Key Success Factors for Email Marketing

Theo Noel | Regional Director - APAC | Return Path

Theo NoelWhen it comes to retail marketing, email reigns supreme. While it’s not as flashy or as viral as other forms of digital marketing, email still offers high return on investment.

But email marketing’s impact goes beyond just revenue. It helps support business goals – increasing lead generation, improving brand awareness, improving data quality, and increasing website traffic. Though email marketing can be one of the most effective tactics for reaching these  goals, many retail marketers struggle to run a successful email program.

But it can be done. The basic rules are comparatively straightforward. In this article we outline seven key success factors for valuable email marketing.

Your reputation is critical to reaching the inbox

Successful emailers make sure the messages consumers really want are delivered to the inbox, and unsolicited messages and spam are not. Just like banks use a credit score to make lending decisions, mailbox providers consider your sender reputation when determining whether your messages are legitimate and should be delivered to the inbox. A poor reputation will land your messages in the spam folder.

Electronic Mail

There are many factors that contribute to your sender reputation. Luckily, the most important factors are within your ability to control and correct:

• Create a reason to engage
• Understand and track engagement
• Find the right frequency to boost ROI
• List quality is essential for Inbox placement
• Spam Complaints damage reputation and deliverability
• Avoid Blacklists
• Take advantage of Whitelists.

The following factors can help you run more successful email marketing campaigns.

1 Create a reason to engage

Your email messages are not the only ones your customers receive. There is a lot of competition, so creating an engaging experience is critical not only to protect your deliverability, but also to stand out in the inbox. Below are four tactics to help you increase and maintain subscriber engagement.

On-boarding : The easiest time to build engagement is at the beginning of the relationship. A consumer who chooses to receive your email is actively expressing interest in your brand and your products. Take advantage of this enthusiasm—start engaging them right away.

Send a confirmation : Confirmation—or opt-in—emails not only help spark engagement, they also serve as a way to maintain a clean list. By sending a confirmation email, you are able to verify that the address belongs to an active user and ensure you have permission to continue emailing them.

Welcome messages : Whether it is a simple “Thank you for subscribing” message or a multipart series highlighting the different benefits and content subscribers can expect, the goal is to start off strong.

Test everything : Email allows you to test and optimise all the elements of your campaign.

2 Understand and track engagement

Mailbox providers determine engagement based on how a recipient is interacting with their mailbox. Do they ever access their mailbox? Do they read and take action on your messages or do they ignore your content? Worse yet, do they actively complain about your messages?

Continuing to email subscribers who are not engaged with your program will not only hurt your engagement metrics, it will impact your reputation and therefore your deliverability. These categories allow us to help our customers identify which subscribers to focus on and which to remove to protect their program.

3 Find the right frequency to boost ROI

Since every email has the potential to drive sales, sending more email should result in higher ROI, right? Unfortunately, that’s not quite how it works. Your optimal sending frequency requires a delicate balance between over-mailing and under-mailing. When you mail too much, you risk subscribers tuning out and ignoring you or you risk annoying your subscribers to the point of higher unsubscribes and spam complaints. Mail too little, and you risk getting overlooked in a subscriber’s bulging inbox, your subscribers forgetting your brand, or why they signed up.

Neither of those situations are ideal. To find your frequency sweet spot—just as you should for any other element of your program—you need to test.

4 List quality is essential for inbox placement

While every retailer would like to have a huge list of loyal, engaged customers, quality is much more important than quantity when it comes to your email list. List quality is the second major factor mailbox providers assess when deciding whether to deliver your messages to the inbox or the spam folder. To protect the quality of your email list, you need to constantly monitor your list to identify and remove any unknown users, spam traps, and inactive subscribers.

5 Spam complaints damage

reputation and deliverability Poor email reviews, in the form of complaints, can be damaging to both ROI and your brand’s overall image. Receiving a complaint from a user not only damages that customer relationship, but it also impacts a brand’s reputation as a sender.

Complaints begin to impact your sending reputation if your email complaint rate exceeds 0.1 per cent. It is crucial to have a strategy in place to immediately handle complaints when they occur. One of the best ways to do this is by using feedback loops.

Feedback loops provide a way to identify and remove subscribers who complain about email they receive via the “This is Junk/ Spam” button. Subscribers can complain for a number of reasons at different points in the sales cycle. If complaints happen early in the subscriber relationship, it could be that they didn’t intend to sign up for your email program, or don’t remember doing so.

6 Avoid Blacklists

A blacklist is a list of domains and IP addresses reported to be known sources of spam. Retailers can land on a blacklist for many of the same reasons that cause damage to their reputation—spammy behaviour.

To prevent your brand from landing on a blacklist:

• Collect clean data. Avoid buying and renting email lists.
• Monitor and remove spam traps.
• Remove any inactive subscribers who have not responded to a re-engagement campaign, as these have the potential to become recycled spam traps.

7 Take advantage of Whitelists

A whitelist is a list of senders that have proven themselves to employ best practices, and as a result, are rewarded with a few perks. The perks differ depending on the whitelist and the mailbox provider, but typically they include less stringent spam filtering and consequently higher inbox placement rates.

In addition to whitelist services for specific mailbox providers, there are a few deliverability companies that offer a whitelist service that provides enhanced benefits across multiple mailbox providers. While senders with great sending reputations do see high inbox placement, whitelisting services help increase and protect inbox placement—particularly around crucial times like the holiday season.

Return Path analyses the world’s largest collection of email data to show businesses how to stay connected to their audiences and strengthen their customer engagement. Our data solutions help analysts understand consumer behaviour and market trends. We help mailbox providers around the world deliver great user experiences and build trust in email by ensuring that wanted messages reach the inbox while spam doesn’t.

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