The deliverability dilemma

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Deliverability issues continue to plague e-mail marketers, according to a survey conducted by Skylist, an e-mail service provider based in Austin, Texas, that sells deliverability products.

More than 70% of the survey’s 200 respondents said that delivery is their No. 1 challenge. And 96% said they’d like real-time alerts, which would be sent if a campaign didn’t achieve expected goals.

Also on the list of e-mail worries: difficulties analyzing campaign results, cited by 44% of respondents, and decreasing e-mail response rates, brought up by 40%.

Perhaps most surprising is the fact that marketers don’t define deliverability the same way. Some—38%—cite actual delivery rates as the deliverability bar. But 27% don’t count a message as delivered unless its been opened, and 19% look for a click-through.

The survey also illuminated some interesting trends. More than half of respondents send marketing messages daily, while 15% send them weekly. Messages include promotional offers (62%), newsletters (46%) and retention (23%) messages.

Meanwhile, 58% of marketers have flocked to personalization as a way to catch their prospects’ eyes, customizing greetings or inserting recipients’ names, for example. A third of them are personalizing subject lines. Yet 31% personalize nothing.

Julie Keywell, senior VP of iParenting Media, a company that sends both b-to-c and b-to-b messages, said deliverability is an issue for her. Keywell sends out b-to-b messages to makers of juvenile media and merchandise—toys, books and music. They are companies bidding to solicit products for review.

About a year ago, iParenting started using Skylist’s StormPost. Keywell said she’s been most impressed with a new StormPost feature: StormAlert, a real-time deliverability notification service. The feature works like this: Marketers set deliverability targets—for example, a message should never receive less than a 5% bounce rate and at least a 15% open rate. If a message goes out and doesn’t achieve those target metrics, someone in the organization is immediately notified via e-mail.

"If we get a triggered alert that deliverability is lower or bounce is higher, we can take a look at who is in that category. Using our segmentation, we might see that 3% of the bounce is across the board but 10% is in the toy industry," said Keywell. "Maybe there’s a big toy trade show going on and that’s the problem, or maybe it’s something else. But we have the opportunity to know right away and try and make sense of why a [campaign] is performing better or worse."

While Skylist is one of the first companies to offer real-time deliverability functionality, it probably won’t be the last. Marketers are asking for it—50% of survey respondents said it’s an important feature that they look for in an e-mail marketing application.

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