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How To Boost Deliverability: Lessons from Top Brands

Michael Becker
Michael Becker

Deliverability continues to be a key success factor for email campaigns. 

Recent advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning are helping marketing teams deliver more personalized emails that better reflect subscribers’ needs and interests.

But it all counts for nothing if these emails aren’t being delivered to those subscribers’ inboxes in the first place.

How Critical is Deliverability?

Research from Return Path’s 2017 Deliverability Benchmark Report showed that only 80% of promotional emails make it to the inbox, with the rest either being delivered to the spam or junk folders (6%), or not being accepted at all by mailbox providers (MBPs – 14%).

There are a set of key factors that determine deliverability success. These include:

  • Complaints
  • Unknown users
  • Spam traps
  • Authentication
  • Presence on whitelists and blacklists

These factors combine to determine an email program’s sender reputation, a critical piece of the deliverability mix.

Factors impacting sender reputation, & thus #emaildeliverability include complaints, spam traps, authentication & more, says @GuyHanson of @ReturnPath #EmailMarketing                            CLICK TO TWEET

Boost Sender Reputation for Better Deliverability

You can think of sender reputation like a credit score for email senders – it provides an indication of the trustworthiness of email programs, as seen by MBPs such as Microsoft, Yahoo and Gmail.

If you know the IP address your emails is being sent from, you can look up your program’s reputation metrics here. It’ll look something like this:

There is a clear relationship between sender reputation and inbox placement. Best-in-class senders should be aiming to consistently generate scores in the 90+ “band.”

To learn more about sender reputation, and how to improve your own program’s reputation metrics, download Return Path’s 2017 Senderscore Benchmark Report.

The importance of subscriber inbox behavior

Increasingly, some Mailbox Providers also consider a set of engagement metrics based on a subscriber’s’ inbox “behavior.”

Some of these actions are viewed positively, including:

  • Retrieving a wanted email from the spam/junk folder
  • Forwarding an email to another recipient

Senders should think about how they can intentionally influence these behaviors. Asda, a British supermarket retailer, invites their subscribers to share certain emails with others:

Other actions signal negative sentiment by users, and devalue a sender’s reputation. These include:

  • Deleting emails without opening them
  • Simply not opening/reading an email
  • Moving messages directly to the spam or junk folder

There is a broad range of factors that can influence each of these subscriber engagement metrics — many will be unique to individual email programs. Let’s look at a few other examples.

What are Leading Brands Doing Differently with Email?

Trainline (personalization)

Trainline makes regular use of personalization in its email communications.

Where it does, complaint rates (a negative metric) are lower and not spam rates (positive metric) are higher.

As a result, spam filtering rates for the personalized emails are 1/4 lower — correlating directly with higher read rates.

Spotify (location)

Spotify’s concert emails show distinct variances in performance depending on location of the concert.

Big locations (e.g. London) generate much higher forwarded rates (positive signal) than smaller locations.

As a result, spam filtering rates for the emails promoting concerts in larger locations are lower, and read rates are higher.

Firebox (tone-of-voice)

Firebox is well-known for the quirky tone of voice it uses in many of its emails.

Subscribers respond positively to its unique approach, with lower deleted unread rates (negative metric), and much lower complaint rates.

As a direct result, spam filtering rates for these emails are also much lower, resulting in higher read rates too.

Final Thoughts

Deliverability is a bewildering combination of science and art, and email program owners would be forgiven for throwing their hands up in the air and screaming “where do I even start?”

Isolate — and then mitigate — the factors that contribute to unsuccessful email deliveries, and focus on authenticity, value, and the delivery of legitimate, helpful content.

The ultimate victory for email marketing teams is for email providers to acknowledge you as a safe, reputable sender. In turn, your email program will receive preferential treatment with major mailbox providers and spam filtering vendors. You’ll soon achieve significantly higher inbox placement rates, which translate directly into improved program performance – and more revenue.

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