Retailers are pulling out all of the stops this holiday season and utilizing e-mail more than ever to reach their customers. E-mail volumes are considerably larger than ever before as you can tell by the amount of promotional offers in your in-box from your favorite retailers. With the growth of mobile access, e-mail is cool once again and driving results.
According to the National Retail Federation, all that email is paying off in the form of sales. “A record 247 million shoppers visited stores and websites over Black Friday weekend, up from 226 million last year. Making sure to take advantage of retailers’ promotions to the full extent, the average holiday shopper spent $423 this weekend, up from $398 last year. Total spending reached an estimated $59.1 billion.” The NRF also states, “consumers also spent more of their holiday budget online. According to the survey, the average person spent $172.42 online over the weekend, or approximately 40.7 percent of their total weekend spending, up from 37.8 percent last year.”
There are more digital marketing channels today than ever before, but none of them have surpassed email in terms of effectiveness. In fact, increased access to email via mobile devices may have actually widened the gap between email and other platforms. A recent CMO Council study found that open and clickthrough rates are significantly higher this year than they were two years ago.
With these encouraging results, retailers may be digging into their e-mail list archives, trying to wring out every possible deliverable e-mail address that they have and adding them to their master file. Totally understand why they would do this, but is this a good strategy? Not in any way, shape or form.
There are three important aspects of email delivery:
- Reputation – Is your IP address respected on the net? If not, time to check with ReturnPath’s free tool Sender Score, which examines the IP address for sending emails looks for evaluates it for volume and if it’s been certified by Return Path put on their whitelist .
- Relevance – Are you sending the right emails to the right people at the right time and with the right frequency? Segment your communications by time zone to increase open rates for your emails.
- Infrastructure – Is your environment or that of your ESP secure when it comes to both physical and port security? Are you queing your outbound email in batches? All of these can affect deliverability.
Sending Email Is Easy, Getting It Delivered is Another Story How email is delivered from your application to your customer’s inbox is not a direct process as the email request goes through several checkpoints to filter out spam and all of them can prevent your email from being delivered.
Spam is Everywhere
According to a 2011 study conducted by Symantec MessageLabs, 76% of emails each day are spam. This causes huge headaches for ISP’s, network administrators and everyone who has to trudge through their inbox.
Keep It Legal And Don’t Spam The Internet
The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted in 2003 to provide companies and individual protection and relief from spammers. While you cannot directly sue a spammer, the FTC, ISP’s and federal agencies can pursue criminal and civil action against spammers.
Email blacklisting occurs when your mail server’s IP address is added to a list and other mail servers begin rejecting your email. This occurs because the list you were added to is meant to protect companies from spam. One way to end up on this list is to send an email to a honeypot — this is a fake email address setup on the internet to catch spammers. If your company purchases email lists (a big no no) then there could be a honeypot email address on it and once notified, companies that maintain email blacklists like Spamhaus, will block you. You can check to see if your domain’s mail (MX) records or IP address has been listed using sites like MXToolbox.
Best Practices To Increase Deliverability
SPF Records can be added to your domain DNS records to specify the IP addresses that have permission to send email from your domain. This reduces the chances of email spoofed from your domain affecting your deliverability and many email servers look for these records.
DKIM allows recipient mail servers to verify the message was sent from your domain or your ESP by comparing the key that arrived with the email against the public key associated with your domain name through your DNS records. There are a few more steps to follow compared to SPF records. You’ll need to generate a DKIM key, attach it to your DNS via a TXT file and then turn on authentication so receiving mail servers can validate emails by comparing the public key.
Why is my email being delayed to the inbox? This is a common question. It can happen when you send a large volume of email to a server and you appear to be a spammer. The receiving mail server puts your email in a queue until it can assess your reputation based on your IP address, if there is a valid SPF entry in your DNS records and if your domain or IP has been blacklisted.
Work closely with your ESP to make sure you are strictly following and keeping up with the on-going changes in e-mail deliverability. E-mail is a critical channel for your business success. Don’t compromise your growth – know the rules and stick to them.