Return Path

Tom Sather is Return Path’s senior director of email research. Tom uses his knowledge of ISPs, spam filters and deliverability rules to advise marketers on how to get their email delivered to the inbox. He began his Return Path career as an email deliverability consultant working with top-brand clients like eBay, MySpace, IBM and Twitter. Tom’s previous experience includes roles with email service provider Experian and on the abuse desks for AOL, Bellsouth, AT&T and GTE.

Phishing attacks are becoming more sophisticated and more common. Recent analysis reveals that an increasing amount of potentially fraudulent email is attributed to prominent global brands across a spectrum of industries. In addition to posing security risks and eroding consumer trust, email fraud may threaten targeted brands' ability to reach their customers.

Most marketers know by now that welcome emails are not a luxury, but a necessity — and yet a number of prominent brands may be missing their opportunity to make a first impression. A recent report by Return Path showed that only 75 of the top 100 retail companies employed a welcome email of any kind (only three of those had a comprehensive welcome series!). Here's how to improve your email marketing program by employing and analyzing smart welcome messages:

What is one of the biggest challenges for email marketers? Deliverability. Do your emails get delivered to the primary inbox, show up in a bulk or spam folder, or does an ISP silently delete them?

Most email sent today is junk, at least according to recent research Return Path conducted, which showed that nearly two-thirds of all messages came from the least reputable senders in the world (aka spammers). With that being the case, why are most inboxes relatively spam free? Just like colleges do with applicants' transcripts, mailbox providers consider a sender's reputation to decide whether or not to accept incoming mail. Mailbox providers outright reject 72% of messages sent to their users, at least partly based on sender reputation, keeping the inbox free of undesired email.

During the winter holidays, there is a fierce competition for attention in the inbox. Many marketers' first inclination is to increase their sending frequency in order to outmuscle other brands for mindshare, but is that the best option? While this tactic can increase your presence in the inbox it can also harm your email program by annoying your customers. Turning off prospective buyers isn't the biggest risk, either; generating more complaints can signal to mailbox providers that your messages are unwelcome, pushing them to reevaluate your sending reputation and potentially delivering your email to the spam folder.

Just like Santa, mailbox providers have their own "Naughty" and "Nice" lists: blacklists and whitelists. As we head into the holiday shopping season, email marketers should begin the process to ensure that they make it to the right list and stay off the other. 

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