Top 3 Ways to Avoid Email Spoofing Attacks

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

What is spoofing?

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

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

What kind of impact does spoofing have?

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

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

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

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

How can you avoid spoofing?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Conclusion

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

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An Antispam Masterclass for Great Email Marketing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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How to Grapple With Apple

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

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

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

It’s not entirely new.

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

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

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

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

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

How broad is the likely impact?

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

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

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

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

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

What challenges will email senders face?

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

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

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

How can senders address these challenges?

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

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

Conclusion

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

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

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

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Around the World in Data Privacy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Why Does Email Generate Strong ROI?

Did you know the email channel is consistently top ranked for its return on marketing investment? The average email ROI is 38:1.

In the recently published DMA/Validity Marketer Email Tracker 2021, around 50% of marketers reported many of email’s key metrics have shown positive increases in the last 12 months, including mailable list size (51%), delivery rates (43%), open rates (48%), and click-through rates (46%). At the same time, two key negative metrics have experienced a decrease: opt-out rates (25%) and spam complaints (29%).

These stats aren’t a one-off – over the past three years, the proportion of marketers reporting improved deliverability/opens/clicks outrank those reporting declines by 4:1, and this feeds into the improved ROI the big majority are also reporting.

So, how can marketers match and exceed these benchmarks while also overcoming the complexities surrounding email ROI measurement? We asked Guy Hanson, Willliam Zhang, and TAL’s Mike Nixon to share their experiences and thoughts on this topic in our “Email ROI” webinar.

Here are a few key points:

  • • When calculating ROI, simple calculations don’t always tell the whole story and may be underestimating the effectiveness of your email campaigns.
  • • There are several tactics marketers can implement to help move the needle on their email campaign ROIs, such as marketing automation and channel optimisation.
  • • Also, don’t overlook the obvious – make sure your campaigns are set up to ensure maximum email deliverability.

You can discover all the insights that were shared by watching the full webinar below. To learn more about how to improve your email performance, reach out to us today to set up a demo.

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Google Announces General Availability of BIMI in Gmail

Today is the day. Google has just announced general support of Brand Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) in Gmail. We’ve been anxiously awaiting this day for almost a year when Google first announced their pilot program for BIMI.

A lot has changed in the email marketing world since we first learned of Google’s BIMI pilot in July 2020 (too much to cover in this blog post, so check out our monthly State of Email webinar series to stay up to date on the latest developments) but one thing hasn’t changed – our support and excitement of BIMI and the value it brings to everyone in the email ecosystem.

As one of the initial members of the AuthIndicators Working Group – a committee of companies helping to develop the BIMI standard – Validity has been deeply involved in Google’s BIMI pilot. With their general availability announcement, Google joins Yahoo and Fastmail in BIMI support, making BIMI available at roughly 2 billion inboxes. With 43% of the email service market share, Google’s announcement is a huge leap forward in the adoption of BIMI and presents a significant opportunity for senders to stand out in the inbox and attract the attention of their recipients.

Let’s take a step back to learn more about BIMI and what this announcement means for marketers.

What is BIMI?

BIMI is an email specification that enables the use of brand-controlled logos within supporting email clients. BIMI provides a secure, global framework in which inboxes display sender-designated logos for authenticated messages. BIMI rewards marketers who strongly authenticate their messages via DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) by placing an approved logo next to their official emails in their recipients’ inboxes. The below image is an example of how an organization’s logo could display.

Why should I implement BIMI?

BIMI provides many benefits for marketers. In today’s complex landscape, where inboxes are more congested and recipients are more selective in the messages they engage with, the benefits of BIMI can have a significant impact on your email performance. Here are a few key benefits for marketers:

  • Stand out from other senders in the inbox. With BIMI adoption just beginning to ramp up, it is a great way to stand out in today’s overcrowded inbox and differentiate yourself from other senders. Marketers who act quickly can be some of the first to use BIMI at Gmail, giving them a true competitive advantage.
  • • Improve the user experience to drive more engagement. BIMI enriches the inbox for your recipients, and with DMARC, strengthens the trustworthiness of your email. This is critical because recipients are more likely to open and engage with emails coming from a brand they know and trust. According to the DMA Consumer Email Tracker 2021, recipients said “recognizing the brand” is the most important factor in determining whether they’ll open an email. BIMI is proven to improve performance metrics – results from Yahoo Mail’s BIMI pilot show an increase in engagement by an average of 10% when emails displayed brand logos next to email messages.
  • • Leverage your investment in DMARC. In order to be eligible for BIMI, you must enforce a strict DMARC policy. Having a strict DMARC policy has huge advantages for the security of your brand’s emails. It helps protect your company’s email domain from being used for email spoofing, phishing scams, and other cybercrimes. BIMI emphasizes and rewards your investment in DMARC by increasing your brand impressions in the inbox.

How do I get started with BIMI?

Now that you’ve seen the value of BIMI, I’m sure you’re dying to get started. To implement BIMI, follow these steps:

  1. 1. Enforce a strict DMARC policy. As mentioned above, BIMI requires you have a DMARC policy of reject (or 100% quarantine). If you’re already operating with this level of DMARC enforcement, you’re well on your way to implementing BIMI (and we applaud you for your investment). If you don’t have a DMARC policy in place, it’s not too late. This is another great reason to strengthen your email authentication. Check out this article to get started with DMARC.
  2. 2. Publish your BIMI record. Once you have the proper DMARC policy in place, you’ll need to publish a BIMI record for your domain in the Domain Name System (DNS) which points to the logo indicator in a specific SVG Portable/Secure format to be used.
  3. 3. Obtain a Verified Mark Certificate (VMC). This is not mandatory for all providers; however, Google is requiring brands to obtain a VMC in order to display their logo at Gmail inboxes. So, to take advantage of BIMI benefits at Gmail, you’ll need to go through the vetting process with a Certified Authority (CA) which proves your right to use the image. It is required that your logo be a registered trademark, which will be validated as part of the vetting process. Today, Entrust and DigiCert support BIMI as CAs and the list is expected to expand in the future. Keep in mind that some mailbox providers support BIMI without a VMC, so if you choose to pass on this final step, there is still value in publishing a “self-asserted” BIMI record.

This might seem like a complicated and tedious process, especially for those who have yet to adopt DMARC. However, the benefits received are worth your investment.

As strong proponents of BIMI (have we mentioned that yet?), Validity is here to help. We have lots of resources to help you through the implementation process. We provide the tools you need to manage both DMARC and BIMI within our Everest platform. With Everest, you’re able to generate your BIMI record, host your BIMI SVG image, and preview your message at BIMI-enabled inboxes. You can also keep a close eye on email engagement within Everest to track clicks and conversions pre- and post-BIMI implementation to see the benefits of your investment in DMARC and BIMI.

Conclusion

We hope you’re as excited as we are about Google’s BIMI announcement. We can’t wait to see how this impacts the email marketing landscape going forward. While this is yet another development for email marketers to consider, this one is advantageous for everyone involved!

We’ve just scratched the surface of BIMI with this blog post. We encourage you to download our latest eBook, I’ve Gotta BIMI, for more detail into the topics above.

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How Validity’s Customers Are Turning Improved Email Performance Into More Revenue

The 2020/21 pandemic has seen an upheaval in how email marketers interact with their subscribers. Message relevance and trust are the new cornerstones, and early adopters of these new best practices have benefitted in a big way. By using quality data to demonstrate empathy and build trust, they have reaped the rewards of greater engagement with their programmes – as well as more revenue.

Many of those senders have shared their success stories as guests on Validity’s packed webinar calendar. Here’s a recap of some of our favourite take-outs:

Dan Goran, Product Manager at Expedia Group shared in our “Why Email Data Quality Matters” webinar that it’s business-critical to have the right customer data platform. Building a “single source of truth” is key to building strong two-way customer relationships, and having the right tools to measure this success – and communicate it to your senior leadership – is vital to securing a larger budget.

Ed Tibbitts, Customer Journey Manager at WiggleCRC featured in “Get a Wiggle On” and highlighted the huge value of data and email. High quality customer data meant Wiggle could shift from “hard sell” messaging towards more informative email content, which subscribers found even more useful. With near 100% deliverability and big increases in open and click rates, they are also driving more organic traffic for complementary channels like social media, resulting in additional benefits from reduced spend on paid media.

Martí Díaz Lorente, Email Marketing Specialist at King discussed just “How King Unlocked a Treasure Chest of Email Value.” King previously had major deliverability issues, but by working closely with Validity to implement a far more customer-centric approach to their email marketing, they are generating 100% deliverability for all major mailbox providers. In turn, this has provided the foundation for an amazing 110% increase in open rates and a whopping 200% uplift in click rates.

Charlie Wijen, Digital & CRM Specialist at Philips joined us for “All A/Bout Split Testing.” Philips’ journey with Validity has seen them go from a Sender Score of 7 to a best-in-class global sender with near 100% inbox placement rates. Most recently, Philips has been using Validity’s data as part of a split-testing pilot that has delivered an average 33% engagement uplift. In Charlie’s own words: “There’s a straight-line relationship between better inbox placement performance and Philips’ program revenue.”

Melissa Dalek, Customer Contact Strategy Manager at Walgreens had no doubts about the “Email ROI” her program generates. She took us through how she measures ROI, her most important KPIs, and the value this has when it comes to showcasing program value and securing new investment. Melissa was unequivocal about Validity’s role in helping her achieve this, citing world-class deliverability, better understanding of her competitors’ strategies, and the outstanding service she receives.

Alex Fadahunsi, Senior CRM Operations Manager at Trainline came on board for “Train Your Email Brain,” talking about how email is every marketer’s Swiss Army knife and how Validity is the “multi tool” that has served him so well throughout his career. Alex also talked about how email is a “living thing” influenced by many external factors. He often has to manage C-level pressure to respond rapidly to those stimuli, and he explained how inbox placement visibility is vital to the success of those high-pressure campaigns.

Mike Nixon, Head of Digital & CRM at TAL (Australia’s biggest life insurance provider) joined us for “APAC Email ROI” and talked about their big drive for email automation, underpinned by their ability to showcase the channel’s cost effectiveness. With typical Aussie candour, Mike explained email is business-critical for TAL, and the importance of guaranteed deliverability means his long-term relationship with Validity is an “absolute no-brainer!”

The common theme we heard from all these fantastic Validity advocates is that email is more important than ever. The DMA’s latest Consumer Email Tracker report shows email is consumers’ preferred marketing channel (over 70%). With an average Customer Lifetime Value of £36 ($50) and Return on Investment of 38:1, there has never been a better incentive for getting your email program into top shape – especially when Validity’s Driving ROI report shows a medium-sized program could drive an additional $1M in program value by doing so.

If you’d like to become an email marketing and data champion like our customers, schedule a demo now to see how Validity can help.

And if you’d like to join me as a guest on one of our upcoming webinars, I’d love to hear from you! Get in touch and let’s talk about celebrating your email success on our global stage.

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The Long Arm of the Law

The rapid rise of internet marketing means many data protection laws are no longer fit for purpose. The very definition of personal data has changed beyond recognition, leading to increased focus on consumer privacy. Now, governments around the world are responding with new legislation:

  • In the US, the early example set by California and Virginia is being followed by no fewer than 16 active bills in other states.
  • In Europe, GDPR has just turned three, but Eprivacy – which governs email marketing – is still playing catch-up, with a new version due in 2022.
  • Independently of this, the German parliament has adopted a new law regulating data protection and privacy in telecommunications and telemedia.
  • Meanwhile, their British counterparts are talking about scrapping existing UK data protection rules, branding GDPR “prescriptive and inflexible!”
  • In Brazil, LGPD is about to get a lot more interesting, with enforcement of penalties starting in August 2021.
  • In Australia, the recently amended Spam Regulations 2021 Act now creates higher standards for email opt-outs.
  • Even in China, sometimes seen as the wild west of privacy, the government is drafting a Personal Information Protection Law, which looks quite a lot like GDPR.

If you work for an international business with customers located around the world, your head might be spinning! All these developments (plus many more we haven’t listed!) have direct implications for the personal data you hold for your customers, as well as for the marketing communications you send them. The eye-watering potential fines mean it’s no longer best practice – it’s business critical.

Fortunately, we’ve got your backs. Our global team of email and data experts has on-the-ground visibility as these new laws are published, gaining insight into how to prepare for them and the likely impact they will have. Even better is we’re compiling their expertise into a great new report that we’ll be discussing in our next edition of State of Email Live (July 07th).

We’ll be joined by special guest Karie Burt from MeritB2B. As Chief Data & Privacy Officer for a global customer data business, she is well-positioned to understand the business impact new laws can have. However, by enforcing proven best practices that deliver better marketing performance, she’s also identified them as a force for good. In her own words: “More precise targeting produces better results – who knew!”

Want to learn more? Register here to join us on a trip around the world as we review all the latest laws, and get a copy of our “hot off the presses” new report.

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Email: The Swiss Army Knife of Marketing

During our “Train Your Email Brain” webinar featuring Anna Frigerio from the DMA, Alex Fadahunsi from Trainline, and Validity colleagues Elliot Hogg and Ignacio Lecuona, we reviewed key findings from this year’s Marketer Email Tracker report.

Email budgets benefitted in 2020 as spending was diverted from non-digital channels and they now represent over 20% of total marketing budgets. However, Anna showed us that this success has created new challenges. Goals for greater personalisation and relevance mean marketers need more data about their customers, as well as the technology to harness it. New tracking restrictions will increase these challenges, and large businesses are particularly concerned about the potential impact.

We asked Alex what he likes about email. His memorable response was that email is every marketer’s Swiss Army knife, providing multi-tool capabilities for eCRM effectiveness. He further elaborated:

  • Email deliverability is a living thing and there are many external factors that affect it. Highly seasonal sectors, like travel, see periods of intense competition for eye share. The importance of inbox placement during these peak periods is critical.
  • Email has played a key role in driving digital transformation for travel, with paperless ticketing now common. Alex predicts there will be further hyper-personalisation tactics, such as flexible season ticket pricing based on customers’ individual needs.
  • Greater regulation also provides opportunities. Responsible senders who are more transparent with customers about the use of tracking technologies will benefit because subscribers who are comfortable with this are generally the most engaged and brand loyal.

The report identifies crucial gaps between marketer and consumer perception when it comes to deliverability, relevance, and performance monitoring. While some sectors doubled their email volumes in 2020, Elliot highlighted that ± 20% of sending activity fails to achieve inbox placement. Ignacio considered the warm-up challenge for programs that have been largely dormant over the past year. Lack of data creates this lack of visibility, and both explained how an email success platform like Everest helps protect sender reputation, maximising email deliverability and improving email program efficiencies.

This summary hardly gets us out of the station! If you’d like to watch the full recording, it is available below. To learn more about how Everest can improve your email program’s performance, schedule a demo with us today.

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The Age of Email

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

Age of adoption

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

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

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

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

Age of acceleration

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

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

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

Age of access

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

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

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

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

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

Age of adaptation

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

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

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

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

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