With all the changes coming to the email channel, it’s easy to lose sight of what you need to focus on to both optimize what you’re doing today and strategically plan for continued optimization tomorrow.
In case you haven’t noticed, the inbox is changing. Once, the inbox was…a box: a digital version of a mailbox and a mostly static place to send and receive messages. That’s so 2010. The inbox of 2014 has morphed into a portal: a dynamic hub of information that reflects the lives of its users; from social update activity to purchase receipts to travel itineraries to news to marketing messages and more. The inbox has also never looked better (thank you Gmail), been more interactive, or more organized. As a result, there’s never been more subscriber-level data in the inbox that can be leveraged to inform broader marketing decisions. What an exciting time to be an email marketer!
And yet, there’s a dark cloud to every silver lining. There’s so much data available that marketers are often unsure of how to use it to gain insightful analysis and act on those insights. A recent study by IBM showed that 82 percent of responding chief marketing officers (CMOs) said they felt underprepared for Big Data. It’s big, and it’s only getting bigger. The Internet of things is poised to unleash the power of email in ways that once sounded more like science-fiction than reality. In the near future, everything from our appliances to our gaming consoles to our homes could be communicating with us via email.
In case you’re not aware Gmail is currently doing a field trial that allows you to view image previews of promotional emails. It’s referred to as the grid view. I signed up for the field trial and it’s definitely something retailers will want to take advantage of. There was however an issue I noticed. Some of the emails did not have an image preview. With a little research I discovered there are a few things that can cause this problem. This article at FreshInbox provides some helpful information about fixes for the issue.
If you have been reading the popular press, or even for that matter some of the more technical blogs you can be forgiven for being misinformed about the impact of recent changes at Gmail on email marketing. You could be forgiven for thinking you need a helicopter-hat to understand what is going on. With Mashable, Ars Technica and others getting it wrong (when the Washington Post has to correct a tech blog on tech matters, you know we have a problem Houston) I thought it best to put some fallacies to rest.
Listrak Chief Privacy Officer James Koons recently shared some helpful Tips for Improving Email and Gmail Deliverability on the etailinsights blog.
For more information on privacy and deliverability, check out James’s blog.
After reading MediaPost’s Email Insider blog post “Marketing In The Age Of The Inbox Within The Inbox”, I was reminded once again of how important engagement is. All of the major email providers including Gmail, Yahoo and Hotmail have implemented new algorithms for deliverability. The new algorithms are based on engagement and if your emails are not triggering sufficient interaction from the recipient, they may not be delivered.
During M3AAWG’s 27th General Meeting in San Francisco, I learned that many of the major inbox providers have adopted a new algorithm that will calculate deliverability based on a combination of the original email delivery rules (think CAN-SPAM compliance) as well as some new email engagement factors. These factors include open rates, clicks, unsubscribes, and complaints. Because these new recipient behaviors are now factored in to the deliverability equation, future emails that you send may be considered SPAM or may not even be delivered at all. This could occur with subscribers who have previously signed-up (opted-in) to receive your emails! Also keep in mind that if enough recipients click the SPAM button, most email providers will assume that no one else wants it either.
A goal of Gmail’s Priority Inbox is to rank mail without explicit labeling from the user. It does this by learning a per-user statistical model of importance and ranking mail by how likely the user is to act on that mail (remember that importance of an email is highly personal). Some senders have realized that campaigns which specifically target Gmail users really work. For example, in 2011, an online flower vendor experienced a dip in its Gmail inbox placement rate as it increased mailing frequency around Valentine’s Day and Mother’s Day and didn’t recover until November 2011. The following year, they took into account Gmail’s use of sender reputation and user engagement by using subject lines, such as: “Gmail Customer Notice: Open if you missed yesterday’s special discount!” and “Help Teach Gmail to Like us. Give us a Star” – encouraging users to mark the mail as important and thereby increasing the probability of landing in the Priority Inbox. This vendor started using subject lines targeted to Gmail users at the end of February and stopped in April. During that time, their inbox placement rate jumped form 35.9% to 95%.