Thanks to an ever-increasing volume of email, more and more people today are motivated to do a better job of managing their email inboxes. As a result, a host of tools and applications are emerging to help reduce inbox clutter by auto-filtering emails into email folders or “stacks.” What does this mean for email marketers? And how can you minimize the impact of auto-filtering on your email performance rates and overall return on investment (ROI)? That’s what we talk about in this month’s NewsLever feature.
A Need for Better Email Inbox Management Goes Beyond Spam
According to the Symantec Intelligence Report for December 2012, 70.6% of email sent globally was spam. Although anti-spam technology has become increasingly proficient at recognizing spam before it even reaches users’ inboxes, still about 15% of all emails received is spam, reports the Radicati Group in their Email Statistics Report, 2012-2016. The Radicati Group predicts that this level will remain about the same for the next 4 years.
With Auto-Filters, Users Determine How to Receive the Emails That They Want
But it’s not just spam that email auto-filters are being used for. With more people opting in to receive email newsletters and promotional information from trusted brands, inboxes are growing more cluttered and time-consuming to manage. So most major email services — including Gmail, Yahoo!, and Hotmail — allow users to create filters that automatically sort email messages into the folders of their choice. In this way, users can determine how they want to receive the emails that they want. Plus, by putting similar emails in a folder, users can choose if and when they want to browse through them.
In addition to the auto-filtering tools available through individual email services, a number of other applications are also now available. One example is Alto — a new cloud-based application from AOL that can manage multiple email accounts, works on both Macs and PCs, and can be used on email services besides AOL, such as Gmail and Yahoo! With Alto, users create “stacks” to sort their email messages. Although users can make as many stacks as they want, some standard stacks include ones dedicated to specific retailers, social media notifications, and daily deals. Alto is a “smart” program that learns from a user’s behavior: Once an email from a sender is dragged to a stack, all emails from that sender will automatically go to that stack.
So What Does Email Auto-Filtering Mean for Marketers?
A recent article, “Email Auto-Filtering — What’s a Marketer to Do?” pointed out some disadvantages of email auto-filtering from a marketer’s point of view. If your recipients are using an auto-filtering system, your emails probably don’t appear on top of their inbox, regardless of the day/time it was sent. Plus, by not being in the inbox, you lose both the chance to keep your brand top of mind with recipients, as well as the opportunity to prompt spontaneous purchases. On the other hand, if prospects are looking through folders they’ve created, they’re probably highly interested in your organization’s product/service and ready to convert.
As the use of email auto-filters becomes more widespread, its impact on your email marketing efforts may become more significant. Some hints that your subscribers are using email auto-filters would be delays in the response times for such metrics as open, click-through, and conversion rates. Instead of emails being opened within hours, for example, it may be days.
7 Ways to Help Minimize the Impact of Auto-Filters on Your ROI
So how can marketers minimize the negative impact of auto-filters on their email-marketing performance and ROI? A good way to start is by employing email best practices to help keep subscribers engaged and looking for your email messages, including:
- Get permission. Always use an opt-in sign-up process. A double opt-in — sending a follow-up email message that each subscriber must click on to join your list — is preferred. Plus, avoid using pre-checked opt-in check boxes.
- Set expectations. Let your subscribers know what types of email messages you’ll be sending and how often. This way, if your organization has daily or weekly special offers, your subscribers will know to watch for them.
- Ask their preferences. Give your subscribers the opportunity to decide what types of information they want and how often they want to receive it.
- Use other online channels to pique interest in your organization and brand. Build excitement and buzz about your company and its special promotions through blogs and such social media as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. This will help keep subscribers on the lookout for your email messages, as well. CountryOutfitter is an example of a company that does a great job of using social media, coordinated with email campaigns, to build excitement about their brand and boot giveaways.
- Find out as much as you can about all subscribers. This will help you segment your email lists and provide highly relevant information to targeted groups.
- Keep on top of your email performance metrics. This is the best way to detect any problems with your email-marketing strategy that may be affected by auto-filters. If you see a lag time between when you send messages and when they’re opened, for example, you may need to respond by extending your offer periods.
- Consistently create high-quality valuable content. Last, but certainly not least, this is the best way to keep your prospects and customers engaged with your email marketing to drive performance and ROI.
Do you use auto-filters to manage your email inboxes? As a marketer, have you encountered issues due to auto-filtering? Please share with us your experiences and advice on this topic!