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Email Deliverability Quarterly: ISP Performance Feeds, Validity Acquires 250ok, and More

By Chad S. White

Email deliverability is constantly changing, as inbox providers adjust their filtering algorithms, blacklists tweak their listing criteria, and consumers evolve their definition of spam. That’s why even the best email marketing programs suffer deliverability problems sometimes.

To help you avoid trouble, the Email Deliverability Services team at Oracle CX Marketing Consulting shares the latest news and tips for what to watch out for. Here’s what’s going on at key inbox providers and what it means for email marketers.

Verizon Launches Email Deliverability and Performance Feeds for AOL and Yahoo Mail

In February, Verizon Media Group joined Microsoft and Google in providing an email performance data feed directly to senders. Rather than providing the data via a separate UI as Google and Microsoft do, Verizon Media Group—which controls Yahoo, AOL, and Verizon.net—has elected to provide direct data feeds to be digested by the sending brand. However, there’s a catch… They plan to make this a paid service.

What this means for marketers:

The Campaign Performance Feed “provides key metrics such as delivers, opens, reads, glances, skims, deletes, and clicks for a sender domain,” according to Verizon, while the Placement Feed offers brands inbox placement data.

“The Campaign Performance Feed appears to compete directly with panel data providers,” says Clea Moore, Director of Deliverability Strategy, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Perhaps not coincidentally, Validity announced in mid-January that they are ending panel data collection.”

“Verizon is the first ISP to offer deliverability data,” says Kent McGovern, Senior Strategic Consultant of Deliverability Services, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “If VMG has a lot of senders signing up for this new service, more ISPs will likely start providing this type of data, too. Having another data point that senders can leverage will only help the email industry as a whole.”

As this offering is currently in beta, we are unsure what the pricing structure will be, and therefore what the uptake will be. But mailbox providers have been looking for ways to monetize this type of data for a while.

Validity to Acquire 250ok

Having previously acquired Return Path, Validity has now entered definitive agreement to acquire 250ok. “The move has narrowed the playing field for email delivery analytics considerably,” says Moore.

What this means for marketers:

“There are many questions that come to mind regarding this move,” says Moore. “What will become of the two once-competing platforms? Will they retire one product suite and focus on shifting the existing client base to the other? Will they keep the best features from both platforms? We will all have to wait and see. Merging the expertise from both Return Path and 250ok should only mean good things for users of either platform.”

“This acquisition of 250ok could be a highly effective way to quickly expand their client base, increase talent pool, and have more options with technology and platforms,” says Heather Goff, Director of Deliverability Strategy, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “We’re excited to see how it pans out.”

Gmail Promoting Unsubscribes with Active Subscribers

Anecdotally, we’ve seen a number of people being prompted by Gmail to unsubscribe from brands whose emails they’ve recently opened. In one case, Gmail indicated to one of our consultants that they hadn’t opened an email from the sender in 30 days when they’d in fact opened one the previous day. We began to notice this behavior at the beginning of the year, and it seems to be sporadic, affecting brands and users inconsistently.

“These unusual unsubscribe prompts seem to be part of a pattern of strange behavior that we have seen from Gmail in recent months,” says Moore. “First, there were inexplicable drops in reputation and changes in placement back in September/October 2019. Then, tab placement began fluctuating at the end of December 2019. Now, most recently, we have seen this strange unsubscribe prompt behavior.”

What this means for marketers:

“In our ISP benchmark reporting, we noted a significant year-over-year and month-over-month increase in the Gmail unsubscribe rate, starting in December 2019,” says Moore. “This trend was especially pronounced for the retail sector, with a 75% YoY increase in December 2019, where we don’t expect unsubscribes to increase until January. It’s possible that this spike could be caused by this strange unsubscribe prompting behavior. It’s likely that this is a bug that Gmail is in the process of fixing, since we have seen a reduction in this behavior recently.”

BIMI Standard Makes Advances

The AuthIndicators Working Group reported that the Branded Indicators for Message Identification (BIMI) initiative made great strides in 2019. This initiative allows fully authenticated senders to have their logo appear next to their sender name in the inbox, providing a stronger branding experience and combating spoofing. Highlights include:

  • Google joined the initiative and indicated Gmail would pilot BIMI support sometime during 2020.

  • Verizon Media Group reported that brands using BIMI saw a 10% increase in open rates on average during the BIMI beta program for Yahoo! Mail.

What this means for marketers:

“We’ve seen many of our customers implement BIMI over the past several weeks,” says Daniel Deneweth, Head of Deliverability Services, Oracle CX Marketing Consulting. “Implementation is easy, and the improved logo display is a great benefit.”

“Think of this as a branding opportunity to control your brand image, and to further develop consumer trust of your emails,” he adds. “Even better, Verizon is providing this benefit at no charge within Yahoo! Who doesn’t like free ad impressions?”

Did GDPR Give Email Marketing a Massive Engagement Boost?

During 2019, clickthrough rates increased 150% and unsubscribe rates plunged, according to Campaign Monitor research. It’s all thanks to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

What this means for marketers:

What happened with GDPR is similar to what happens when a sender is forced to rebuild their reputation with a particular ISP and only email recipients who have recently opened or clicked emails, says Goff.

“GDPR caused senders to confirm and validate explicit permission to continue emailing recipients, which undoubtedly decreased list sizes,” she says. “However, the recipients that opt to continue receiving promotional emails are sincerely interested and engaged, which caused engagement metrics to increase and unsubscribes to decrease.”

A Sign of the CCPA Suits to Come

A class-action suit has been filed against Hanna Andersson and its ecommerce platform provider, Salesforce, in response to a data breach that occurred between September 2016 and Nov. 11, 2019. The suit cites the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), but acknowledges that it wasn’t in effect at the time of the breach.

What this means for marketers:

Marketers could really get caught off guard when it comes to CCPA. says Goff.

“Even though the law was passed to apply to California residents only, brands nationwide serve Californians so they’ve had to develop a patchwork of data policies,” she says. “CCPA introduces the need for new processes to be put into place like the right to be informed about what personal data companies have collected and why, the right to have that information deleted, the right to opt out of the sale of personal information, and the right to access personal information in a readily usable format. Very few companies have scalable systems in place to facilitate all these requirements and should be actively working to address them, if they haven’t already.”

Those companies who don’t have customers in California won’t be immune to these changes, Goff adds. “We anticipate a comprehensive federal online privacy legislation getting introduced,” she says, “as policymakers take consumer privacy protection more and more seriously.”

Want more email deliverability news and what it means for your company? Check out some of our other Email Deliverability Quarterly posts:

  • Email Deliverability Quarterly: 1st GDPR Fine, Google Supports BIMI, and More
  • Email Deliverability Quarterly: Return Path Acquired, CCPA Update, Yahoo-AOL Merged, and More
  • Email Deliverability Quarterly: Gmail’s TensorFlow, VMG Supports List-Unsubscribe, and More

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Need help with your email deliverability? Oracle Marketing Cloud Consulting has more than 500 of the leading marketing minds ready to help you to achieve more with the leading marketing cloud, including a dedicated email deliverability practice within our Strategic Services Group.

Learn more or reach out to us at CXMconsulting_ww@oracle.com.

For more information about email marketing, please visit: https://www.oracle.com/marketingcloud/.

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