Marketers Ready to Test CertifiedEmail

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Marketers like Petco and KeyBank expect better deliverability into inboxes and more flexibility with e-mail promotions as they sign on to the new Goodmail CertifiedEmail accreditation technology.

KeyBank, a customer of e-mail service provider Responsys, Redwood City, CA, is testing CertifiedEmail for some of its e-mails in an effort to safeguard its customers better, said Daniel Tyrpak, channel manager of KeyBank, Cleveland.

"The test will show if this new service will help distinguish authentic communications from fraudulent scams and can provide an extra layer of security for our customers," he said.

Acceptance from marketers like Petco and KeyBank that now say they will test the system departs sharply from e-mail senders' concerns earlier this year when AOL said it planned to launch CertifiedEmail. Marketers then balked at the cost for the voluntary accreditation system, which Goodmail Systems, Mountain View, CA, estimates at 0.25 to 0.5 cents per e-mail.

AOL officially began accepting e-mails with the CertifiedEmail icon this month. Goodmail last week said it signed 15 of the top 25 e-mail service providers for CertifiedEmail. Yahoo has said it will implement CertifiedEmail for transactional messages, and other Internet service providers are talking to e-mail marketers about the value of the technology.

AOL executives have said they want to give senders assurance that their graphics and links are delivered to AOL inboxes and that consumers know the messages with the CertifiedEmail icon are legitimate, and not phishing scams or spam.

ESPs Bluestreak, Acxiom Digital, Epsilon Interactive, ExactTarget, e-Dialog, Harte-Hanks Postfuture, Responsys, Silverpop, Premier Global Services, Exmplar, SmartDM, TailoredMail, Yesmail, Whatcounts and Zustek signed up with Goodmail.

"We think that sender adoption is clearly moving in a positive direction," AOL spokesman Nicholas J. Graham said after the ESPs signed on.

These ESPs represent about 50 billion e-mail messages a year, said John Ouren, senior vice president of sales and business development at Goodmail.

Petco, which has 760 pet supply stores nationwide and the e-commerce site at www.petco.com, said it would start testing CertifiedEmail through Responsys and Goodmail.

"We want to ensure our e-mail messages are presented to our customers as authentic and safe to open," said John Lazarchic, vice president of e-commerce at Petco, San Diego. "We are anticipating the Goodmail service will give that added layer of protection and peace of mind that our customers would like to see."

Several other large retail and financial e-mail senders that are Responsys clients also will test CertifiedEmail, the ESP said.

"Retailers have a tremendous amount of noise in the inbox," said Heather Palmer Goff, director of ISP relations and deliverability for Responsys. "The [CertifiedEmail] icon sets their e-mails apart from others."

Commercial e-mail senders who sign up by June 30 with Goodmail can test CertifiedEmail for free for three months. They also get discounts over the next two years.

Ulta, a Romeoville, IL, beauty retailer with 165 bricks-and-mortar stores and an e-commerce site at www.ulta.com, said it would test CertifiedEmail. It is working with ESP ExactTarget, Indianapolis, and Goodmail.

Marta Temmer, project manager for Ulta.com, thinks the company will see better delivery rates and sales because the retailer will be able to include certain products and offers in its e-mail subject lines. In its weekly promotional e-mail to its customer database, Ulta.com now can use the names "Britney Spears" and "Jessica Simpson" to promote the celebrities' fragrances sold on the site. ISP spam filters typically pick out e-mails with those names, she said.

"We want to make sure relevant information gets through ... and get some credibility behind us that we're complying with CAN-SPAM policies," she said.

Ulta also will be able to use phrases and punctuation such as "Free Shipping!" that typically are considered spam by filters.

"As a retailer, you're going to use promotional language from time to time," said Chip House, vice president of privacy and deliverability for ExactTarget. "For a marketer [allowed to use the language], that could mean a difference of 5 to 10 percent in their response rates."

ExactTarget plans ROI tests of e-mail campaigns sent using CertifiedEmail and campaigns not using it.

Along with flexibility in language, the "unspoofable" CertifiedEmail icon in inboxes likely will produce better response rates, Mr. House said.

Though Goodmail CertifiedEmail has been controversial, it serves as an incentive for legitimate senders to send more relevant e-mail.

"There haven't been a lot of disincentives for irresponsible marketers," Mr. House said. "Goodmail may be one of the first legitimate carrots out there to drive good behaviors out of legitimate e-mail senders."

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