2016 Predictions: Our Email Experts Answer Your Questions

We recently held our annual predictions and retrospective webinar. In this blog, Return Path's international professional services team answers questions raised during the webinar.

Why are triggered emails so effective?
Recent research shows while triggered emails form 3% to 3.5% of a typical email program's volume, they generate 30% of its revenue. These metrics are predicted to increase to 5% and 50% respectively in 2016.

For consumers, the timeliness of these emails and the fact they are generated by real-life behaviors or specified needs and interests makes them highly relevant. In turn, this relevance translates to open rates and click rates that are much higher—76% and 151% higher respectively, according to Epsilon.

For marketers, the benefit lies in creating the email message once—but using it over and over again. This “evergreen” nature of triggered messages means they are “new” to each recipient, and means they continue to generate revenue for months or even years with little to no additional effort. (Guy Hanson, Senior Director of Professional Services, London)

How easy are triggered emails to implement?
That depends. If you’re using an e-commerce platform or are working with a Real-Time Marketing System (RTMS) it can be very straightforward. Many e-commerce systems have built-in capabilities to send basic triggered messages while RTMS usually requires you to install a simple one-line script on your e-commerce platform. (Note: you need to send from an email service provider to use an RTMS). Email service providers can also set up triggered mailings, although this may require some custom integration to provide your email service provider with real-time data. Ideally, you will also need a web analytics system to supplement the activity data from your e-commerce platform to drive mailing automation. Ease of implementation is easy to moderate. (Rin Chau, Email Consultant, London)

What other applications are there for email contextual marketing?
Well along with Kick Dynamic, there are other providers like Movable Ink, MyBuys, and Monetate providing technology for contextual marketing. Ad agencies have also entered the space with real-time predictive ads for email now being served by Criteo and TellApart. And predictive analytics firms like Custora are also tapping into the need for real-time analysis allowing dynamic profiling and segmentation for email. Not forgetting email service providers who are also getting into the game with StrongView partnering and Kick Dynamic to provide contextual technology embedded in their platform. (Dale Langley, Senior Email Strategist, London)

How do I know the right "tone of voice" to use for my customers?
Tone of voice has become a really important concept for email marketers. Customers have clearly defined expectations of how they believe brands should talk to them. This can also change depending on the type of relationship they have. For example, I expect HSBC to address me as “Dear Mr Hanson” while PizzaExpress will get away with “Hi Guy!”

There are many ways for brands to apply this—speaking in the first person versus third person, inclusivity, using emotionally loaded keywords, etc. The most important thing is to remain authentic—as in real life, customers will recognize when a brand is trying to be something it isn’t, and they will disengage when this happens. (Guy Hanson, Senior Director of Professional Services, London)

Can you explain what DMARC is and how it works?  
DMARC stands for Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, and is an email authentication protocol. It allows the sender to define how to deal with emails—claiming to be from that sender—but which fail to authenticate correctly. These actions include “monitor," “quarantine,” or “reject."

To set up a DMARC records, senders need to follow these steps:

  • Set up Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and Domain Keys Identified Mail (DKIM) records and ensure they are correctly authenticating.
  • Publish a DMARC record in your DNS. Normally the policy parameter will initially be set to “p=none” so senders can monitor email traffic.

Once senders are satisfied that all legitimate email traffic has been defined, the policy parameter can be changed so that all non-validated traffic is either routed to the spam/junk folder or rejected by the mailbox provider. (Sophie Jean, Email Strategist, Paris)

Do you have any tips for how I can make my emails less spammy? 
This is a real consideration for email marketers. Increasing levels of spoofing & phishing mean subscribers often struggle to differentiate between legitimate and fraudulent emails. This erodes trust, which in turn compromises response rates and drives down program ROI. I wrote a recent blog on 10 Ways Email Marketers Can Fight Phishing. (Guy Hanson, Senior Director of Professional Services, London)

Where can I find out more about the new EU regulations?
On December 15, 2015, the European Parliament provisionally agreed to new General Data Protection Revisions (GDPR) rules. The new law is expected to be formally agreed in Q2 of 2016, with the regulation becoming enforced two years after its enactment. This is likely to be early 2018, giving organizations time to assess and prepare.

The Direct Marketing Association (DMA) formed a GDPR working party under the auspices of its email marketing council, and initial advice can be found on the DMA’s website. The Internet Advertising Bureau (IAB) also developed a set of FAQs to help organizations get familiar with the new rules. (Rin Chau, Email Consultant, London)

Do I need to worry about my brand being spoofed? Surely it's mostly banks?
Yes, and not just banks, but every company from all industries that send e-mail. Here are a few reasons why:

  • It's hard to spot a spoofed message, in fact, about 97% of people can't identify a sophisticated phishing email
  • Spoofed messages can be aimed at your own organization and not just your end clients, allowing attackers to obtain sensitive data from within your organization
  • Once your clients identify an attack that uses your brand, they are 42% less likely to interact as they might not want to take the risk of being a victim of a scam and providing their personal information
  • Gmail's recent changes help users distinguish between good and malicious messages, by showing a broken padlock on the sender identification when the message isn't encrypted with TSL; or a big question if the message can't be authenticated with SPF or DKIM.

(Rafael Viana, Email Strategist, Sao Paulo) 

Can you curate social media comments before including them in email?
Yes, of course. In the same way that you currently manage and curate your own Twitter or Facebook presence. Email is a great channel for building long-term relationships. By sharing relevant and useful social content you can improve loyalty, build brand awareness and drive conversions. (Dale Langley, Senior Email Strategist, London)

With email content that updates when it is re-opened, is it necessary to educate people to re-open or will this happen anyway?
While this technology is still fairly new, you can broaden its use by encouraging regular interaction. However, we feel that often the best use of contextual or real-time marketing is when subscribers don’t realize it’s being used. Your email will likely still work its way down the inbox when new email arrives but the point of this technology is to make it more likely to drive a conversion at read-time. Including real-time statistics, prices, stock levels, or location based products in your email just feels more engaging to subscribers and increases the chance of conversion at the time they read the email. (Dale Langley, Senior Email Strategist, London)

Guy Hanson, Senior Director of Professional Services at Return Path will present at the Future of Email event which takes place on Wednesday, March 23, in London. Register now to secure your place: http://thefutureofemail.com/london/


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