Getting Smart – A Deeper Dive into Our Newest Deliverability Data Source

Posted by Dave Wilby 

If you’re like me, anything tied to the words “Artificial Intelligence” can inspire a double-take. There’s been a lot of conversation in the ecosystem lately around our latest source of deliverability data coming to the market on March 26, Return Path’s AI-driven SmartSeeds.

Over the last 20 years, we’ve given our clients access to multiple sources of data via our networks of industry partnerships, relationships with mailbox providers, and of course our self-developed deliverability data sources: the Consumer Network, our original CoreSeeds, and now SmartSeeds. We’re continuously at the very forefront of seed technology and SmartSeeds go a step further to show relative engagement based filtering—how subscriber interactions with email affect inbox placement and overall email marketing performance.

A better look at SmartSeeds
Since we know that Google and other major mailbox providers filter email based on engagement, SmartSeeds are designed to mimic the most important relative engagement groupings to show how different groups of subscribers on your list affect the placement of email (inbox vs spam).

SmartSeeds are bucketed into four main groups of relative engagement, called personas, that subsequently interact with your email as would real-life subscribers.  

Engaged User: This is a user that engages with a lot of the email they have in their inbox and are also really engaged with YOU, as a sender. You know the type—cannot stand to have the unread count on their inbox at anything but zero. When new mail arrives, they are almost compelled to open it and subsequently they have a lot of activity in their mailbox on a daily basis.

Loyal User: This user has a lot of engagement with YOU as a sender, but is picky about the email they read. As the name suggests, when they get emails from certain senders they will open them immediately, but other emails in their inbox may stay unread for hours or sometimes days.

Potential User: The opposite of the Loyal User. These are the people that are interacting with similar brands and email to yours. In other words, they are loyal to some brands—but not YOUR messages…yet.

Disinterested User: This user doesn’t engage with much email, either on a daily basis or on a domain level. They go in and move things around and delete messages but do not read many emails regardless of the sender.

We’ve built up these personas using our observations, analytics, and experience from over the last eight years of working with anonymized data from real users in our Consumer Network. From that, we know that no two users act the same no matter how alike they are in age, gender, or location. But we do know that the majority of senders have subscribers that fit these personas.

SmartSeeds engage with marketing emails and provide back detailed information allowing us to better assist senders in understanding how and why they are being filtered. The data we gather from this process enables us to provide our clients with better guidance on what works best for them and where their opportunities for program improvement lie.

How it works
This first release of SmartSeeds are designed to work with publicly available, one-time signup email campaigns sent from our clients’ domains, without affecting how they are being filtered by mailbox providers. Similar to how anyone would sign up for an email campaign from a marketer’s website, our SmartSeeds request to join the website’s email list. Once SmartSeeds have been accepted to the marketer’s list, they begin receiving email campaigns. SmartSeeds, powered by an advanced AI-driven model, programmatically choose which emails to open and which emails to leave unread within the inbox, based on their persona group. This replicates engagement patterns represented by real email recipients observed in our Consumer Network. We leverage the same robust email monitoring technology used for the Consumer Network to assess the resulting placement of the campaign when it is received at the SmartSeeds email inbox. Once that placement data is available, we begin feeding the insights from those campaigns into the Return Path Platform so that our customers can understand the impact that relative subscriber engagement has on their deliverability and program performance.

It’s probably too much to say that we at Return Path LOVE data, but we really love helping email marketers take their programs to the next level and that remains at the center of everything we do. Our commitment to evolving and advancing along with the email ecosystem is another way we give our clients an industry advantage. We can’t wait to make SmartSeeds data available to our customers in one week’s time!

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About Dave Wilby

Dave Wilby is Return Path’s Chief Operating Officer. He came to Return Path through its acquisition of OtherInbox where he served as VP of product with responsibility for all operational groups, including product management, marketing, operations, and engineering. Before that he was SVP of products at Borland Software where he was recruited by the board to develop new products and a new go to market strategy to return the company to profitability. He previously held senior level product positions at MessageOne, FiveRuns, Tonic Software, Dirig Software, Tivoli Systems and Sun Microsystems. Dave has a Bachelor of Computer Science from Staffordshire University in the United Kingdom.

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