Image suppression holds threats and opportunities for marketers

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When the Messaging Anti-Abuse and Anti-Phishing Working Groups banded together last summer to ratify image suppression as an industry best practice, it signified the beginning of a tectonic shift.

To help assess the impact of blocked images, Epsilon commissioned research firm GfK NOP to field a consumer survey. Some of the largest and most popular providers like AOL, Outlook and Gmail have already implemented inbox image suppression. In fact, 65 percent of those surveyed said they encountered at least some e-mail with images suppressed.

With the introduction of image suppression at Yahoo Mail, and transition of MSN users to Microsoft's own new Web mail service Windows Live Hotmail, there's no doubt that this number is growing.

But image suppression has the potential to enhance the performance of e-mail communication initiatives. For example, many marketers are realizing unprecedented revenue and return on investment through the channel precisely because they have been forced to tackle complex deliverability challenges like authentication, complaint-rate mitigation and list hygiene.

Similarly, inbox image suppression will force marketers to give the fine art of specialized e-mail design and rendering optimization the respect that it has always deserved. The net effect: Better quality e-mail programs with more appreciative subscribers.

As our study showed, 94 percent of consumers will, at least on some occasions, activate suppressed images, and their propensity to do so is directly tied to the depth of their relationship with the sender. Marketers must fully leverage customer insight and data to craft relevant, valuable e-mail.

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