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How should my e-mail marketing evolve as more ISPs implement default image suppression?

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Answer: New research from Epsilon and GfK NOP reveals that 65% of respondents have received e-mail in their in-boxes with images suppressed. This number is expected to grow as ISPs and e-mail programs, including Microsoft Corp.’s new WindowsLive Mail, adopt default image suppression, and as more follow in the wake of its ratification as an industry best practice by the influential trade groups MAAWG (the Messaging Anti-Abuse Working Group) and APWG (the Anti-Phishing Working Group) in July. Consequently, it is increasingly important for marketers to become knowledgeable about default image suppression and how it may impact their campaigns.

According to our research, nearly all e-mail recipients (94%) who know how to activate images do so at least occasionally. However, our research also shows that recipients’ responses vary by sender, type and relevancy. As an example, while 83% at least occasionally activate images in statements or transactional messages from senders with which they’re familiar, only 35% do so in response to promotional messages from senders whose names they don’t recognize. To help optimize your e-mail communications, you should:

  • Educate recipients during registration and in subsequent mailings about image suppression and the steps they can take to activate images. Encourage them to add your “From” address to their address books, which can result in overriding default image suppression at select ISPs.
  • Clearly convey the benefits of activating images during registration. For example, stress that activating images will enable recipients to print valuable coupons.
  • Use customer insight and advanced relevancy tools and techniques to tailor communications to an individual’s needs and interests. Recipients are more discriminating when activating images in requested promotional e-mail than in personal or transactional e-mail, so consistently demonstrate relevance and value to improve the likelihood that they will always choose to activate your images in a crowded in-box.
  • Optimize content by using an effective mix of images, descriptive ALT tags and plain text in your HTML messages—never images only—to reduce the chance that your recipients will receive an entirely blank e-mail. Also employ creative design and rendering best practices to develop compelling visuals that recipients will always want to see, and test rendering across multiple leading ISPs prior to deployment.
  • Leverage recipients’ extra willingness to activate images in messages from friends and family and in transactional communications by incorporating forward-to-a-friend campaigns and promotional upselling within transactional messages as standard elements of your e-mail program.

Jordan Cohen is director of ISP & government relations for e-mail marketing provider Epsilon Interactive (www.epsiloninteractive.com).

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