Focus on ad:tech: Is E-Mail Deliverability Overrated?

One of this year's hot topics in e-mail marketing is delivery. Vendors are promoting new delivery capabilities, and you can read a different article about it daily. Given that 88 percent of all e-mail is delivered successfully, the ability to reach that remaining 12 percent is an opportunity. However, let's put it into perspective. E-mail marketing is no longer about getting your e-mail to consumer inboxes – it is about keeping it there.

Consumers respond to about one in 10 e-mails they receive each day. They also are deciding which e-mail stays in their inbox and what gets filtered or unsubscribed. Organizations that succeed in establishing and maintaining customer relationships using e-mail will have a competitive advantage.

The good news is that few of your competitors have changed their e-mail marketing practices in the past five years. They still send non-personalized, bulk e-mail. Studies vary, but it appears that only two out of 10 do even basic personalization such as salutation. Less than one out of 10 has implemented sophisticated programs leveraging CRM data and dynamic content.

So, while every marketer desires to send relevant and timely e-mail, most lack solutions that make doing this practical. E-mail marketing practices and platforms need to evolve from campaign-centric to customer-centric. Here are a few easy things to take that next step.

Clearly identify yourself by knowing your customer better. With phishing attacks on the rise, consumers can't assume the e-mail they get from you is in fact you, despite what the “from” and “subject” lines say.

Database marketers, please rise to the occasion and make e-mail content personalized so your readers know it is from you – and get increased revenue and profit as a reward. Remember, spammers won't send personalized content, as their business model doesn't support the cost of implementing database marketing methods.

Beware of cheap e-mail products. It is easy to use an e-mail blaster product, the market is full of them and you can't beat the price. Unfortunately, many of them lack basic opt-out ability and provide marketers with minimal visibility to delivery rates, frequency control and other advanced features that enable organizations to implement responsible e-mail practices.

Also, given the rise in e-mail marketing spending this year, marketers will get hit with a slew of “whiz bang” products offered by companies trying to make a quick buck. Choose a vendor committed to the long-term success of the e-mail channel.

Make multichannel programs a process, not an event. We will have succeeded when e-mail becomes a part of an integrated multichannel dialogue we have with customers. Use offline communications to make consumers aware of your online practices and the benefits of signing up. Don't speak to your customers just using e-mail. Get to know them better than that and watch your conversions increase and opt-outs drop.

Support e-mail authentication initiatives and ensure your e-mail complies. Spam is a problem because it is too easy to send e-mail. While new techniques like DomainKeys and SPF won't stop the more sophisticated spammers, they do help. They also raise the cost of spamming, the other key driver of spam. Look for new e-mail authentication solutions to come that also raise the cost of sending e-mail.

Implement a customer preferences page. Ensure every e-mail has a link to a preferences page. And get creative with the page itself: Ask customers for feedback, do surveys, display survey results, pitch new services and include offline preferences.

Make newsletters interactive. But keep them interesting and get your customers to view them as a way they can communicate with you. Note that interactive e-mail newsletters are a great way to stay in touch and make yourself accessible to your customers.

Be responsible and be proud of it. Educate customers about e-mail privacy, spam and security issues and what you are doing about it. Tell them about the new practices and technologies you have implemented to make them safe, show them how to change their preferences or opt-out of lists. Don't underestimate their ability to help or hinder your e-mail efforts.

Consumers ultimately control frequency. It is important that you know exactly how many e-mails your enterprise is sending to a customer. Ensure no individual receives too many e-mails as a result of different departments using the same lists or having the same individual on multiple lists. Consumers expect you to be more sophisticated than that, so if you don't control frequency, they will.

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