3 Subjects to Study to Boost Your Email IQ

If your business is seasonal, back-to-school time and the pre-holiday months of late summer and early autumn are likely major tipping points for driving revenue and ensuring you end the calendar year on a high note. More than ever, this is the time that marketers, especially those with a retail and/or e-commerce business, need to harness all the tools they have at their disposal and implement smart email program decisions.

After all, the bottom line isn’t graded on a curve and there’s no such thing as summer school when it comes to missed opportunities for recognizing ROI from the email channel. When Sam Cooke sang, “Don’t know much about history. Don’t know much biology…” his “Wonderful World” put academics second and love first. Unfortunately, email marketers can’t afford to ignore their IQs when it comes to email intelligence.

While being an A+ student in all aspects of email marketing might be unrealistic, there are a few subjects that marketers definitely shouldn’t ignore:

  1. Security: Phishing and spoofing activity has never been more rampant and marketers need to be proactive in protecting their brands. Contrary to popular belief, fraudsters aren’t just going after financial institutions like banks, payment services providers and credit card companies; they’re targeting any legitimate brand that subscribers may be familiar with. This includes social networking sites, shipping companies, wireless phone and internet providers and many more. A phishing or spoofing attack has the power to undo all of the good ground work that has been laid for optimizing inbox placement rates and performance metrics. If a subscriber’s personal details or finances are compromised as the result of clicking on a link in an email that pretends to come from your brand, you’ve not only lost an email subscriber and potential (or existing) customer, but your brand reputation has plummeted. In this age of social sharing, that negative outcome likely includes anyone in that subscriber’s network of friends and family as well. What can you do? Protect your brand by using an anti-phishing and anti-spoofing tool that monitors fraudulent activity and blocks any attempts to hijack your domain. Learn more about Return Path’s solution here.
  2. Inactivity: Having a large portion of non-responsive addresses on your file is the equivalent of blaming the dog for eating your homework. Not only does this segment reflect poorly on your list hygiene practices, but the inactive portion of your file isn’t going to diminish by ignoring it or pretending it isn’t there.  Most major ISPs such as Gmail, Yahoo, Hotmail and AOL are factoring engagement metrics into their filtering decisions. This includes metrics like whether or not the message was opened, replied to, clicked on or added to a subscriber’s address book. The more messages being sent to inactive addresses, the greater the likelihood that sender reputation and inbox placement will be impacted, negatively affecting response rates and overall program performance. In addition, depending on how long these addresses have lingered on the file, there could be a large percentage of spam traps. When it comes to email intelligence around inactivity, marketers should have a solid and ongoing plan in place for communicating to pre-defined inactive segments with a specific strategy to reengage and ultimately remove any persistent non-responders.
  3. Skimmability: Optimizing your creative templates has never been more important as subscribers increasingly use their mobile devices to check email. Return Path’s latest research study “Mobile, Webmail, Desktops: Where Are We Viewing Email Now?” shows that email opens on mobile devices grew 82.4% year-over-year and Apple devices account for 85% of all mobile email opens. Designing email for mobile viewing has its own unique set of best practices to experiment with based on the devices your subscribers are using to view email. Whether it’s testing single-column or multi-column layouts, trying a variety of “finger-friendly” sized buttons that allow for easy clicking, using a text size that can be easily read on a variety of screens or designing mobile-friendly landing pages and websites that support on-the-go conversions, email messages read on mobile devices need to work even harder to be skimmable. The decision to click-through on an email viewed on a mobile device is made in a split-second, so the clearer and concise your message is, the better.


When it comes to realizing ROI from the email channel, what you don’t know can definitely hurt you. The good news is that with a little studying (along with testing, adjusting and optimizing), you can go a long way toward ensuring your program makes the grade for the back-to-school season and beyond.

Margaret Farmakis

Senior Director, Response Consulting
Return Path