Spam Down, Deliverability Concerns Up?

  |  January 13, 2005   |  Comments

What gives? Relevance and quality don't just help open, click-through, and response rates but delivery rates, too.

Like many in the industry, I was pleasantly surprised by America Online's landmark announcement late last month that spam sent to and reported by its members declined significantly in 2004.

On the other hand, I wasn't surprised at all by a Jupiter Research (a Jupitermedia Corp. division) report issued that very same week, "Delivery Auditing Tools," which revealed "57 percent of email marketers said [email delivery] would be their biggest challenge during the coming year."

What gives?

Some believe CAN-SPAM has been effective in discouraging smaller spam offenders from continuing their questionable batch-and-blast efforts. Yet few believe the largest offenders have restrained from or are discouraged by increased filtering sophistication and new spam-combating solutions. Others feel consumers have become numb to spam and, in some respects, have given up using spam-reporting mechanisms as they ultimately fail to stem the tide of spam into the inbox.

Whatever the case, AOL's announcement put a stake in the ground. It demonstrates the industry is committed to addressing, reducing, and ultimately solving the spam issue.

With recent developments and efforts, deployment and deliverability complexities will continue to increase and change dramatically in the foreseeable future. Many leading industry analysts and experts report increasingly more marketers are attuned to the fact email deliverability requires meticulous management, superior technological capabilities, robust intelligence, and careful consideration.

According to Jupiter Research, only 46 percent of marketers indicate they currently use a delivery auditing service or tool. An additional 26 percent say they plan to use one in the next 12 months. Further, approximately two-thirds of marketers are willing to pay a premium for such services.

E-mail delivery directly affects return on investment (ROI), and no channel is as efficient as email to drive revenue, ROI, and quality customer relationships. An investment in email, be it delivery services, tools, or acquisition and retention strategy and program development, is a small price to pay for the potential return.

This year archaic anti-spam measures will be replaced by a newer breed of dynamic email delivery systems and solutions. With the rise of these new systems, products, and services, including evolving whitelists, authentication, accreditation, and reputation-based solutions, permission-based email is less likely to be erroneously snagged by traditional spam filters. These do, however, create a new breed of delivery challenges.

What are marketers most concerned about in the emerging deliverability equation? A few issues stand out:

  • Infrastructure. ISPs continue to emphasize a sound technological email delivery infrastructure. Serious email marketers must have in place automated hygiene, high-volume bounce-acceptance capability, and effective SMTP (define) connection/throttling management. These continue to play a significant role in mitigating delivery failures and achieving strong delivery rates.

  • Intelligence. Robust reporting and monitoring techniques help track and assure email delivery. They're critical to maximizing ROI and customer relationships and satisfaction.

  • Education. Without a doubt, getting a consumer to use the "add to address book" feature to list safe senders is the most reliable way to ensure delivery to the inbox. Marketers must continue to a comprehensively and persistently educate consumers to take action to ensure delivery of requested, often critical communications.

    It takes time, but it works. A December Jupiter Research report that found 44 percent of AOL users and 57 percent of EarthLink subscribers "always" or "somewhat regularly" use the "add to address book" feature. That's good news for legitimate marketers.

  • Relevance/accountability. Last summer, I told ClickZ News, "Consumers are looking at spam with a new definition. It's beyond just pornography, Viagra, or fraudulent emails.... In the definition of the consumer, spam is irrelevant messaging."

    As ISPs launch authentication solutions and more successfully tie reputation to authenticated email, consumer feedback and sender report cards will become more tied to marketers' ability to get their mail delivered and avoid its being put in the junk folder.

Today, more than ever, consumer responses can enhance or detract from deliverability. Relevancy and quality aren't just good for open, click-through, and response/conversion rates but delivery rates, as well.

Marketers must avoid traditional direct response thinking at all costs. When they receive direct mail, consumers really only have two immediate options: respond or do nothing. With email, we're increasingly aware of a third option: complain. A mere one- or two-tenths of a percent complaint rate is enough to jeopardize deliverability. Being cognizant and conscientious of consumers' expectations and desires is essential.

Tying deliverability to response and financial results, by necessity, will move the marketplace in an even more powerful direction. Those who employ best-in-class marketing and deliverability practices already know email delivers the highest ROI and an unrivaled ability to develop personalized, two-way, long-lasting, mutually beneficial relationships with consumers. In that regard, the outlook for email's place in the advertising mix in the New Year is decidedly positive.

Till next time,

Al DiGuido

Want more email marketing information? ClickZ E-Mail Reference is an archive of all our email columns, organized by topic.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Al DiGuido

Long recognized as one of the direct response industry's premier innovators and a pioneer in e-mail communications, Al DiGuido brings over 20 years of marketing, sales, management, and operations expertise to his role as CEO of full-service digital marketing company Zeta Interactive. Formerly Epsilon Interactive's CEO, DiGuido also served as CEO of Bigfoot Interactive, CEO of Expression Engines, EVP at Ziff Davis, and publisher of Computer Shopper, where he launched ComputerShopper.com, a groundbreaking direct-to-consumer e-commerce engine. Prior to Ziff Davis, he was VP/advertising director for Sports Inc. DiGuido also serves on the Direct Marketing Association's Ethics Policy Committee.

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