How to Build a Bridge – A Sender’s and Receiver’s Perspective
For email to continue to thrive as a communication medium, both senders and receivers need to consider each other’s perspective. Marcel Becker, Verizon, Clea Moore and Heather Goff, Oracle, look at how to bridge the current gaps.
Marcel, Clea and Heather spoke on this topic as the CSA Email Summit 2020.
Why build bridges?
Both senders and receivers need email to stay viable, to be effective and to continue to thrive. We have a shared responsibility to protect it and innovate around it because email is still the backbone of the digital economy. Almost all of consumer email is non-conversational (96%). A quarter of consumers use emails exclusively for shopping. We continue to buy (and sell) online because of email. Even given the growth and prominence of mobile messengers and chat apps, email adoption is expected to continue to grow in the next few years. The number of global email users is set to rise to 4.48 billion users in 2024 (Statista, 25 March 2020). This brings increased security concerns and growing expectations of more interactivity from consumers.
While the volume of emails sent dropped, engagement actually increased significantly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. This year, with life having moved online to such a large extent, the lead into advertising for the holiday season started in October 2020 already.
There has also been a shift in the industry with the current pressure to move forward with “digital becoming everything”. ISPs and senders are talking more and making more of an effort to understand each other’s businesses. This is leading to really exciting developments.
Senders now have access to 1st and 3rd part data and have created smart data models which gives them better insights into how to influence deliverability better. At the same time, senders are trying to deal with challenges such as declining engagement rates and unsubscribe prompts in a constantly changing technical landscape. It’s hard for senders to get brands to adopt and invest in new technical standards, like BIMI and SCHEMA, without a clear way to measure benefits. With receivers like Yahoo and Gmail making it easier to unsubscribe from newsletters, it is more important than ever to personalize email and make it relevant. “Personalized emails generate a median ROI of 122%”, according to the Litmus State of Email Report Fall 2020.
The right metrics?
Senders and receivers do not always look at the same metrics. How ESPs and ISPs calculate engagement rates is often different, so having access to the data on open pixels is very helpful. This data can help brands to effectively diagnose if there is a deliverability issue or business conversion issue. The sender’s unique open rate by ISP and by day can give brands great insights. For example, if an open rate is less than 3% or 4% at any given ISP, then the email is probably being sent direct to the junk folder. Then the sender knows to start looking at possible causes like reputation, targeting etc. This pixel-based open rate, however, is not really accurate and might not be available in the future. That is why measuring the ROI on email is not just about open rates and click rates, but also site visits and revenue per email.
From the receiver’s perspective, their mission is to ensure that users get all of the emails they want and that all the ones they do not want are kept out. A whopping 90% of all emails is unwanted and is blocked right on the MTA. The good guys (responsible senders) unfortunately can look just like the bad guys (spammers). Everyone is trying to compete with the user’s attention, and email volume – and email fatigue – has been growing since the start of the pandemic. Many senders still treat emails like print marketing, and that does not appeal to users.
Senders often approach receivers and ask for data on their open rates and click rates. However, when dealing with data, privacy is paramount. There is a jungle of different international laws and ideas on how to protect user’s privacy. It is a delicate balance deciding on which data can be shared with senders while still keeping users safe and secure and fulfilling their rightful expectation of privacy.
Shiny new features
“Shiny new features” such as AMP, SCHEMA and BIMI lead to greater user engagement due to a better, richer user experience. They also allow brands to deliver more relevant and more engaging content. In the end, though, these new features are just pieces of a larger puzzle. It can be a challenge to convince senders and brands to adopt new features, as the ROI is not always clear or compelling. This is where senders and receivers getting together to discuss their needs and talking about which data is relevant and useful is important. More information and data from receivers can help make the ROI for new features more tangible for senders.
Another area that senders and receivers could work better together is when it comes to subscriptions. ISPs are developing subscription views and unsubscribe prompts that give users a better overview of the email subscriptions that are cluttering their inboxes and make it easy for them to unsubscribe and delete old emails. This is a real challenge for email marketers as there are so many ways for a user to say ‘no thank you’ to an email. But what if senders and receivers work together to highlight possible relevant and interesting subscriptions to users rather than just the option to unsubscribe? It could be an opportunity for both sides.
Personalization and privacy
While the trend is towards more personalization in emails, this clashes with the growing preference among users – and lawmakers – for more privacy. Privacy laws are a challenge when trying to collect useful data. But they are a good thing and necessary to protect users. Both senders and receivers need to take a new look at old habits and come up with new ways of measuring things. Hopefully, there will be a replacement metric for tracking pixels as more and more receivers block them. Without the data provided by this tracking, emails are just being sent out in the blind. Individualized data is necessary to build upon personalization opportunities. Of course, senders must adhere to deletion requirements and only storing the data they need and use.
More communication between senders and receivers can allow them to explore what data can be shared in a privacy-conscious manner and how. In the end, they are serving the same customer and so have shared interests.
Marcel Becker is Product Director with the Verizon Media Group. Marcel is driving business and product requirements for email deliverability and anti-abuse efforts for all consumer mail products (Yahoo, AOL, Verizon) under the Verizon umbrella. He is also leading initiatives for next generation consumer email experiences. Before Verizon, Marcel was responsible for Alto Mail and AOL’s Email and international products, supporting its international expansion.
Clea Moore is a senior strategy consultant on the Oracle CXM Email Deliverability Services team. She began her career in email by supporting mailbox provider partnerships at Return Path, and helped to build the deliverability team at SparkPost, before joining Oracle. With over a decade of experience in email deliverability, she helps her clients find the right balance between risk and reward for their email programs, so they can grow their businesses quickly and safely. She has experience supporting brands in a variety of verticals, including retail, luxury retail, travel, tech, and financial services. Clea is a regular blog contributor and has hosted several webinars.
Heather P. Goff, Director of Deliverability Strategy with Oracle Marketing Cloud. Heather partners with clients via consulting engagements to identify and prioritize strategies to achieve business objectives, email deliverability success and legislative compliance. Heather’s differentiator is that she balances risk mitigation of blocking and filtering with business gains. Heather is active in the broader Deliverability community as a participating member of the Email Sender & Provider Coalition (ESPC) and the Messaging, Malware and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group (M3AAWG).
Please note: The opinions expressed in Industry Insights published by dotmagazine are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of the publisher, eco – Association of the Internet Industry.