Peering into the Black Hole: What Happens After You Hit Send?

Posted by Theo Noel on

After sending your email campaign, one might think that they can sit back, relax, and wait for the results.  But as global direct marketing giant Identity Direct recently learned, the job isn’t over until you can be certain your messages are reaching the inbox.

While the name “Identity Direct” may not be immediately familiar, their ads for personalized gifts and school supplies such as pencils, labels, lunch packs, and drink bottles have had a constant presence in magazines and catalogs for many years. In addition to print campaigns and customer-facing websites, the company relies heavily on email campaigns to reach customers.

Its email practices are tightly controlled, partly to minimize cost but also to ensure responsible communication with customers. However, up until a short time ago, one area where Identity Direct didn’t have control was visibility after pressing send.

In early 2014, following a sudden drop in email campaign response rates, Identity Direct contacted us and asked Return Path to look more deeply into the fate of its emails. During our investigation, we discovered that their marketing automation software system had not been set up correctly, leading to technical issues that were affecting deliverability. The average inbox placement rate for campaigns was only a little over 80 percent.  In some weeks in certain countries, inbox penetration had been down as low as five percent.  Plus there were problems with email tagging and feedback loops.

Because there was no visibility into the fate of their emails, staff at Identity Direct had no way of knowing about the problems, and without the decline in response rates, the issues might never have been investigated.

Fortunately, we were able to quickly resolve the technical issues and the percentage of Identity Direct’s emails reaching customer inboxes has since climbed to a much more satisfactory 90-plus percent. To ensure this wont happen again, Identity Direct will continuously monitors their program using Return Path’s email optimization software, allowing them to quickly identify and resolve future problems.

Having started the process, Identity Direct decided to keep on improving its email marketing capabilities. With help from Return Path, the company migrated to a new, more flexible email automation platform that would provide more visibility into the process and allow greater use of personalization. Next, to obtain preferred inbox placement at 2.5 billion global inboxes, Identity Direct applied for and received Return Path Certification.

As a result of all these measures, within one year Identity Direct’s average inbox placement rate has improved from 81 percent to a consistent 98 percent of inboxes across all mailbox providers worldwide. In addition, the company has experienced significant improvements in the open rate, with year-over-year increases of over 50 percent in the UK market and more than 70 percent in the US market.

Technology makes it easier to reach out to customers, but every email campaign represents an investment of time, energy, and money. If you can’t be sure your messages are making it to the right inboxes, you can’t begin to guess at campaign success. A properly set-up automation platform that provides visibility into email fates ensures issues are quickly identified and dealt with. And to maximize reach, supporting campaigns with preferred inbox placement can go a long way towards helping achieve campaign objectives and ensure a better campaign ROI.


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