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Marketing 101: Getting email delivery right

Discovering the best way to reach target audiences has long been the marketers’ primary pursuit. From mobile and social media marketing to virtual and augmented reality, new avenues of communication have quickly become popular. However, there are some mediums that remain a staple of the marketing communications mix and continue to deliver value to both the marketer and customer. For example, email allows marketers to send highly-targeted messages to large audiences with minimum manual effort and cost, and its effectiveness has stood the test of time.

Like any other customer-facing technology, marketers must navigate a number of challenges with email before they can effectively and reliably reach the customer. When it comes to getting email delivery right, there are a number of considerations that marketers should seek to understand.

  • The history of deliverability

Success for marketers has always been about reaching the customer’s inbox with the best, most relevant content. In addition, marketers must also consider the technical requirements put in place by Internet Service Providers (ISPs), which dictate whether an email reaches the end destination. Deliverability success now refers to the creation of effective and replicable campaigns that will stand out from the crowd, offering valuable content for the consumer, rather than clogging up inboxes. It’s no longer enough for a marketer to spray and pray. There are several back and front-end processes required to reach the end destination and be seen, thanks to the rise of spam haunting ISPs and consumers alike.

  • The role of big data

In 2018, the total number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day will exceed 281 billion, a figure that is forecast to reach over 333 billion by 2022, according to The Radicati Group, Inc. With so many emails being sent, ISPs are leveraging big data to strengthen their inbox filters by capturing and analysing recipient behaviour and activity. This allows ISPs to determine what content is desired, and what is not – allowing them to better serve their customers and save them from unwanted content. Engagement metrics, such as the number of emails from a sender that are moved to trash, the level of interaction from a recipient with the email (opens and clicks), and if a sender has been added to the address book, help ISPs to determine the importance of the message to the recipient. Maintaining healthy rates should be considered a top priority by marketers.

  • Reputation matters

 Poor sender reputation is a key factor in failed email delivery. ISPs use sender reputation to rate senders and determine how well they are following the rules of the email game. While engagement metrics are becoming increasingly important, sender reputation is determined by several elements. These include technical requirements (DKIM and DMARC) and maintaining content-level compliance by balancing elements like HTML and image use and using the right subject line wording and footer information.

It is vital that marketers maintain a positive sender reputation to ensure the success of their email programs. To do so, tracking of engagement rates per email domain and ISP is critical. Seedlists and external monitoring tools can also help to identify and address email deliverability issues.

  • Get the basics right

Marketers need to be on the front foot when it comes to email deliverability. There is no point using email as a primary communication channel if deliverability is compromised. Start by correctly setting up your email sending infrastructure and implementing the right authentication mechanisms. Templates should be optimised by including footers with relevant privacy information, an easy unsubscribe process and information on how to add the sender to the address book.

Marketers can also avoid high unsubscribe and bounce rates or low engagement by setting up a database maintenance schedule that removes old or ill-maintained email addresses. Re-permissioning programs enable marketers to keep track of their contacts’ changing habits with regard to their preferred channel and make updates accordingly.

  • Overall: Be proactive

Being proactive also means keeping up to date with the latest email marketing trends such as advances in marketing automation, machine learning and artificial intelligence. Technologies that expand the marketer’s capacity to create highly-personalised campaigns are worth the investment. Not only do they improve the customer experience, they also allow for the development of insight-driven campaigns that improve reach and engagement.

Marketers today have to navigate a highly competitive marketplace alongside new technologies, and customer demand – which is centred around a desire to receive the right message, via the right channel, at the right time. In this market, the low labour and cost model of email marketing and the potential to deliver advanced, personalised and replicable results offers a considerably high ROI. With solid preparation and a proactive approach to deliverability, marketers can rely on email marketing to increase sales, improve customer satisfaction and overall business success. The key to success will be getting email delivery right; this includes understanding the challenges you’re up against and knowing how to overcome them through best practice.


Sebastian Kümmel, Professional Services Director, Emarsys.