By Jen Ribble, Director of Public Relations at Return Path
The holidays are approaching and smart retailers know email is an effective channel for reaching customers. In terms of ROI, email is the most effective marketing channel, generating an average of $38 for every dollar spent. And consumers consistently rate email as the top channel for brand communications — regardless of age. From millennials to Baby Boomers, a majority of consumers prefer email.
It’s clear the email channel is as relevant and valuable as ever, but in order to perform effectively your email campaigns have to actually reach their intended target. Think about this: If your email promotions and discount offers are getting filtered to the spam folder, how many sales are they going to drive? So the most basic — and most effective — thing you can do to maximize email ROI is to improve your deliverability. The following tips can help to make sure your emails reach the inbox this holiday season.
To better understand your sender reputation, you can use a free tool like Sender Score, which expresses reputation as a number between 1 and 100. The higher the score, the better your reputation and the less likely mailbox providers will send your messages to spam. Sender Score mimics the way mailbox providers evaluate a sender’s reputation, taking into account factors like spam complaints, blacklisting, and spam traps.
According to Return Path’s 2017 Sender Score Benchmark Report, inbox placement increases dramatically with improved sender reputation — especially at Gmail, Microsoft, and Yahoo. Senders scoring above 91-100 (the best possible reputation score) had significantly more of their messages delivered to this inbox, while those scoring below 90 saw more mail diverted to the spam folder.
Historically, Gmail has been quite secretive about their deliverability policies. Unlike other major mailbox providers, Gmail does not use common resources like third party whitelists and public blacklists. They also provide limited support for senders looking to research their Gmail deliverability.
There is some good news, however. Gmail has recently begun to relax the secrecy around their deliverability requirements, starting with the launch of their postmaster site in 2015. Using this site, verified and authenticated senders can access bulk sender guidelines, dashboards, and Gmail’s unique feedback loop. Retailers with a significant number of Gmail addresses on their email list should familiarize themselves with these resources.
In an effort to combat spam and other threats, mailbox providers have developed sophisticated algorithms to understand what content their users truly value. More and more, mailbox providers like Microsoft, Google, Yahoo, and AOL are including engagement metrics in these algorithms to catch unwanted email before it’s delivered to the inbox.
Engagement metrics go beyond sender reputation to look at things like how many messages are read, replied to, forwarded, and deleted without reading. By understanding subscriber interactions with a particular sender’s messages, mailbox providers are better able to determine whether those emails are wanted by subscribers.
These same metrics can help you understand why your deliverability is suffering.
Individual mailbox providers may offer proprietary whitelists, but they can only provide benefits for mail sent to their own users. Most retailers have subscribers at multiple mail clients, so it may be worthwhile to look for a more universal whitelist that offers preferred deliverability with multiple mailbox providers.