Digital Email Summit 2020 - Report
How to Build a Bridge – A Sender’s and Receiver’s Perspective
In a webinar in October 2020, as part of the CSA Digital Email Summit, Marcel Becker, Director Product at Verizon Media, Clea Moore, Consulting at Oracle CX Marketing, and Heather Goff, Director of Deliverability Strategy for Oracle Marketing Cloud, gave insights into the different perspectives of senders and receivers.
Why build bridges?
Both senders and receivers need email to stay viable, to be effective and to continue thrive. We have a shared responsibility to protect it and innovate around it because email is still the back bone of the digital economy. Almost all of consumer email is non-conversational (96%). A quarter of consumers use emails exclusively for shopping. We continue to buy (and sell) online because of email. Even given the growth and prominence of mobile messengers and chat apps, email adoption is expected to continue to grow in the next few years. The number of global email users is set to grow to 4.48 billion users in 2024 (Statista March 25 2020). This brings increased security concerns and growing expectations of more interactivity from consumers.
While the volume of emails sent dropped, engagement actually increased significantly since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020. This year, with life having moved online is such a large extent, the lead into advertising for the holiday season is expected to start in October 2020 already.
There has also been a shift in the industry with the current pressure to move forward with “digital becoming everything”, as Clea put it. ISPs and senders are talking more and making more of an effort to understand each other’s businesses. This is leading to really exciting developments.
Senders now have access to 1st and 3rd part data and have created smart data models which gives them better insights into how to better influence deliverability. At the same time, senders are trying to deal with challenges such as declining engagement rates and unsubscribe prompts in a constantly changing technical landscape. It’s hard for senders to get brands to adopt and invest in new technical standards, like BIMI and SCHEMA, without measurable benefits. With receivers like Yahoo and Gmail making it easier to unsubscribe from newsletters, it’s more important than ever to personalize email and make it relevant. “Personalized emails generate a median ROI of 122%", according to the Litmus State of Email Report Fall 2020.
The right metrics?
Heather questioned whether senders and receivers are looking at the right metrics. How ESPs and ISPs calculate engagement rates is often different, so having access to the data on open pixels is very helpful. This data can help brands to effectively diagnose if there is a deliverability issue or business conversion issue. The sender’s unique open rate by ISP and by day can give brands great insights, e.g. is an open rate is less than 3% or 4% at any given ISP, then the email is probably being sent direct to the junk folder. Then the sender knows to start looking at possible causes like reputation, targeting etc.. This open pixel rate isn’t always available. Measuring the ROI on email isn’t just about open rates and click rates, but also site visits and revenue per email.
From the receiver’s perspective, Marcel talked about his mission: Making sure that users get all of the email they want and that all the ones they don’t want are kept out. A whopping 90% of all email is unwanted and is blocked right on the MTA. The good guys unfortunately look like the bad guys (e.g. the spammers). Everyone is trying to compete with the user’s attention and email volume – and email fatigue – has been growing since the start of the pandemic. Many senders still treat emails like print marketing and that doesn’t appeal to users.
Senders often approach Verizon Media and ask for data on their open rates and click rates. However, when dealing with data, privacy is paramount. There is a jungle of different international laws and ideas on how to protect user’s privacy. It is a delicate balance deciding on which data can be shared with senders while still keeping users safe and secure and fulfilling their rightful expectation of privacy.
Shiny new features
“Shiny new features” such as AMP, SCHEMA and BIMI lead to greater user engagement due to a better, richer user experience. They also allow brands to deliver more relevant and more engaging content. In the end, though, these new features are just pieces of a larger puzzle. While receivers don’t like e.g. pixel tracking, Verizon Media has come up with more privacy-conscious ways of sharing useful engagement data with senders, like open rates. The new features are embraced by users, but Clea talks about the challenge of convincing senders and brands to adopt new features. The ROI is not always clear or compelling. This is where senders and receivers getting together to discuss their needs and talking about which data is relevant and useful is important. More information and data from receivers can help make the ROI for new features more tangible for senders.
Another area that senders and receivers could work better together is when it comes to subscriptions. ESPs are developing subscription views and unsubscribe prompts that give users a better overview of the email subscriptions that are cluttering their inboxes and make it easy for them to unsubscribe and delete old emails. This is a real challenge for email marketers as there are “so many ways for a user to say ‘no thank you’ to an email”, as Heather points out. But what if senders and receivers work together to highlight possible relevant and interesting subscriptions to users rather than just the option to unsubscribe? It could be an opportunity for both sides.
Marcel wonders whether senders are looking at the wrong KPIs. They interpret some of it in ways
which is not rooted in reality. Heather explains that, as a deliverability expert, she needs to look at certain metrics to be able to see trends and measure success. She needs to be able to advise Postmaster pages with sender specific data and educate her clients to focus on the most useful available metrics, such as open rates by ISP, by day.
Personalisation and privacy
While the trend is towards more personalisation in emails, this clashes with the growing preference among users – and lawmakers – for more privacy. Privacy laws are a challenge when trying to collect useful data. But they are a good thing and necessary to protect users. Both senders and receivers need to take a new look at old habits and come up with new ways of measuring things. Clea is hopeful that there will be a replacement metric for tracking pixels as more and more receivers block them. Without the data provided by this tracking, emails are just being sent out into the blind. Individualised data is necessary to build upon personalization opportunities. Of course, senders must adhere to deletion requirements and only storing the data they need and use. More communication between senders and receivers can allow them to explore what data can be shared in a privacy-conscious manner. They are serving the same customer and so have shared interests.