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Email For Ecommerce: Managing Your Reputation

In this blog series, we walk you through some of the dos and don’ts of email for ecommerce. Last week, we introduced the series. This week we dig into managing your reputation.

For most ecommerce businesses, email is the lifeblood – it’s the key communication medium with customers. Whether it’s through order status updates, receipts, offers and deals – you reach your customer through email.

So keeping your email reputation clean is important – actually, it’s imperative. If you don’t have a good reputation tied to your domain and your IP address(es), your email won’t reach your customers’ inboxes. Period. And that means you’ll lose revenue.

After sending billions of emails for customers, we’ve all seen it – email has become overrun with spammers. It’s estimated that over 90 percent of all email is spam, which puts email service providers (ESPs) like Gmail, AOL, Yahoo and others on high alert for spammers. For users, this makes inboxes more pleasant, cleaner and less cluttered, but for businesses it makes it more difficult to reach customers without getting caught in spam filters. And without a stellar reputation, that’s exactly where your messages will end up.

Think of your email reputation like your personal credit score – a bad reputation will hurt you, but having no reputation also works against you. If an email service provider doesn’t know you, your IP and your domain, it will assume the worst and may filter you out entirely. Off to the spam box with you! You can’t blame them; there’s so much spam out there.

So how do you polish your email reputation and keep it spot free?

First, you must be sure that your infrastructure is optimized for emails to reach the inbox. For example, at Mailgun we start with new, clean IP addresses that don’t have a negative reputation and we use the authentication methods that major ESPs require. You can use a tool like senderscore.org to check your IP address reputation.

Along with ensuring the infrastructure is optimized, here are some questions you should ask about your email:

  • Are emails being delivered and if not, why?
  • Is a recipient ESP is throttling your traffic and why?
  • Are messages bouncing due to incorrect domains or stale addresses?
  • Are recipients unsubscribing or complaining of spam?
  • Are recipients engaging with your emails by opening them and/or clicking on links?

You should use all of this data to make sure that you comply with ESPs’ guidelines and adjust your email sending to stay in their good graces.

While a service like Mailgun can give you the tools for establishing a good reputation, it’s ultimately up to you to send emails appropriately. Here are a few rules that will help you build up a great email sending reputation:

  • Only send emails to people that have signed-up to receive them from you and always first send a confirmation link to confirm their address is correct for any marketing-related emails (aka a “double opt-in”).
  • Always include unsubscribe links and ask customers for their email preferences (weekly, monthly, just specific product categories, etc…).
  • Track your email and adjust your sending based on feedback from ESPs and recipients (e.g. don’t send additional emails to recipients who have unsubscribed or complained of spam).
  • Don’t purchase email lists – even if the list is current (which it usually is not); the customer is not expecting an email from you and will usually complain of spam, eventually ruining your reputation.
  • Most importantly, you should respect your customers’ inboxes – just because sales are slow, that’s no excuse to blast out emails carte blanche.

Following these rules can help keep your emails to customers from being locked up in email jail (the junk folder) and can ensure you’re not over-emailing your customers and killing your reputation.

Many ecommerce customers assume that emailing MORE will increase revenue. However, because emailing your customers more than they like leads to higher spam complaints, FEWER of your emails reach the inbox. This leads to lower engagement and lower revenue.

Even if you are following all of these rules, you may get tripped up by a technicality. For example, did you know that the domain in your message-id should match the domain you are sending from? If this isn’t the case, you will have issues delivering to Gmail. There are a lot of these subtle issues we have seen from sending billions of emails

Tune in next week for more on email for ecommerce when we look more closely at transactional email like order confirmations and shipping updates.

About the Author

This is a post written and contributed by Taylor Wakefield.

Taylor is Director of Business Operations at Rackspace Hosting in charge of keeping the Mailgun ship sailing smoothly. Prior to his current job, Taylor was COO and co-founder of Mailgun which Rackspace acquired in August 2012.


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