Artificial Intelligence and Your Inbox

Once upon a time, when I heard the phrase ‘AI’, I would immediately think of SkyNet, the self-aware computer determined to eradicate humanity in Terminator or the bio-engineered androids that were virtually identical to humans in the movie Blade Runner.

Flash forward several years, and AI is no longer something out of a science fiction story. Now, Artificial Intelligence is changing the way we do business. From workflow management tools to trend predictions, to even how brands purchase advertising (Google Adwords, PPC, etc.), AI is paving the way for innovation.

Consequently, it seems only fitting that AI is now helping to change the email marketing landscape.

Consider some recent statistics by the Radicati Group regarding email usage:

3.7 billion – the estimated number of email users worldwide.
269 billion – the estimated number of emails sent per day
2.4 million – the number of emails sent every second
74 trillion – the number of emails sent every year
49.7% – the percentage of emails that are spam

*source 

These figures are staggering. And while email still provides companies with the most bang for their marketing buck, this does raise a few questions. How do we, as marketers, break through all of the email noise and ensure we are communicating the right message to the right people, and at the right time?

Unfortunately with the economies of scale, many companies rely on semi-personalized email communications and batch and blast techniques, which unfortunately all but guarantees that their email ends of being part of the 135 billion spam emails sent each day. How can you make sure your organization’s emails make it through to the inbox?

Enter Artificial Intelligence.

If you think about all the applications that are now implementing and benefiting from AI, using it to enhance marketing and transaction email really is a no-brainer. However, there still seem to be some hurdles with organizations truly bracing the power of AI.

While the concept of AI and Email Marketing has been on the horizon for some time, many organizations while seeing it’s value are still relegating it to ‘back seat’ by essentially bolting it onto whatever legacy marketing platform they’ve implemented and grown accustomed to. While it certainly helps, they aren’t realizing the value that AI has to offer.

In order to see true success, AI must be front and center – driving marketing forward, not treated as an after-thought.

Join Us

Please join us on August 22nd for a joint webinar with our partner BlueShift where we will not only discuss how to use AI to strengthen your email marketing efforts, but provide you with a real-life success story presented by LendingTree who is realizing tremendous benefits by being on the cutting edge of AI in marketing.

Title: AI in the Inbox – How to Put AI in the Driver’s Seat of Your Marketing
Date: August 22, 2017
Time: 11 AM PST/2 PM EST

Space is limited so Register Now

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**Get the webinar replay with BounceX and learn more about why your email reputation matters.

A good reputation is built on trust, and trust takes time to build. In email, without the trust of both the ISPs and your subscribers, you aren’t going to be very successful. So, you might say a GOOD REPUTATION = SUCCESS. In this post, I’ll talk about what it takes to build a good email reputation and how you can maintain it.

What does it mean to have a “good” reputation in email?

Having a good reputation means you are a trusted sender. ISPs know you to be a marketer who follows the rules, and respects their users. Your subscribers know that you are tuned into what they want to receive and when they want it.

Why does your email reputation matter?

Without a good reputation, ISPs won’t trust your mail. That translates to deferrals, spam placement, and even blocks. Let’s face it, if your mail is going to the spam folder or getting blocked, then your subscribers aren’t getting it, and you’re missing out on a lot of revenue.

It’s also important to remember that how your subscribers perceive your mail is crucial. If you aren’t sending them relevant, timely content, then they may complain or unsubscribe. Not only do you lose that subscriber forever, but ISPs are using complaints as a key signal for how trustworthy you are as a sender. See where I’m going with this?

How do you build a good reputation?

A good reputation comes from following best practices, and being tuned-in to your subscribers’ needs. Key drivers at the ISP-level are: complaint rates, percentage of invalid addresses (hard bounces), delete-without-read rates, spam trap hits, and more.

The best way to control those metrics, that the ISPs use to determine your mailing reputation, is to focus on keeping your subscribers engaged and delighted. This involves a lot of data gathering and testing around what your subscribers like. The most important thing to keep in mind is that email is no longer one-size-fits-all. To truly build the trust of your subscribers and be successful, you need to focus on targeted content, rather than the traditional batch-and-blast campaigns that are no longer effective.

How do you maintain your email reputation?

A phrase I often hear associated with email reputation is “It takes a long time to build a good one, and a short amount of time to ruin it.” That couldn’t be more true. Just because you have built a good reputation, doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax! It’s important to stay on top of your program and to continue evolving in a positive way. Just because a subscriber signed up for your mail, doesn’t mean they will always want to receive it. Make sure you are constantly cleaning your list of unengaged subscribers. Ideally, you should try to re-engage those people first! With so many distractions in this digital age, you need to be able to send engaging content to the right people, at the right time. Personalization is key.

Building and maintaining your reputation isn’t easy. Having a reliable sending platform and a great deliverability team are an important component, and SparkPost can help.

Want to learn more about what drives email reputation? Get the replay on why “Email Reputation Matters“.

Clea Moore
SparkPost Deliverability Lead

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State of Email 2017

In our upcoming webinar, Your Role in the State of Email 2017, SparkPost’s VP of Deliverability, Kate Nowrouzi, and 250ok’s founder and CEO, Greg Kraios, discuss the importance of having a solid understanding of your role as an email marketer, and how the 3rd party vendors can help bridge the gap between ISPs and ESPs.

Senders can benefit from customizing their MTA traffic shaping configurations based on ISPs acceptance policies and make sure the proper authentications are in place to prevent phishing. But deliverability is equal part science and art.

Senders are finally beginning to embrace a core business value – happy users are a good thing. The key to a happy user is sending the right content, at the right time to the right person. They may think as long as their subscribers are not reporting spam, their IP/ domain reputation is safe. But what some marketers may not take into consideration is permission and the risk of hitting spam traps by sending to a purchased list. Major ISPs have their own internal trap database. Some take Spamhaus listings into consideration for blocking and inbox placement. Permission is a major factor in email marketing. It’s also illegal to send email without confirmed opt-in if you are sending to users outside the U.S. to places such as Canada or Germany.

Where SparkPost and 250ok excel above all others, is in collecting these sources of information and aggregating them for you. During the webinar, our speakers share helpful tips to guide you in understanding what you can and can’t see from the sending side. The opportunity for a good partnership boils down to providing visibility into the pieces of the email ecosystem that you don’t see. And together, when you combine all the data points, they represent a story. The data is either working together in concert or conflict, and it is your responsibility to know why.

So, register for The State of Email 2017 webinar and leave with these key takeaways:

  • Dispel common bad practices often used by email marketers.
  • Boost ROI by using the best path of deliverability and engagement.
  • Bridge the gap between mailbox providers, marketers, and email service providers.

~ Kate Nowrouzi

Kate is the Vice President of Global Email Deliverability at Sparkpost. She manages Deliverability and Compliance team and help Sparkpost Cloud customers achieve a high inbox rate through following email marketing best practices. A recognized authority on email deliverability and anti-spam practices, Kate worked for many years on the anti-abuse team at AOL and was also a network engineer at the pioneering ISP, UUNET/ Verizon. Kate currently serves as the co-chair for MAAWG’s Complaint Feedback Loop Committee, and she continues to be an active voice in the worldwide messaging community.

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OK, everyone! Are you a marketer? If not, please get up from your desk, stretch your legs, get a cup of coffee.

Still with me? Well, now that it’s just us marketers in the room, come closer. Shh— I want to talk about a dirty secret I bet a lot of us share.

We’ve heard a lot about the ubiquity of data and the power of personalization in marketing. We’ve admired (and maybe envied) some successful retailers or other businesses who’ve pioneered data-driven marketing and commerce. And, we all know we shouldn’t batch-and-blast our customers with unwanted email or shotgun marketing messages—but, gosh, it’s so easy.

On the other hand, cultivating a personalized relationship with a customer and giving them a reason to come back to you isn’t easy. It takes time, and it takes a willingness to pay attention to your customer as an individual. It sounds a lot like running an old-fashioned corner store, doesn’t it? Well, it kind of is. But in the online world, it also takes investment in the right sort of technology to be able to do it on a large scale.

Three things I learned about personalization 2.0

So, when we’re talking e-commerce, how do you move your marketing from batch-and-blast to individualization? SparkPost recently hosted a webinar about “Personalization 2.0” with Forrester Research’s Brendan Witcher and our own Jose Santa Ana. In the webinar, these experts shared their vision for Personalization 2.0: seamless customer engagement across an entire ecosystem of touch points.

I learned a lot listening to the webinar, but here are three particular take-aways I wanted to share about Personalization 2.0:

1. Consumers pay more for a brand that treats them as individuals.

Almost two-thirds (62%) of consumers will pay more and recommend a brand that provides a more personalized experience. That sounds like a really big number, but think back to the last brand that sent you relevant, wanted content. Chances are you’re still buying from them, right?

2. It’s all about the data.

Individualizing customer experiences is impossible without the right customer data. Investing in technologies that provide real-time access to customer data is a must to achieve Personalization 2.0. But it’s not all about spending money on the latest-and-greatest. This change is as much a mindset as it is a technology hurdle. It means designing your digital touch points right from the start with the idea of using and collecting data so as to create a more complete view of your customer.

3. Don’t boil the ocean!

But, remember, Personalization 2.0 is an end goal and a journey. It takes work—you should continually work towards it, but you’ll need to start small and build up. A good starting point is to invest in one mature, data-rich channel (hint hint: email!) and then continually integrate other channels to eventually grow into individualization.

Creating content and experiences that your customers find relevant isn’t easy. It takes a commitment to investing time and money into building out technology and processes to create a richer view of your customer—but it’s really worth it. It’s simple: when brands treat customers like royalty, customers reward brands with loyalty.

What’s been your experience with Personalization 2.0? I’d love to hear from you.

Bonus: Upcoming Webinar

And, by the way, I’d like to invite you to an upcoming webinar. Join us on January 26 for a lightning round of 2016 predictions as 10 (count ’em, 10!) email experts go head to head. It’s going to be a great chance to capitalize on what’s coming in our industry—and maybe to have a little fun, too. Register today!

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It’s Marketing 101: getting the right message to the right customer at the right time. As marketers, we think about that in display advertising, we think about it in media placements, and of course we should think about it in email marketing, too.

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When it comes to marketing in different international markets, that rule applies doubly. But, let’s face it, for a lot of us, sending email outside of the U.S. and Canada is an intimidating prospect. Too many email marketers try to guess at the privacy regulations, ISP rules, language preferences, and even time zones of their customers. And some email marketers don’t even try. They either avoid international marketing like the plague or—even worse—they ride roughshod over these important issues.

Let’s make this real for a moment. Imagine living in China, and getting email alerts at all hours of the night because marketers in North America either overlook or don’t care about the fact that you’re trying to get some sleep. Would you really want to keep engaging with that company? No! In fact, this very issue has become such a problem that many Chinese ISPs have begun to limit the amount of messages they accept at certain times to avoid their customers being woken up by late-night emails.

So what are email marketers to do? A great place to start is “Your Passport to Global Email Marketing Success,” a recent webinar SparkPost hosted with Dennis Dayman of Return Path and our own Len Shneyder. Dennis and Len shared tried-and-true best practices and forward-looking ideas for sending email outside of North America. The webinar was chock full of great information, and I definitely encourage you to check it out.

I personally was struck by a few questions from the audience that came up during the webinar Q&A. Here’s my take on the what email marketers are asking about sending messages to markets around the world.

1. How do I deal with opt-outs internationally? Is there CAN-SPAM or something similar outside of the U.S.?

Yes. To start, there is CASL, Canada’s ground-breaking anti-spam legislation. You definitely need to read up on that if you are sending email to Canada. (It goes without saying that SparkPost has your back on this one. We recently hosted a fantastic webinar about the ins-and-outs of CASL.) CASL is significant, but many other countries have their own privacy regulations that also require opt-out, such like the EU Data protection directive. Long story short, do your research before you send!

2. How much time can pass between an opt-out request and when it should take effect?

In the world of relevant and modern marketing tools, opt-outs should take effect immediately. There is no reason for delay, and every email you send after a customer has opted out could be a serious black mark on the recipient’s view of your brand. Having said that, you are afforded a grace period of 10 days or so in many national email regulations (though details may vary).

3. What’s the best time of day and day of week to send emails? Does it vary country to country?

Test! Test! Test! We can’t emphasize this enough. There’s no such thing as the perfect time of day—your recipients change, demographics change, who’s receiving it changes, and the importance they attach to it changes. All these things change and are testable!

4. Do I really need to use double opt-in for an international email list?

Yes. Email best practices dictate that double opt-in or confirmed opt-in is the right thing to do. Remember that in many markets, both customer expectations and regulatory policies require much more diligence than the relatively laissez-faire approach to opt-in and list buying that some marketers have taken in the past.

5. How do I keep on top of the changes taking place around the world and different worldwide email regulations?

Several organizations are great resources for staying on top of email marketing best practices around the world. Every email marketer should start following their social media feeds or newsletters—or even consider joining them as a formal member.

Though sending email outside of North America takes care and awareness of audience expectations and international regulatory issues, with the right information, it can be done! Check out the resources I highlighted in this post, and you’ll have a great start to planning a successful international email marketing strategy.

What’s been your experience with international email marketing? I’d love to hear from you. And do check out our “Your Passport to Global Email Marketing Success” webinar. I think you’ll enjoy it as much as I did.

According to a 2014 review by Forrester, a shocking 96% of email campaigns failed in one way or another in creating a satisfying user experience. Studies have shown that email marketing continues to be the foundation of the digital marketing toolkit, achieving the highest ROI among other marketing tactics. Yet, Forrester’s report shows that there is still plenty of room for improvement.

To that end, Message Systems is pleased to present the How to Get the Most Out of Your Email Campaign webinar on July 29 to share tips for  businesses to maximize their email marketing opportunity. Our guest speaker will be Forrester VP and Principal Analyst, Shar VanBoskirk, a leading expert on how businesses can leverage interactive marketing channels and technologies to drive sales and deepen customer relationships. During her 12 years with Forrester, Shar has been instrumental in the development of many of the company’s interactive marketing program evaluation methodologies, training courses, and marketing planning tools; and has also been part of Forrester’s sales and consulting organizations. Shar will be joined by co-speaker Jose Santa Ana, Message Systems Director of Product Marketing.

Topics in this webinar will include:

  • Current consumer attitudes toward email marketing
  • How marketers can respond to end user needs
  • Where existing email programs fall short
  • How to increase engagement and email ROI

During Forrester’s email campaigns review, it was discovered that the biggest pain points across the board were the subscription process, sharing capabilities, mobile format support, and preference management. While retail and consumer goods emails lead other industries, each industry has a specific area to focus on to continue improving user experience. Register for the webinar today for case studies, actionable insights and more information on creating a successful email campaign!

Can’t wait for the July 29 webinar? Here’s a little something to tide you over… Check out the Sidestep Message Fatigue Across Email, SMS and Push Alerts webinar presented by Michael Boland, Senior Analyst & Vice President of Content at BIA/Kelsey and Cindy Krum, Founder / CEO of MobileMoxie. Learn how to leverage cross-channel to win customers without wearing them out!

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Email guru David Daniel’s recently published white paper on the differing impact of marketing efforts based on email technology used is exciting to all marketers for a number of reasons.

One of these reasons is that it provides a really in-depth look on the types of challenges marketers face when using an email service provider versus an enterprise email solution (or on-premise email solution).

top-challenges

Across the board, marketers experience fewer challenges with an enterprise email solution. Only on the question of creative content development did respondents report better results with outsourced solutions, and then by only a single percentage point margin.

What’s really eye popping is the huge gap in terms of the extent of the challenges facing marketers. While not much difference exists between knowledge for optimizing marketing and creative content development, the percentages demonstrate how much more value marketers are getting from an enterprise email solution versus an email service provider.

Percentage Gap In Challenges Experienced by Marketers Using An Email Service Provider

  • Lack of data security: +11%
  • Adequate staff to manage email: +10%
  • Adequate IT support: +10%
  • Analyzing campaign results: +9%
  • List turnover subscriber churn: +9%
  • Email deliverability: +7%
  • Automate campaigns: +5%
  • Lack of budget: +4%

So, we can see that the area where enterprise email solutions are really having the most impact is in terms of security, manpower deployment, analytics and the dread customer churn. That’s a lot of cumulative areas that could add up to improving your ROI and getting that lead to convert.

Another interesting point to note is the difference in the top three challenges experienced by marketers using different solutions.

Top 3 Challenges for marketers using email service providers:

  • Analyzing campaign results: 25%
  • Ability to automate campaigns: 24%
  • Adequate staff to manage email: 24%

Top 3 Challenges for marketers using enterprise email solutions:

  • Knowledge to optimize marketing: 21%
  • Ability to automate campaigns: 19%
  • Creative content development / analyze campaign results: 16%

While both parties identified analytics and automation, these were much bigger problems for marketers using email service providers. In contrast, it is possible to surmise from the results that marketers using enterprise email solutions were focusing more on challenges to deal with optimizing content and marketing as their technology was working more effectively for them in all other areas.

Do you agree with the results? How are enterprise email solutions working better for you? We’d love to hear from you in the comments section.

(This is the third part of a series on the Unlock the Potential of Email Marketing webinar, which presents findings from a survey of 400 email marketing professionals.

Part 1: Three Email Marketing Metrics You Need To Measure
Part 2: Three Reasons Why Email Marketers Turn To In-House Email Solutions)