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

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Answer: 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.

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 to tailor communications to an individual's 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, test rendering across multiple leading ISPs prior to deployment.
  • Leverage recipients' 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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