Email Deliverability, Pt. 2: Start the Subscriber Lifecycle with Good Deliverability Practices
In the second of our three-part series on email deliverability, Gene Gusman, Director, SRE, Deliverability Ops, discusses ways to promote healthy deliverability during the first part of the subscriber lifecycle. Find Part 1 here.
In our last discussion, we covered some of the key factors impacting deliverability: data quality, message relevance, sender reputation, and subscriber engagement. In this installment, I will discuss how to promote healthy deliverability during the first part of the subscriber lifecycle.
Good data quality starts by obtaining permission. Once obtained, it is critical to set proper expectations and send relevant content to promote engagement. Sending what subscribers have given permission for, have asked you to send, and are engaging with, goes a long way towards building positive sender reputation. Let’s discuss best practices that take these factors into account to help you optimize deliverability.
Send messages only to subscribers who have asked for them
The two main ways to register someone for an email stream are: single opt-in, which requires no confirmation from the registration; and double opt-in (also called confirmed opt-in or COI), which requires that the new subscriber confirm their registration, typically by clicking through in the registration email, before being added to the main list. Double opt-in subscribers remove the risk of bad or falsified addresses and provide stronger proof of the sign-up. Ideally, you would use COI for all sign-ups, but you should at least use it for international subscriptions.
Permission may be implicit or explicit. Implicit permission to send email based on a prior business relationship is no longer acceptable in many countries. Explicit permission is when the subscriber actively consents to receiving messages. Avoid pre-checked boxes as they do not qualify as explicit and may also result in complaints from unsuspecting recipients.
Check the regulations for the countries of your subscribers because they are not uniform and may change over time. For example, in the European Union under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), consent for any processing of data must be informed, specific, unambiguous, and freely given.
Let’s say you have someone who wants to give you permission to send them email. Lower the chance of typos by using a second text entry field. Make sure they are giving you an address specific to them and not a role address such as sales@ or info@. Unfortunately, there are some bad actors out there who want to give you unauthorized permission to send to someone else. You can help combat that by using reCAPTCHA or hidden form fields.
For in-store sign-ups, take precautions and pay close attention because they carry higher risk. Be sure to document the sign-up and if possible, confirm it digitally. Avoid the use of incentives for salespeople in order to help prevent mistakes, misuse, and misunderstanding. In Canada, under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and in the European Union, under the GDPR, it is required to keep a record of the consent that is given. This is a good idea in general as an auditing practice.
Consult your company attorney to ensure you are following all applicable laws and regulations.
Set proper expectations for what happens after someone signs up
Setting expectations is crucial to beginning a relationship with your subscribers. Tell them what they will be receiving and from what address it will be sent. When they do receive your email, this will reduce the chance that they will forget they signed up. Give them an idea about how often they will get a message. This is true at the beginning of the relationship as well as throughout its lifespan. Continue to remind your subscribers what they can expect.
Setting expectations is also important for your subject line. A false or misleading subject line is not only in violation of the CAN-SPAM act, but it can erode trust and cause subscribers to unsubscribe or complain if the content does not correspond properly.
Send a welcome message as soon as possible
The message immediately following a sign-up typically has high open rates. Send a welcome message immediately or very soon after to thank your subscriber and to reiterate the details of the subscription and its value. Describe how to change preferences or to opt-out. This is an opportune time for a call-to-action.
Consider sending a welcome series to introduce the subscriber to the program and to provide additional information on the brand or loyalty program. Encouraging engagement at the beginning of the subscription helps to counter the risk of reaching spam filters with a new, unproven address. You can use the welcome series to set expectations for content and frequency. It provides a chance to make a good initial impression to begin the relationship.
When you send the welcome series, be sure to use content that is consistent with the expectations set at sign-up. Send at the frequency established during the sign-up process. The “From” address should be recognizable. The subject line should draw the subscriber’s attention and match the content of the message. Include a pre-header to further describe the message, but make it different from the subject.
Continue to set expectations, describe the program and its value
Check in next time for a look at some additional best practices to help you improve deliverability for the first part of the subscriber lifecycle and beyond.
Read the conclusion in this series on Email Deliverability.
Gene Gusman is Director of Deliverability Operations, North America at Cheetah Digital. He is a technologist with over twenty years of experience in marketing and publishing technology. He leads the optimization efforts of the messaging infrastructure for deliverability while helping clients to get their messages to the inboxes of their customers.