Those who email market frequently, all 20 or 30 of you, may have noticed some peculiar things happening recently. That is if you bother to check your email statistics, understand what they mean, and know who to contact or how to counteract unusual behavior. Add to that a momentous move by Apple, and email marketing will not be the same. Here’s what you should know.
Verizon Media recently imposed new spam filters and timing mechanisms affecting mass email marketers. This happens from time to time with Internet providers monitoring and throttling email flows which increased substantially during the pandemic. Imagine a pipeline with valves that direct and control the flow of whatever flows through it.
Verizon’s new control methods are not something that made the front page of whatever news media you consume. However, it’s a big deal because of all the email domains under the Verizon umbrella because it purchased AOL (2015) and Yahoo (2017).
Whether big or small, your email database is full of emails ending in aol.com, yahoo.com, and verizon.com (or .net). But how about legacy domains like att.net, sbcglobal.net, pacbell.net (I have one), netscape.net, bellatlantic.net, bellsouth.net, and lots more from around the world? They’re all affected the same way because they’re owned by, yes, Verizon.
In August, I noticed a sudden jump in bounce rates from fractional (normal) to high single digits. And the time it took to deliver databases of 25,000 and 13,000 was several hours rather than 20 or 30 minutes. I queried my client’s preferred email service provider (ESP), 1-2-1 Marketing, and its CEO, Ryan Wood. Wood confirmed that Verizon caused the issues, and he’s working with them to alleviate the problem. He told me the high bounce rate is the result of a slowing of the email flow, causing “time outs” that result in bounces, even though the email itself is valid. Credible ESPs will attempt to deliver an email at least three times before flagging it as a “bounce” and removing it from future deliveries, an element of list hygiene.
There are a couple of things you can do to clean up your lists and promote better flow and higher open rates. However, the solutions are arduous and time-consuming, as well as being somewhat arbitrary. First, delete emails of people who haven’t opened an email in some time – pick an arbitrary period. A month? A year? A decade? There is no absolute answer. And the pandemic’s boost makes it more difficult. For example, you don’t want to delete an email of a new customer who played your course once but hasn’t opened subsequent emails because you just don’t know when they might choose to play again.
Second, you can ask people to whitelist your domain to assure delivery to their inboxes. But that’s a bit like the dog chasing its tail – the people most likely to open and read your request are already receiving your email in their inbox.
Third, and have fun with this one, go through your database and remove all the emails with domains associated with Verizon. Create a new database with these and send them separately from your main list. You’ll have a cleaner look at what gets delivered and opened and do not get throttled by Verizon.
And then there is Apple, and its new iOS 15 operating system coming to an Apple device near you – phone, iPad, etc. Their new privacy function and how it affects email marketing has been publicized extensively but is difficult for many of us to comprehend. I’ll take a stab at it for you, but here’s a terrific article for reference: https://www.cm.com/blog/how-apples-ios-15-update-will-change-email-marketing/.
In the most basic terms, Apple designed the IOS 15 update with privacy in mind. While the changes will only apply to users who opt-in, it’s predicted that most Apple users will opt-in. Why? Because we can expect similar behavior from the 96% of Apple consumers who opted to turn off tracking following the iOS 14 update.
Apple iPhone commands over 41.7% of the email client market share. Additionally, Litmus.com reports that 90.5% of all mobile email opens take place on an iPhone. That’s stunning.
Most of us rely on open rates to measure the effectiveness of email campaigns. It’s the easiest thing to see and understand. “Hey, I got a 25% open rate! Woo-hoo!” Unfortunately, the iOS 15 update will make open rates nearly meaningless – they will not be correct.
According to Ryan Wood at 1-2-1 Marketing, “I think what’s happening when Apple “caches” the images from an email on their servers it will trigger the ‘open.’ Therefore, the open rates won’t be correct and will be overstated or higher than they really are. Since Apple is triggering the “open” when they download and cache the image to their servers, it will appear like the user is engaged when perhaps they are not. We won’t know if the email was ever actually opened by the user.”
With this, the best measurement of email effectiveness will be the click rates – how often do people click on things like the “Book a tee time” button (you have that on your email templates, right?) or other links you install.
Whew. That’s a lot to swallow. Most of you aren’t sophisticated email marketers doing things like split tests and re-engagement automation, let alone regular list hygiene. I urge you to read the article linked above and contact your email service provider for help and advice. And good luck – once again, Apple attempts to change the world.