The Evolution of Deliverability and Email Optimization Through Automation
I read a great article over at Litmus recently about automating your email development workflow. It got me thinking about the importance of automation and its potential effect on the email industry, including deliverability and email optimization.
The discussion of automation goes back hundreds of years and it’s a big topic that I see and read about every day. The future outlook of automation varies greatly relative to its potential impact to society. We are either a few years away from a robot apocalypse or at the cusp of an explosion of new industries similar to what happened when personal computers entered the mass market in the early 1980s.
It’s an important topic, because no matter what your personal opinions are about it, it will have ripple effects into deliverability and email optimization for which all of us must prepare.
The different phases of automation
Adoption of technological advances usually occurs in phases starting with the early adopters and over time being accepted by the general public. It takes time and money to develop the technology and additional time and money for the consumers of that technology to change their behavior as they learn how to use that technology. As the initial technology matures, other technologies are invented to improve upon, complement or replace the initial technology. It’s an ongoing cycle of innovation and email automation is following the same path.
The initial phase of automation involved automating specific email messages within your email program such as with triggered and transactional messages. Most marketers send a welcome message when someone signs up for their email program. If engaged in e-commerce, you likely send a message confirming a purchase as well as additional shipping and delivery notifications.
In most cases, these messages are automated and not sent by a person. The logic required to set the triggers is set up by you, along with the conditions to trigger it and the email templates sent when those conditions are met. There is still some human intervention involved to get this automation to work properly and consistently, but there are numerous benefits received for both your customers and your business once it is set up.
Over the past several years, more and more Email Service Providers have been evolving into marketing automation platforms that allow you to configure these types of messages and it is now open to a much larger number of marketers due to its simpler set up and relatively lower cost.
As this first phase of automation technology has become more widely adopted and is starting to mature, the second phase of automation is rising, which is about automating your workflows and business process in support of your email marketing efforts. Litmus gave some great examples of the second phase with using standardized templates, reusable code, and shortcuts. Many Email Service Providers have drag and drop email building software and other visual editing capabilities as well.
The next phase
The next phase of automation involves all aspects of the email marketing ecosystem integrated into a simple, easy to use platform. It leverages artificial intelligence (AI) and autonomously adjusts and adapts your email content, sending patterns and list composition to maximize subscriber engagement to reach the inbox and increase conversions.
Below is a list of different parts of the email ecosystem that is currently automated or will be automated in the future.
- List quality and hygiene
- Email creative and design development
- Real-time contextual messaging
- Send cadence, time and frequency
- Infrastructure updates
- IP and domain warmups
- Email volume and throttling
- Real-time multivariate testing
- Analytics and reporting
- Knowledge sharing
This next phase is already underway. There are companies out there that are attempting to solve problems through automation within the different parts of email ecosystem in one way or another. But, right now they are all like puzzle pieces spread out on the table, waiting for someone to put them together.
The evolution of deliverability and email optimization
The result of all of this automation is the evolution of deliverability and email optimization. Deliverability problems will become mostly invisible because your inbox placement is automatically optimized to fit your business model. Because all aspects of your email marketing process, development and deployment will be automated, each mail flow can be tailored to fit the expectations and requirements of both the subscribers and the mailbox providers.
For example, you might be more profitable with 90 percent inbox placement rather than 100 percent if your sales cycle and business operations need to allow for a higher number of inactive users. Figuring out what inbox placement is right for you will be handled by the automated system. New email addresses will automatically be scored, vetted and sorted based on their likelihood to engage with you and buy your products. And, the email content will be automatically tailored in real-time depending on multiple variables like their location or purchase history. If your Sender Reputation Data (SRD) rate at Outlook.com is getting too high, the automated system will make adjustments to bring it down. If subscriber engagement level is too low at Gmail, the automated system will adjust to raise it. If the DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) verification fails, the automated system will identify and fix the cause with your hosting provider.
It’s time to prepare
Although none of this will happen tomorrow, the future impact of automation on deliverability and email optimization should not be ignored. The concept of deliverability will evolve and look differently than you know it today. It will require less human intervention and allow you to focus more on what’s most important to your customers and building your business. It will help you keep costs low and maximize your profits.
Prepare for the future and look for opportunities to automate all aspects of your email marketing program, including your creative development, process workflow, deployment, and analytics. Talk to your Email Service Provider so they can help you understand how best to use their current automation services, and give them feedback to help them develop future services.
About John Pollard
John is a Senior Knowledge Strategist at Return Path. He is dedicated to building and maintaining knowledge and content assets to help marketers maximize the value of their email programs. John believes that sharing knowledge feeds the imagination, fosters collaboration and empowers people to grow and evolve. He has been in the email marketing industry since 2008 and has consulted numerous businesses and ESPs on deliverability and email optimization. Prior to joining Return Path, John worked in the finance industry with roles in business analysis and system administration.