E-mail deliverability is tricky to manage and is a constant moving target. Email providers, like gmail or yahoo, do everything they can to keep unwanted or "spammy" messages out of customers' inboxes. Marketers do everything we can to try to get into the inbox and in front of the customer.
Email providers look at your domain (which is unique to each client) and your IP address (which is shared by many of our clients) to evalute your "reputation". They also look at the content of individual messages to see if they look "spammy". This helps them determine where to direct your mail.
Reputation is largely driven by 2 factors. First - how many customers are opening and engaging with your messages. If your open rates are low, it appears that most of your customers don't want to be receiving your mail. Second - how many customers are reporting your mail as "Spam". High spam reports on a particular message can cause future messages to go straight to the spam folder.
What you as a restaurant owner can do to improve deliverability:
- LImit your broadcast emails to customers who are engaged with you. This is easy to do, just pick the filter "Engaged Customers". This will select customers who have signed up, opened or clicked on an email, or had a transaction posted within the last 6 months. I know its painful to think about shrinking your database -- but eliminating customers who are not likely to respond will help protect your overall reputation and ensure that interested customers are more likely to get your emails.
- Be very careful about imported lists. You should never use a purchased list or e-mails from sources other than direct sign ups by your customer. If customers did not directly sign up to participate in your reward program, they are much more likekly to report your email as spam. If they signed up for a different program 3 years ago and you have imported them into your current program, they may not remember signing up and may report as spam. If you use a purchased list, it could include "spam trap" emails - often old unused emails that providers monitor to see if e-mail is sent to them - which then gets flagged as spam. If you are going to mail to an imported list, we recommend that you send one "opt in" e-mail that allows customers to choose to participate in the program, and avoid further emails to those who don't respond.
- Keep your e-mails from appearing "Spammy". Using excessive punctuation and all caps can mark a message as likely spam. Using 1 large image and no text is also a red flag, and a common practice among our clients. If you are having a graphic designer or marketing firm create your e-mails, do not send them as 1 large image. Have them create actual HTML code with several small images.
- Invite your customers to add you to their contact list. You may want to add a message to your emails to encourage customers to add you to their contact list, which will help providers to know that the customer really does want to hear from you.
What we are doing to help deliverability
With e-mail providers continually getting more vigilant about segmenting out potential spam, we are working to give you more tools within Salesbuilder that will help you improve your e-mail effectiveness.
- More reporting on open rates, clicks and spam reports. While we have always tracked unsubscribes and bounces and managed these in your account, we now give you a much clearer picture of how effective your e-mails are. See your Media Performance report and click on "Deliverability" to see these stats.
- Protection for online signups. We use reCaptcha protection for your online sign up forms to ensure that no invalid emails can be added to your database.
- More validation on new emails. We're working on implementing a validation tool that all new sign ups will be screened through, to help ensure that the e-mail is active, valid, and not a likely "spam trap". Suspicious emails will be flagged. (Coming Summer 2018)
- More tools to identify "engaged" customers based on open rates, clicks as well as transactions. We help you segment your database more effectively to avoid sending broadcasts to customers who are no longer interested.
- More unsubscribe options. We'll be adding some options to let customers opt out from broadcast emails vs. reward emails. (Coming 2018)
- White-listed domains. We take special action to validate and white-list our customer domains, which lets email providers know that we are legitimate senders.
- More communication options. We've added mobile push notifications as another way customers can receive notification of rewards, or just as a broadcast promotion.. These are available to customers using Thr!ve Online and our Thr!ve Mobile app.
Dedicated IP address option
As a Salesbuilder subscriber, your e-mail is sent out via a shared pool of IP addresses. This means that your actions can affect the reputation of others, and their actions can affect yours. We are now offering a dedicated IP address option, which means your e-mail will be segmented on your own IP address and your reputation is all your own. This adds $40 per month to your subscription cost.
It is difficult to guarantee that any e-mail will have 100% deliverability. So many variables can impact whether an email goes to spam, and every e-mail provider has a different formula for determining if a particular recipient will receive your email in spam, in a "promotions" tab, or in their inbox. However, understanding these best practices and working within these guidelines should help to keep deliverability rates high for your program.