My last column examined the importance of getting your e-mails delivered and how individual responses (or lack of responses) to messages can play a role in determining whether a company’s future e-mails would go into a consumer’s inbox or the spam folder.
Based on the strong interest in this topic, I dug a bit deeper into this area and met with Deirdre Baird, CEO of deliverability technology services company Pivotal Veracity, for some additional insights.
Jeanniey Mullen: Do you believe that mastering deliverability is the most important factor in an e-mail campaign? After all, if no one gets the e-mail, there is no chance for a good response.
Deirdre Baird: Over the past few months, we have seen major ISPs begin to incorporate traditional e-mail marketing performance metrics into their spam filtering processes that they hadn’t before, such as opens, clicks, and replies. What this means is that deliverability and marketing best practices have become one and the same. You used to need to have good deliverability practices in place in order to have a chance at user engagement; today, having high engagement is becoming the primary predictor of whether or not your e-mail is going to be delivered to the user’s inbox.
JM: What do you see coming down the road from ISPs in helping to battle spam?
DB: Folder disposition is being dictated and driven at the customer level! Specifically, customer-level action and inaction [are] taking precedence over traditional filters, including even domain- and IP-level reputation metrics. For example, if a user persistently ignores your messages, the ISP is going to begin routing your messages to that specific user’s spam folder, even if your mail is being routed to the inbox everywhere else. On the flipside, if the user has interacted with your messages and demonstrated engagement, your e-mail will be routed to the user’s inbox, even if it’s being filtered to the spam folder everywhere else. More details are available in a new report we made public this week, “What’s in store at the ISPs: 2009 — 2010,” which outlines specific changes taking place at eight major ISPs and filtering companies.
JM: As a consumer, I get a ton of e-mails from retailers (sometimes more than once per day). There is no way I can read them all or have that much money to shop. What is the optimal message volume for retailer and e-commerce companies to keep delivery on the safe side?
DB: There is no one-size-fits-all answer here. The key is transparency and customer-level relevancy. Be very clear as to what the customer can expect to receive from you and how often. In an environment where unengaged can be as dangerous to deliverability as negative engagement, informed consent is more critical than ever before. Additionally, mailers need to increase their focus on relevancy and to adjust mailing frequency based on customer preferences — both explicit as well as those garnered from previous open and click behavior. Thus, even for a particular mailer, there is no single answer. The answer is driven by the customer and what the customer wants. Our job as marketers is to learn what these preferences are and to adjust how and what we mail accordingly.
JM: Pivotal Veracity has just released some new technology that helps people identify how their e-mails are being read and responded to outside of the e-mail inbox and within other social networks’ e-mail systems, like Facebook and MySpace. Tell us a bit about why this new approach is so critical.
DB: For the past 10 years, marketers have had to rely on bounce reports and seed lists to gauge their deliverability rates. But in an environment where individual-level engagement is having such a major impact on deliverability and where deliverability can and does change from one customer to the next based on the mailer’s interactions with that particular customer, these approaches are quickly losing their relevancy.
We developed MailboxIQ to address the realities of the new deliverability 3.0 world we are living in. It is the first and only solution in the world to track deliverability at the individual level, giving mailers mission-critical customer insight. Additionally, MailboxIQ empowers the marketer with the tools to increase relevancy by also tracking how the customer interacts with the marketer’s e-mail across mobile, social, search, and traditional Web- and software-based e-mail clients.
Deliverability used to be about understanding the path of messages from sender to recipient. MailboxIQ lets marketers know what’s happening along the entire chain — from sender to recipient to other recipients and across multiple platforms and devices.