In the last decade, email marketing in India has grown by leaps and bounds. In the past, it was just your inbox and spam folders to be checked. Now, we have categorized tabs, such as inbox, social, and promotions, to look through. Helping with email categorization is a smart move by inbox service providers aiming to retain their customer base, which includes increasingly sophisticated digital citizens. It can be chaos to search through all your promotional, social, and personal emails to find the ones that matter most to you. It’s only natural to want to have something to lend a hand in this.
With the advent of artificial intelligence and machine learning, the task of email marketing has become a multifaceted endeavor. Marketers can no longer expect results by simply bombarding audiences with emails using a batch-an- blast strategy. Digital consumers want relevant communications from trusted brands. Therefore, brands must personalize the message, the time they send out their message, and the channel they use to send it out. This means marketers must do the work to understand their customers, build good databases to capture profiles and behaviors, and use the insights they derive in their communications.
Machine learning is already being widely used by Global ISPs such as Google (Gmail) and Microsoft (Outlook) to protect their brands and their mailbox user customer experiences. We see machine learning applied to SPAM filtering. This has been very well effective in categorizing different types of emails. From an email marketer’s perspective, the first hurdle to tackle is SPAM filtering by ISP. The algorithm for considering an email as SPAM is largely around sender behavior and subscriber engagement. ISP’s model SPAM filters based on Naïve Bayes algorithm. Naive Bayes classifiers are a collection of classification algorithms based on Bayes’ Theorem; which describes the probability of a feature, based on prior knowledge of conditions that might be related to that feature.
It is imperative for any email marketer to understand how ISP’s determine emails for inbox and other folders; and set the precedence to be categorized to reach customers inbox. Hence, one should contemplate on the factors, which will contribute to crowning oneself as a Solemn Email marketer.
The most important aspect determining good sender behavior is the subscriber list. This list should be an exclusive list of people who are expecting promotional emails from you. They could include customers who were your recent purchasers or people who have signed up or showed interest in your products. Most of the time, even after following best practices as a Sender, you may not reach the inbox of your customer, but can end up in other folders, such as promotional or social. The transition to inbox will take place with subscriber engagement, which is shown with the recipient opening and clicking through the email and spending time going through its content.
Unfortunately, too many digital marketers still do not recognize the importance of an apt subject line in their promotional email. It is crucial to attract the attention of your target customers with a relevant subject line. Today, this can be personalized based on your consumers’ interaction with you. Rich content will engage your target segment, and this will lead to more opens and click throughs and potentially lead to purchase and repeat purchase. A wrong or misleading subject line will only lead to a high unsubscribe rate and/or a high spam rate. These kinds of subscriber behavior will alarm the ISP’s, and they might be quick to mark a certain sender as spam. It is very easy to be marked as a spammer by ISP’s but a herculean task to get back on the right track. It requires a lot of thinking through and strategy to get back to the good books of ISP’s, starting from setting up proper feedback loop to whitelisting your IP.
Subscriber behavior is the next aspect, which helps ISP’s decide on setting the algorithms for spam filters. This includes actions taken by your contact list on receipt of the email. The actions can be categorized as positive actions and negative actions. Positive actions might include opening, clicking through, moving the email from promotions to inbox, adding to address book and so on. Whereas, negative actions, such as deleting the email, marking it as spam, or unsubscribing, will put the marketer in a bad light. ISP would make a note of such email senders, and very soon they are tagged as spammers.
If sender behavior and subscriber engagement are being taken care of, the email program performance metrics should be thriving. The next step from here would be to look at send time optimization (STO) and personalization. STO ensures that customers get your messages at the times when they’re most likely to engage, which can have a big positive impact on the campaigns you send. When marketers use send-time optimization they might see a 25% increase in engagement.
A recent study conducted by Demand Metric in partnership with ReturnPath saw read rates have increased by 2% YoY across industries in 2018. This increase can be attributed to the increased volume of informed and engaged customers online, use of impactful subject lines, and other efforts taken by marketers to reach the right customers at the right time.
For any business looking forward to reach customers through email marketing, ideally you should have a keen eye for subscriber activity and remain mindful of your send pattern along with your subscriber list. These three factors broadly define if one’s email reaches customers either the inbox or spam folder.
Ensure that your emails are going where you need them to go and that you respect your subscribers’ privacy with “Do More with Email Deliverability and Privacy.”