October 6, 2020

Email Deliverability, Pt. 2: Start the Subscriber Lifecycle with Good Deliverability Practices

By Gene Gusman at Cheetah Digital

In the second of their three-part series on email deliverability, Gene Gusman, Director of SRE and Deliverability Ops at Cheetah Digital, discusses ways to promote healthy deliverability during the first part of the subscriber lifecycle. Find Part 1 here.

Good data quality starts by obtaining permission. Once obtained, it is critical to set proper expectations and send relevant content to promote engagement. Sending what subscribers have given permission for, have asked you to send, and are engaging with, goes a long way towards building positive sender reputation. Let’s discuss best practices that take these factors into account to help you optimise deliverability.


Send messages only to subscribers who have asked for them

The two main ways to register someone for an email stream are: single opt-in, which requires no confirmation from the registration; and double opt-in (also called confirmed opt-in or COI), which requires that the new subscriber confirm their registration, typically by clicking through in the registration email, before being added to the main list. Double opt-in subscribers remove the risk of bad or falsified addresses and provide stronger proof of the sign-up. Ideally, you would use COI for all sign-ups, but you should at least use it for international subscriptions.

Permission may be implicit or explicit. Implicit permission to send email based on a prior business relationship is no longer acceptable in many countries, including the UK. Explicit permission is when the subscriber actively consents to receiving messages. Avoid pre-checked boxes as they do not qualify as explicit and may also result in complaints from unsuspecting recipients.

Check the regulations for the countries of your subscribers because they are not uniform and may change over time. For example, in the European Union under the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), consent for any processing of data must be informed, specific, unambiguous, and freely given.

Let’s say you have someone who wants to give you permission to send them email. Lower the chance of typos by using a second text entry field. Make sure they are giving you an address specific to them and not a role address such as “sales@” or “info@”. Unfortunately, there are some bad actors out there who want to give you unauthorised permission to send to someone else. You can help combat that by using reCAPTCHA or hidden form fields.

For in-store sign-ups, take precautions and pay close attention because they carry higher risk.  Be sure to document the sign-up and, if possible, confirm it digitally. Avoid the use of incentives for salespeople in order to help prevent mistakes, misuse, and misunderstanding. In Canada, under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), and in the European Union, under the GDPR, it is required to keep a record of the consent that is given.  This is a good idea in general as an auditing practice.

Consult your company attorney to ensure you are following all applicable laws and regulations.


Set proper expectations for what happens after someone signs up

Setting expectations is crucial to beginning a relationship with your subscribers. Tell them what they will be receiving and from what address it will be sent. When they do receive your email, this will reduce the chance that they will forget they signed up. Give them an idea about how often they will get a message. This is true at the beginning of the relationship as well as throughout its lifespan. Continue to remind your subscribers what they can expect.

Setting expectations is also important for your subject line. A false or misleading subject line is not only in violation of the CAN-SPAM act, but it can erode trust and cause subscribers to unsubscribe or complain if the content does not correspond properly.


Send a welcome message as soon as possible

The message immediately following a sign-up typically has high open rates. Send a welcome message immediately or very soon after to thank your subscriber and to reiterate the details of the subscription and its value. Describe how to change preferences or to opt-out. This is an opportune time for a call-to-action.

Consider sending a welcome series to introduce the subscriber to the programme and to provide additional information on the brand or loyalty programme. Encouraging engagement at the beginning of the subscription helps to counter the risk of reaching spam filters with a new, unproven address. You can use the welcome series to set expectations for content and frequency. It provides a chance to make a good initial impression to begin the relationship.

When you send the welcome series, be sure to use content that is consistent with the expectations set at sign-up. Send at the frequency established during the sign-up process. The “From” address should be recognisable. The subject line should draw the subscriber’s attention and match the content of the message. Include a pre-header to further describe the message, but make it different from the subject.


Continue to set expectations, describe the programme and its value

As you communicate with subscribers after the initial welcome or welcome series, it is important to continue to set expectations and to reinforce the value of the programme. Show them how to adjust their preferences, if a preference centre is available. If not, consider creating one. Along with the required parts of the email, such as the unsubscribe link and physical address, add a link to your privacy policy and terms of service to make the reader more comfortable with the communication. Consider including a statement about your purpose and reiterating expectations in terms of frequency.

Check in next time for a look at some additional best practices to help you improve deliverability for the first part of the subscriber lifecycle and beyond.

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By Gene Gusman at Cheetah Digital