Email: The Evolution of Deliverability

The more email changes, the more it stays the same

Email deliverability has evolved considerably during the past decade. It started out as a niche discipline based on personal relationships and brand recognition, then underwent a seismic shift as several factors made it a necessity for everyone who sends email of any significant volume. The advent of deliverability technology saw the next major change in the market and allowed senders to have an idea of where they stood—i.e., “Am I being called a spammer?”—from an Internet Service Provider (ISP) perspective. That brings us to today and the future: Deliverability is a one-to-one science based on individual consumer choice.

Why does the history of email deliverability matter to email marketers today and the decisions that they will make? The past gives us the foundational pieces necessary to build a strong base and the information needed to be on the cutting edge of marketing technology. Successful deliverability is a combination of infrastructure, reputation, marketing skill, metrics, engagement and the ability to see the future.

The ability to see the future may sound like a bonus, but there is a crystal ball element to deliverability that can hedge bets for future success. Let’s take a look back at the evolutionary story of deliverability and the things great marketers picked up along the way.

The Spam Wars
Our first stop is the humble beginning of deliverability. Spammers had started bombarding online service providers and ISPs alike with email traffic; if you remember what an AOL inbox looked like back in the day, you know what we’re talking about. It was tough to distinguish actual email from the spam.

This email overload brought about the “Postmaster,” an actual person who was in charge of controlling the flow of email. For early email marketers, this person was your best friend because of the ability to personally put you in the inbox with the click of a mouse. Brand recognition was also very important in this period. An up-and-coming brand stood a great chance of getting to the inbox simply because it was good business for providers to have them there. Content and readership weren’t tracked or important at this stage.

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