How to Win in an Evolving Email Marketing Landscape

Competition in the inbox is fiercer than ever. Global email volumes are approaching record highs, and recent privacy restrictions and regulations surrounding email data have many marketers scrambling to come up with a new strategy. Marketers need to reevaluate the fundamental ways they measure and diagnose their email performance to stay ahead in this rapidly changing digital landscape.

Recently, my colleague Jeff Foley, Sr. Director of Product Marketing at Validity, and I broke down these changes in a webinar we presented with ClickZ. We discussed three specific ways the email landscape has evolved and provided takeaways so you can take advantage of these evolutions.

1. Dramatic increase in global email volume

Email continues to dominate as the #1 preferred channel for communication with customers. Not only do consumers prefer email, but it also delivers huge value for businesses. However, the key evolution over the past few years is the volume of email being sent. Before the pandemic, email volume was on a predictable growth path with expected seasonal peaks, but post pandemic, we’re seeing record-breaking send volumes that have become the “new normal.”

Email became a truly business-critical channel during the pandemic. It wasn’t just about marketing anymore, but also about communicating critical messages to people as they were restricted to their homes. Currently, the data is showing no signs of returning to pre-pandemic levels—so what does this mean for marketers?

Higher volume leads to much greater deliverability challenges for senders. This is because during high volume periods, mailbox providers prioritize messages from senders with the best reputation, which makes it more challenging for senders to reach the inbox. For emails that do reach the inbox, there is more competition than ever to stand out from other senders and engage your recipients.

So, how can marketers overcome these challenges?

  • Focus on deliverability. The journey to the inbox is complicated. There’s a lot of planning, testing, and infrastructure to support your email marketing before you even hit send. After that, your email must pass numerous security checks, authentication checks, and reputation checks before it reaches the inbox. Some things you have control over, but some things are decided by the mailbox providers and subscribers themselves, so you’ll want to make sure you’re following their different sets of rules for determining what messages make it to the inbox.
  • Improve sender reputation. Mailbox providers use your sender reputation to measure the trustworthiness of your email. A good sender reputation significantly increases your chances of landing in the inbox, which leads to more engagement and a better ROI on your email marketing campaigns. If you have a poor sender reputation, your email is more likely to be blocked or placed in the spam folder.

Stand out in a crowded inbox with BIMI

Let’s say you have a great sender reputation and over 95% of your emails are reaching the inbox. That means you’re all set, right? Wrong. Now you need to address the second challenge, which is that your emails are buried in the inbox with everyone else’s, all competing for your subscribers’ attention. This is where BIMI can help.

BIMI, or Brand Indicators for Message Identification, is a fancy way of saying “make your brand logo appear beside your email in the inbox.” It may be the simplest, most effective way to dramatically increase brand recognition in the inbox. Gmail just recently announced that they are supporting BIMI, which no doubt represents a significant portion of your list. But why is BIMI so important?

A recent study found 68% of consumers said “recognizing the brand” is an important factor for determining whether they’ll open an email—even more important than the subject line or preview text! Therefore, it’s crucial to invest time in improving brand recognition, and BIMI is a great way to do this.

For brands who have already implemented BIMI, there have been very strong results. In a recent survey run by Entrust and Red Sift, results show that when brands displayed their registered logos in the email inbox, they saw a 21% increase in open rates, a 34% increase in average purchase likelihood, and an 18% increase in brand recall. These early results show that BIMI presents a huge opportunity for marketers, because when consumers trust your email, they are more likely to engage.

2. Increased focus on consumer privacy

As businesses have relied more and more on digital channels throughout the pandemic, it has become even more important for companies to deliver a trustworthy experience. Consumers—especially younger generations—care passionately about the brands they are buying from. They care about what brands stand for and why they should trust them. A key component of building and maintaining that trust is privacy.

The continued rollout of privacy laws in the US shows no signs of slowing down as more and more states are realizing the importance of protecting their residents’ data and privacy. This is a challenge for marketers, since they must monitor and comply with multiple laws passed by individual states, rather than one comprehensive federal law. With various privacy laws pending across multiple states, the complexity will continue to increase.

We know that complying with these regulations is critical to winning customers’ trust, but what’s the best approach for doing so?

Reviewing your compliance with privacy policies is a good place to start. If you find the strictest standard and create business policies to meet that standard, then anything less restrictive will be covered. The truth is, others out there who are adhering to the regulations are finding it’s a positive experience, not a negative one.

Preempting customers’ concerns can give you a competitive advantage and create more loyalty with your customers. Apple is a great example of this. They continue to make a name for themselves by being a strong advocate of consumer privacy, most recently through their introduction of Mail Privacy Protection, or MPP.

Navigating Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection

MPP is Apple’s latest consumer-privacy feature. It prevents senders from using tracking pixels to measure open rates and device usage. It also hides recipients’ IP addresses to prevent location tracking by prefetching and caching email images at the time emails are delivered. Tracking pixels will fire at the time of delivery, regardless of whether the recipient actually opened the email. Therefore, open rates will skyrocket, but it won’t be because more people are engaging with your email—meaning this metric is ultimately worthless for measuring engagement.

This feature impacts all subscribers who use the Apple Mail app. Apple users who have downloaded iOS 15 are prompted to opt in to MPP when they open their mail app. It does not matter what provider the recipient uses. It only considers the email client. So, 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.

This presents many changes for marketers and affects a variety of factors, such as measuring open rates, identifying the exact device a recipient is using, sending location-specific information, and sending live content, such as countdown timers. All of this information is important to deliver personalized and relevant content to subscribers and to optimize an email campaign based on performance results.

While this is clearly a huge shift for marketers, there are ways to navigate it successfully. In fact, there are many other useful metrics to keep track of to help you measure your email performance:

  • Sender reputation: The better your sender reputation, the more likely your emails will reach the inbox. Your sender reputation is based on IP address and domain reputations, content checks, and user feedback. So, absent of a sudden dip in open rates, this is a good indicator of whether you have a problem with deliverability. Additionally, like sender reputation, inbox placement can be used as a proxy for measuring engagement now that opens are unreliable, since both your sender reputation and inbox placement are partially determined by user engagement.
  • Data quality: Open rate data is often used for inactives strategies. Non-responders are either moved to a different cadence or suppressed from receiving further emails. Since opens are no longer a reliable sign of engagement, email verification is even more critical to identify addresses that are no longer active.
  • Zero-party data: 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. With MPP, you lose insights into your subscribers (things like geolocation, device, etc.). This info is so important for delivering personalized experiences, and since you can no longer collect this data for a large portion of your subscribers, it’s important to focus on zero-party data and acquiring this info from consumers themselves. You should prioritize collection of this data by promoting preference centers and using progressive registration tactics.
  • “Deeper” metrics: Metrics deeper down in the conversion funnel, such as clicks, website visits, and conversions, provide much stronger indications of subscriber interest and are more valuable because of this. You’ll also want to pay attention to spam complaints, as clicks and complaints are two sides of the same engagement coin. Both are equally important in determining the strength of the engagement signal they generate. If you put these side by side with deliverability data, you may be able to establish cause and effect.

3. Increased phishing and spoofing

Phishing is when an attacker sends a malicious email designed to trick recipients into falling for a scam so they’ll provide personal or sensitive information. Email spoofing is a technique used in phishing attacks to trick users into thinking a message came from a person or brand they know and trust. At face value, it looks like a legitimate message and recipients are more likely to engage with the email, which is what makes these attacks so effective.

According to the 2020 phishing and fraud report, phishing incidents rose by 220% during the height of the pandemic compared to the yearly average. Cybercriminals are always looking to hook onto emotional topics, so they were quick to capitalize on the pandemic.

Recent research shows that 96% of phishing attacks arrive by email. While these attacks are often directed at consumers, there are long-term implications that can be devastating to the brand, as well, such as loss of brand reputation and subscriber trust, poor deliverability, and loss of revenue.

So, how can you ensure you’re taking every precaution to protect your brand from email fraud? The answer lies in email authentication. Here are three protocols you should consider implementing:

  • SPF: Sender Policy Framework, or SPF, is a record you give to mailbox providers saying which IP addresses you approve to deliver mail from your domain. There are lots of ways to configure it, but at the end of the day, it tells mailbox providers it’s okay to safely accept your mail.
  • DKIM: DomainKeys Identified Mail, or DKIM, uses keys, tokens, and encryption to verify nothing has gone astray during your mail’s journey (i.e., sender information didn’t change, the body of the email wasn’t altered). It’s the next step up from SPF in email authentication.
  • DMARC: Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance, or DMARC, provides an added layer of email protection, monitoring, and reporting. When you publish it, you’re telling mailbox providers what to do if an email fails any of your authentication tests.

Conclusion

The email marketing landscape continues to throw many challenges at marketers, but luckily there are ways to come out on top and continue to be successful in the email channel. We’ve discussed many of them here, but if you’d like to dive even deeper into this topic, you can watch the full webinar below.

To learn more about how Validity can help you navigate the evolving email landscape and continue to be successful, schedule a demo today.

 

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Apple MPP Adoption is Ripening Rapidly

After two weeks of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), we are seeing early indicators of the impact it is having. In case you’ve been living in a parallel digital universe, this means email images are now being automatically pre-fetched for Apple Mail users who have upgraded to the new iOS15 operating system, meaning that tracking pixels will fire regardless of whether recipients have engaged with their emails.

For the October edition of our State of Email Live webinar series, we analyzed Validity’s global email intelligence to find out how MPP is changing email reporting—and the initial observations are fascinating.

What happened on launch day?

Within hours of iOS15 (and MPP) being released, we were already getting some insights into how the new solution was operating:

Starting at midday on September 20th, there was a slow, steady climb. Then, users went home, plugged to power and Wi-Fi, and a sudden surge took place as the auto-updates began. There was a lull during normal sleeping hours, followed by more steady climbing the next day as adoption and acceptance of MPP continued. By the end of day two, pixel fires from Apple Mail users were already in the tens of millions!

How has adoption been trending since then?

This graph shows the device profile of email recipients (e.g., mobile/tablet/desktop). Where this information is not identifiable because of technology like MPP, we report the proxy instead (e.g., Apple/Google/Yahoo).

The emergence of Apple Privacy Proxy usage can be seen rising in the bottom right corner, and initial adoption has been strong:

  • Initial take-up wasn’t spectacular, and launch week ended with a relatively modest ± 3.5% adoption rate.
  • MPP opt-ins then started climbing strongly, hitting ± 10% by the end of the following week. It is now approaching 20% (19.96% to be precise) at the time of writing.
  • Most of the impact has been from mobile devices (iOS15). Note the corresponding decline in “Mobile” as MPP has gained traction.
  • Also remember MPP impacts Gmail/Microsoft/Yahoo/etc. subscribers who read their emails using the Apple Mail client, distorting the open rate behavior of these recipients.

Weren’t we expecting a “big bang” adoption?

Almost certainly not! While the above numbers are definitely eye-catching, broader adoption will be an incremental process, and there are several reasons for this:

  • iOS adoption isn’t instantaneous. Previous releases have typically achieved two thirds adoption after two to three months, and 90% adoption after nine months.
  • Phased global release means many Apple users outside of the US were only prompted to opt in to MPP several days after the official launch date.
  • It’s also possible the level of consumers opting in to MPP isn’t as high as we expected it to be. At the same time, we obtained our 20% MPP adoption figure—total iOS15 adoption was 22.3%—suggesting a nine in 10 opt-in rate. It’s still big, but does point to a statistically meaningful opt-out cohort that continues to generate Apple-specific behavioral insights.

What’s happening to open rates?

Global email open rates haven’t gone through the roof (yet!), but they are absolutely trending upwards.

Validity’s data shows the year-to-date trend of around 25% has suddenly risen to 27% over the past two weeks. Remember these numbers represent all subscribers, so the MPP effect for Apple Mail users only (who represent 35% to 40% of the total) will already be ± 2.5x greater.

Are email senders leaning into other metrics yet?

We analyzed Everest usage data for the 10-day period pre-MPP with the corresponding period-MPP, and there are definite signs of our users evaluating substitute data points that will replace increasingly distorted open rates. While Everest user time is still primarily focused on inbox placement and sender reputation, use of the engagement module (device usage, dwell time, etc.) has increased sharply. Of particular interest is the number of inbox tests being carried out—we’ve seen a 17% increase, and senders are clearly leaning into inbox placement as a compensatory metric for lost/degraded open rates.

We also expect to see upward trending for negative metrics like bounces, trap hits, complaints and opt-outs as the ability to gauge subscriber engagement using open rates—and respond to it—diminishes. This will create new deliverability challenges for senders as these metrics feed into worsening sender reputation scores. These trends aren’t yet visible, but we are expecting some of these metrics to be influenced by MPP and will be scrutinizing them for any early clues.

Want to learn more? We’ve created a fantastic MPP resource center where you can find out how Everest can help your email program turn Apple’s challenge into an opportunity to build stronger customer relationships. You can also grab a copy of our great “What the Heck is MPP?” eBook and complete your research by watching a recording of our recent State of Email Live webinar. You’ll find everything you need to change MPP’s meaning into Most Productive Program!

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The State of Email in APAC

Email marketers are facing some unique challenges in 2021. As we approach peak holiday and sales season, record sending volumes mean even greater competition in the inbox. Plus, the introduction of Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP), which prevents email senders from deploying tracking pixels and masks recipients’ IP addresses, will further complicate email marketers’ lives as they start to lose important behavioural data points.

In our very first APAC State of Email webinar, Validity’s own Guy Hanson, Nhan Tran, and William Zhang discussed these issues and the options email marketers have to overcome them—and thrive—during this holiday sales season.

Covering everything from global data compliance and privacy, zero-party data, and email analytics to A/B split testing, engagement segmentation, and numerous examples of best-in-class emails you can benefit from seeing, this was an info-packed hour that you absolutely don’t want to miss!

Our email experts discussed:

  • How Phillips effectively deployed A/B testing to increase their email engagement by 33%
  • Why email marketers shouldn’t wait for changes to consumer privacy law to strengthen their privacy practices (improved performance and engagement can happen organically for brands that respect their customers’ privacy)
  • Why it will become increasingly important to give power back to email subscribers, the vital role engagement segmentation will play, and why preference centres will become even more important in helping achieve this

Check out the full webinar below to discover all these amazing insights, and to learn more about how Validity can help you improve your email performance, reach out to us today to set up a demo.

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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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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.

The post The Do’s and Don’ts of Seed Testing appeared first on Validity.

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.

The post Top 3 Ways to Avoid Email Spoofing Attacks appeared first on Validity.

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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