Preparing for future deliverability changes: data is key

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Recent filtering changes at the ISPs, like the news of Hotmail using engagement data to filter e-mail at the individual level and Gmail's launch of a “priority” inbox that puts “important” messages at the top of the queue, are making many marketers unsure of their next move. ISPs tend to be a black box with what data and information they share which many find to be frustrating at best. Regardless of what the ISPs change, every marketer has data accessible to them now that can help them prepare for current and future changes. Here are just five examples of the data already available and how to use it.

Inactive subscribers

A recent Return Path study on inactive addresses showed that more than 87% of the companies we monitored continued to mail to inactive accounts, with inactive accounts being defined as subscribers who haven't clicked, opened or purchased in over 18 months. The definition of inactivity may differ depending on business goals, but look for correlations between things like e-mail inactivity (no clicks or opens) and a purchase or conversion. Once inactivity is defined, send a win-back campaign and dump the non-responders.

Inbox placement rate

Inbox placement rate is the percentage of e-mail that actually gets delivered to the inbox, minus messages that get filtered to the spam folder, go missing, or bounce. The only way to get this data is through seed-list based monitoring. Seed-list based monitoring remains important in the age of subscriber-level deliverability since it provides insight into how mail performs with the default, global spam filter settings at the ISPs.

Click rates

Not only are click rates important in helping to define inactive subscribers, it also highlights what subscribers like and what content they think is relevant. Track the URLs subscribers click on and the type of content they are seeking most. Tailoring content can further boost relevancy as well as open and click rates. If “share with your network” (SWYN) links are included, look at the click rates to see not only who the most engaged subscribers are, but also what they are sharing. Additionally, determine most engaged subscribers by looking at unique and total clicks. The bigger the difference, the better the content and call to action. Learn from this and replicate findings on future content. These will improve both reputation metrics and engagement rates, leading to better deliverability. 

Website activity

The analysis done on subscribers' website behavior can help predict what purchases subscribers will make and what they will think is relevant. This data is useful for e-mail as well. Look at how long subscribers remain on pages, when they typically visit, when they buy something, and when they don't. Since e-mail engagement is driven by relevancy, tailor content by looking at the top search keywords. Look for weekly and monthly trends and target e-mails accordingly. Combined with click data, web analytics can be a treasure trove of fresh content ideas that are relevant and desired by subscribers, again boosting engagement rates and reputation.

Complaint data

Analyze feedback loop complaints to see what subscribers dislike. Look at correlations between complaints and subscription age, frequency of e-mail, e-mail offer type, content, subject line, demographics, and data partners.  Once the culprit for high complaints has been found, adjust accordingly, such as mailing less frequently, or avoiding specific content and subject lines. Recent Return Path complaint analysis for a marketer found that complaints were more frequent from subscribers with more than 12 months of inactivity. The marketer used this data, along with their inactive subscriber analysis, to pre-empt complaints while keeping their mail delivering to the inbox.

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