak season. He also praised Validity’s Sender Certification program for helping senders achieve 99.8 percent inbox placement rates. (Who wouldn’t want that during such a business-critical period?)

We’re watching with anticipation to see what this year’s peak sales season brings and how it will impact brand marketing tactics.

For tips to prepare your email program for peak sales season, listen to the on-demand webinar here.

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