What All This New Talk of Engagement Means for Email Marketers
Two announcements a day apart during the last week of August — one each from Microsoft and Google — sent waves of anxiety through email marketers everywhere. Now, after a few days of consideration and testing, many email marketers have come to view the recent engagement data (Microsoft) and inbox management tool (Google) announcements as a big opportunity.
While very different measures, both announcements are driven by the mailbox provider’s desire to reduce false positives (messages blocked or sent to junk that should have been sent to the inbox), a key performance measure for all mailbox-provider postmasters.
Marketers must act quickly to improve relevancy in order to continue to reach the inbox — and earn a positive return on investment from email marketing. Consider the following:
1. New engagement metrics introduced by Hotmail. The biggest change is that Microsoft allowed Return Path (full disclosure: I work for Return Path) to announce that Hotmail will now start using new “engagement” metrics as part of sender reputation scoring. Now, if subscribers interact or “engage” with a message, it will go into the inbox for that user, despite what the global reputation score is for the sender.
In addition, Hotmail will send certified email into inboxes, even in cases where subscribers aren't interacting with the messages (qualifying for certification will override the engagement metrics). [Disclosure: Return Path provides certification services to Microsoft for all of its email services.]
For mailbox providers, the term “engagement” means that subscribers are active in their inbox — they log in, they respond to messages, they aren’t just using this mailbox to hide from unwanted marketing, etc. Clicks are not a measure that Hotmail is using, but it is looking at a large number of metrics, including the following:
- messages read, then deleted;
- messages deleted without being read;
- messages replied to; and
- frequency of receiving and reading a message from a source.
For senders who have strong subscriber ties and create satisfying subscriber experiences, these changes will be good news. It further separates them from the clutter by ensuring that their most active subscribers are seeing their messages in their inboxes.
Related story: A 'Back-to-Business' Email Optimization Checklist