How to Start Preparing for the Email Inbox Organization Revolution

 Julia Peavy 

I consider myself an organized person. And yet, my inbox has gotten out of control over the last couple of years (this might be a side effect of a 10 year old inbox). Recently, I decided to do something about this and installed OtherInbox. My once cluttered inbox is now organized email bliss.

How it Works
After installing OtherInbox (OIB), I received a welcome message (an email marketing best practice!) that provided information on how my inbox was organized and a link where I could change, add, or customize the settings. While the filtering logic is not rocket science and not perfect (the filters include shopping, travel, finance, etc.), the categorization is intuitive and easily adjusted. After filing some additional emails, all future messages from these senders will be filed automatically based on my actions. OIB also sends a daily email digest (which you can turn off) that provides a summary of my daily emails with the subject lines, sender, and where the emails were filed.

Why Should You Care?
As individuals look for ways to address their cluttered inboxes (with technologies like OIB, Google’s Priority Inbox and MessageMind) and ISP’s work to develop and perfect their own logic for organizing email, marketers need to ensure they are working to optimize their email programs for delivery, response and engagement to prepare for this shift. Here are few things marketers can do now:

Pay (More) Attention to Subject Lines. With the OIB daily digest email, the subject line might be the only part of the message the subscriber sees on a regular basis. Ensure your subject lines are truthful, succinct, and pique enough interest to drive the open. Continue to use words that have driven opens, and drop any words that depress them. Test. Test. Test. These tips are nothing new, but the changing inbox (the terms in subject lines affect treatment in Google’s Priority Inbox as well) makes the subject line even more critical to email success.

Plan for the Unsubscribe Folder. When OIB creates your email folders, an “unsubscribe” folder is included. If a subscriber no longer wants to receive your email, they no longer have to click on an unsubscribe link in your email message to opt-out. OIB will automatically opt-out the subscriber when a message is placed in this unsubscribe folder. While this is certainly a better outcome for the marketer than the subscriber hitting the “this is spam/junk” button and registering a complaint with the ISP, it also means that marketers will miss the opportunity to present subscribers with options for opting down (reducing frequency) or keeping in touch via other channels (like social media). Instead, consider a proactive approach. Rather than waiting for the subscriber to opt-out, offer your less active segments (as defined by email or transaction activity) alternate options and channels for engaging with your brand or the option to receive a “digest” version of your most frequent types of messages.

Monitor Mobile. If your messages are being filed in places other than the inbox, your emails are less likely to be viewed on mobile devices. Start monitoring how much of your audience is reading your emails on mobile devices and at what time of the day. If a large portion of your audience is reading your emails on a mobile device, start testing when you send your messages. Does sending during the middle of the day or on the weekend (when subscribers are more likely to be reading emails from a non-mobile device) affect your open and click rates?

What are subscribers saying about your email program?
OIB has also created a site for email recipients to rate and review email senders at OIB.me. While this is not an exhaustive list of senders, it can give you an idea of how emails from senders in your vertical are perceived by subscribers and whether or not your messages are resonating with subscribers. If you are not on this list, do you see any comments that could be applied to your email program? Do you share any of the characteristics of the email programs that are earning praise or driving complaints?

This type of forum, as well as the ever growing social media landscape, requires email marketers to put subscribers first. Do you set clear expectations during sign up? Do you deliver on these promises? Are you providing something of value? Do you segment and target based on the data available to you? If your email program is not focused on your subscribers, it will eventually affect your reputation and your response rates.

As inbox organization technology improves, adoption increases, and subscribers have a voice, marketers won’t have the luxury of choosing to put subscribers first. Get your email optimization plan in motion now to ensure you are prepared for the inbox organization revolution.

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About Julia Peavy

Julia Peavy is currently the Director of Partner Services at Return Path. In this role, Julia is responsible for supporting Return Path’s partners and helping improve the client experience through consistent, quality, and scalable services. When Julia's not helping partners and their clients, you can find her on the slopes, trying to lower her handicap, looking for bargains, or watching one of her boys' many sporting events.

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