3 Trends Impacting Email: Deliverability is Evolving, Part 1
Each January for years now, we read something from the digital marketing industry announcing that “Email is Dead!” Yet each year, email remains the stronghold of both return on investment ($38 for each dollar spent) and conversion (66 percent). Email is NOT dead, or dying, or ailing. Email is evolving.
Some of this evolution is due to the underlying infrastructure of how we send email. As we've exhausted all of the available IPv4 addresses, senders are now adopting IPv6 addresses, at a growth rate of five times over just the last two years. This is notable not only due to the fast pace of adoption, but because of the volume of IP addresses now available. While there were 4.3 billion IPv4 addresses, IPv6 offers exponentially more addresses (340 billion billion billion billion — yes, that is a real number!). To date, deliverability reputation — i.e., the way mailbox providers identify good and bad mailers — has been built on IP address activity. With the increased volume of available IP addresses, it’s becoming more and more difficult to manage reputation by IP address activity alone, as there are simply too many to keep up with. This has led to a shift in the way mailbox providers are determining sending reputation, including the following:
- Domain-based reputation is becoming relevant: With DMARC now supported across the industry, mailbox providers have a common and clear connection point between IP address and sending domain. Using both domain and IP address metrics provides a more complete picture of a sender, making domain-based factors relevant and useful for reputation building and decision making.
- Subscriber behavior is classifying mail: Mailbox providers are also leaning on subscribers to indicate what mail is wanted and what mail is unwanted. Behaviors like opens, foldering and forwarding of email are all positive indicators that mailbox providers can use to identify wanted mail. Spam complaints and deleting without reading are metrics that identify unwanted mail. Using aggregate subscriber feedback to filter individual campaigns is now common practice.
- Personalized filtering is the next step: The most sophisticated mailbox providers are moving beyond using aggregate subscriber behavior to classify individual campaigns. They're starting to personalize delivery to individual subscribers based on their own previously indicated preferences. When one subscriber consistently has positive engagement with a sender, the mailbox provider uses that behavior predictively to deliver that sender’s mail to that subscriber’s inbox. Conversely, when a mailbox provider has consistent negative engagement indicators, a subscriber will start to have that mail delivered to the junk folder or blocked altogether. While personalized filtering is new, I anticipate it will grow in importance over the next few years.
The trend of adapting a broader base of metrics for filtering algorithms will continue as mailbox providers strive to stay a step ahead of spammers, retaining subscribers through a trusted user experience. This concept of subscriber trust will become foundational, as persistent fraud continues to cast a cloud on digital marketing.
I’ll explore the trends around email fraud in Part 2 of this series, including how both mailbox providers and marketers are preparing to defend the space. In Part 3, I’ll take a look at how hyperpersonalization will elevate our relationships with subscribers.
Bonnie Malone leads the consulting, client training, and knowledge and editorial organization of Return Path, an email data solutions provider.
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Bonnie is passionate about excellent customer experience. With a background in marketing, merchandise buying and retail management, she helps companies stay relevant amid the changing digital landscape. Bonnie leads the knowledge and consulting teams at Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability. She is an active Email Experience Council committee member, featured speaker for events, and writes monthly for the Return Path blog and Total Retail.