CSA Digital Email Summit 2020

Customer Expectations – Surprising Facts about the Reality in People’s Inboxes


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Customer Expectations – Surprising Facts about the Reality in People’s Inboxes

Dr. Conny Junghans – Expert Data-driven Products, 1&1 Mail & Media GmbH
Arne Allisat – Head of Mail Security, 1&1 Mail & Media GmbH

Every email is sent with a purpose. Whether an email is able to fulfil its purpose – good or bad – in the recipient’s inbox is up to all of us. We work hard to keep our customers’ inboxes free of harm and make them easy and quick to manage. After all, people usually don’t relish the time they spend in their inbox. Dr. Conny Junghans and Arne Allisat of 1&1 took the webinar participants through what they have learned about meeting customers’ expectations from their experience in handling millions of emails every day.

They also took a look at customer behaviour and explored how email service providers (ESPs) can contribute to making people fall back in love with email. After all, many users have their email addresses a lot longer than their car (though put much less thought into choosing their email service provider than their car dealer). They don’t want to think about email. It just needs to work. The whole ecosystem of senders, mailbox providers and ESPs are supposed to just work in the background – and make email work for users.

Have you declared email bankruptcy?

When asked how they manage their own private email accounts, 57% of the webinar participants said they use user-defined folders, 20% take an Inbox Zero approach, 48% use user-defined rules and filters, and 23% have declared email bankruptcy (they don’t check email regularly nor organise their inbox). The average user, though, takes a different approach. Less than 5% of 1&1 email users use user-defined folders and up to 50% let everything go into their inboxes or go for email bankruptcy. These are very different ways of using email with very different expectations.

What kind of emails are actually wanted?

A typical incoming stream of emails is made up of almost half of unwanted emails and spam, around a quarter are wanted non-commercial emails and wanted commercial emails make up the rest. When the wanted emails are broken down into categories, only a very small part are actual conversations. A single purchase can involve up to 5 emails nowadays and thus makes up another share of wanted emails, but are no longer relevant once the purchase has been completed. Around 60% of wanted emails are promotional newsletters.

Quickly find what you need, when you need it

1&1 wanted to develop a mailbox that serves the user’s needs by quickly retrieving relevant information and lets users spot new important emails immediately. When polled, the webinar participants preferred to have their newsletters in a dedicated folder (53%), with just 29% selecting their inbox and 18% going for both their inbox and in a dedicated folder. The 1&1 users, however, were split down the middle between wanting newsletters in their inbox and those who wanted them in a dedicated folder, with only a very small number wanting both. How to meet these opposing preferences?

Intelligent inbox and additional views

An option that is popular is allowing users to more easily unsubscribe from newsletters with just one click within the email client or browser tab. Interestingly, many users go on to unsubscribe from 2 or 3 further newsletters in the same session. Newsletters are also displayed in a separate view of the intelligent inbox and don’t fill up the main inbox. Thanks to this separation, users refrain from unsubscribing from too many newsletters that they are on the fence about.

1&1 also provides an additional view of orders. All emails related to an order are grouped in a metaview and display the current status of the order (rather than the individual emails) (this is much enhanced if the sender provides the information using schema.org markup). A further view groups emails related to contracts and subscription, e.g., all of the emails from your utilities company.

Help customers value their emails again by reducing spam

A lot of customers complain about the sheer number of spam and phishing emails they get and complain directly to their ESP. From an ESP perspective, it’s very hard to filter out phishing emails; particularly if senders don’t follow best practices to protect their brand by authenticating their emails with DMARC. Only 13% of incoming emails don’t even have DKIM. 52% use DKIM and 35% use DMARC to authenticate themselves. However, only 3% of domains use DMARC, so it’s only the very big brands who are authenticating themselves.

A large proportion of commercial emails that 1&1’s customers receive is unwanted; though not necessarily completely unsolicited. Signing up for sweepstakes and special deals online, etc., can result in opting in to receiving a lot of unwanted email (instead of the voucher that the user had hoped to win). The number one complaint from customers is that they have too much spam and advertising in their inboxes.

Less really is more

On average, 1&1 users received more than 13 emails a day in their inbox in 2019. The one-click unsubscribe option which is obligatory for CSA Senders makes it really easy for the ESP to let people unsubscribe from unwanted email. If a user marks a newsletter as spam and that email has one-click unsubscribe functionality, then the user is asked whether they want to unsubscribe rather than sending the email to spam (which impacts on the sender’s reputation).

A cleaner inbox leads to more engagement

Offering customers these tools to easily clean up their inboxes led to customers receiving on average 8 emails a day in their inbox after a year – and a lot less complaints about spam. Interestingly, people now read more of their emails (a 10% increase) now that they are not overwhelmed by an overflowing inbox. They are also more engaged with the emails they receive. Less really is more here.

Meeting customers’ expectations

Here meeting customers’ expectations means helping them getting rid of unwanted email; mainly by listening to customers and filtering out low reputation email. As an ISP, 1&1 also has expectations of senders. Help ISPs by doing the following:

  • Implement Schema.org
  • Offer one-click-unsubscribe
  • Measure and manage reputation & engagement
  • Implement DMARC and protect your sending domains
  • Access data (FBL, CSA-API, DMARC-reports)

It’s much easier for CSA senders to subscribe to feedback loops (FBL) and access reputation data through the CSA API. Of course, non-CSA senders can also receive FBL reports and just need to do a bit more configuration. 1&1 will also start sending aggregated DMARC reports later in 2021.

Senders can get help in implementing schema.org into their emails. They can register their online shop with 1&1 if they already use schema.org in their emails: https://postmaster.gmx.net/de/smartinbox.