For years, visitors of our website have been able to do a demo: enter your email-address and we’ll send you a sample payment request by email that you can pay with real or funny money. To see how and that it works. Such a demonstration should of course adequately reflect not just the functionality, but also the quality of our service. Starting with the requirement that the email arrives safely in your inbox…
The other day I had reason to do the demo again and sent it to my good old Hotmail account. Where it landed in my Unwanted e-mail. Oops. That is not what we want to show to potential clients. As a matter of fact, we do an awful lot to ensure that the tens of millions of emails we send on behalf of hundreds of brands every year are recognized as legitimate transactional email – and thus get delivered to inboxes. It’s called Deliverability in the email biz.
To prevent being tagged as spam, junk or phishing is a profession in its own right:
- All those different email providers, from Gmail.com to AOL.com, with their own rules or preferences that change regularly
- Different standards with acronyms like DKIM, SPF and DMARC meant to distinguish between spam/phishing and legitimate messages
- Different words you should avoid. Which get tricky for payment requests: spam filters don’t like hyperlinks, nor words like Pay Now. So you need to get it just right.
And so on, and so forth (there’s more; much more). Another dimension of sound emailing is Renderability: ensuring that the same email looks right everywhere, whether arrives in Outlook on a Huawei or in Yahoo! on your laptop. Hundreds of combinations to test, which also see changes regularly. Hello new iPhone! Take for example how Gmail shows an email’s preview in the inbox – which largely determines whether you recognize, understand, trust and open the email. Super important, as it often pertains bills or reminders that require (timely) payment. And according to our data science team, 30-40% of your customer base uses Gmail, depending on your target demographic.
Back to our demo. Busy as we are in Marketing (events, content, automation, all AI-powered on the blockchain of course) we hadn’t touched our demo email for a while. We’re just like a real company: ownership of the demo kind of floated between Marketing and DevOps. With ambitions to fully renovate and expand it to all the channels and features we’ve added. Someday soon. But the net result was that we had not been systematically testing the email’s template like we (can) do for our clients. That’s how we missed that Hotmail had changed some rules again, causing this particular template to no longer pass its spam filters. Not great, if a potential customer wants to get a first impression and happens to use a Hotmail address for it.
And that’s the lesson for people responsible for lots of (transactional) email being sent by or on behalf of their company: make sure that those streams are regularly subjected to automated deliverability and renderability tests. We call that our AEMS, the Advanced Email Monitoring Service. It’s a small subscription for a service to check your templates every month to see if something needs fixing. It enables us to notice quickly when something needs to happen, before dozens or thousands of payment requests no longer arrive or look out of whack and are therefore no longer paid.
One more tip: also let us arrange domain alignment for DMARC. That’s half the battle.