How Sender Reputation Helps Retailers Reach Customers and Stand Out From the Competition

Posted by Tom Sather on

Today’s consumers have more buying options than ever before, and thanks to email marketing, they’re constantly reminded of it. This not only creates more competition between retailers in stores and online, but it expands the competition to the inbox. Email marketers are deploying sophisticated tactics to grab the attention of these consumers, and while it’s important to test new strategies to maximize the impact of campaigns, it’s also important to pay attention to one of the foundations that help campaigns reach the inbox: sender reputation.

Your Reputation is the Key to the Inbox
According to Return Path’s 2016 Sender Score Benchmark Report, 90 percent of all messages delivered to inboxes come from senders with a sender score of 80 or higher. A sender score is a number between one and 100 that reflects your IP address’s reputation based on its performance across key reputation metrics like volume, filtered messages and spam traps. The lower the score, the worse your reputation — and the more likely mailbox providers will filter your messages. In fact, according to the study, senders with a score below 70 only had about 9 percent of their messages make it into the inbox, showing that sender reputation continues to play a major role in determining if a message is legitimate or spam.

Many email marketers in the retail industry already know the importance of sender reputation and have taken the right steps to ensure they have a sender score above 80. However, they shouldn’t get too comfortable, because even when you’re at the top, every point counts. For example, senders with scores in the low 90s saw nearly 8 percent of their messages diverted to spam or go missing, but the top-scoring senders with scores of 99 or 100 only had 2 percent blocked. That 6 percent difference could have a huge impact on not only your return on investment, but it can also set you apart from your competitors that aren’t making it to the inbox. Each message that reaches your subscribers is an opportunity to grow your relationship and convert them into customers.

How Can You Improve Sender Reputation?
Keep complaints low. Subscriber complaints can have a strong impact on your reputation. Any time your messages are marked as spam, it’s telling mailbox providers that your content is unwelcome. According to the study, senders with the best reputations — those with a sender score above 90 — had a complaint rate below 0.2 percent. Therefore, if you want to build your reputation, cater to your subscribers’ preferences to keep them from complaining. Sending your subscribers the right content will also improve your engagement, which is another factor in improving your reputation.

Mailbox providers also monitor the addresses you’re sending to and can make filtering decisions based on the cleanliness of your list. Keeping a clean list will improve your reputation with mailbox providers, so be sure to avoid these common attributes of poor list hygiene:

  • Sending to a high amount of unknown users: Unknown users are email addresses that have never existed, have been terminated by the mailbox provider or have been abandoned by the user. If you send to an unknown user, mailbox providers will let you know by returning a hard bounce code. Removing these email addresses from your list can have a big impact on your deliverability.
  • Failure to take advantage of feedback loops: When you sign up for a feedback loop, you’ll receive a notification when a subscriber reports your message as spam. The mailbox provider forwards the email back to the sender with the expectation that they will suppress the email address it came from. If you don’t remove the subscriber immediately from your list, you risk increasing your complaint rate if the subscriber receives additional email from you.
  • Sending to spam traps: Spam traps are email addresses that don’t belong to an active user and are used to identify mailers with poor sending practices. If you’re hitting spam traps, mailbox providers may question whether you’re a legitimate sender and filter content sent from your IP address or domain.

Working to constantly improve your sender reputation can be challenging, but without a strong reputation to support your email marketing campaigns, you risk never reaching the inbox at all. Following email marketing best practices, keeping clean lists and creating engaging content will help build a strong reputation and win favor with mailbox providers.

This post originally appeared in Total Retail.


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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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