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Email Deliverability News: Hotmail Addresses 'Graymail,' Flags and One-Click Unsubs

Email marketing success is dependent on many things, not the least of which is addressing the latest innovations and changes to major email services…and Hotmail certainly qualifies as a major email service.

Just recently Microsoft announced some major changes to what their webmail services like Hotmail will look like and how users will interact with their email moving forward. One of the biggest reasons Microsoft made these changes was because they realized that getting rid of true spam was not enough. They understand that many people report legitimate emails, such as newsletters, offer campaigns and even notifications. Users might do this for a number of possible reasons

  1. They no longer want to receive the email and do not trust the unsubscribe links
  2. They feel it is easier to check a large number of emails at once and mark them as spam rather than going into each email and unsubscribing.

Microsoft calls this type of mail graymail, and they have created new ways to help users organize their inbox and remove the clutter. Previously Microsoft had implemented the “Sweep” feature which allowed customers to automatically move specific emails to different folders. They have now taken that technology a step further by creating a specific "Newsletter" folder where they will automatically put newsletters it delivered to users.

Another item that will potentially change the graymail issue is the implementation of the one-click unsubscribe. By utilizing this process, Microsoft will ask you if you want to unsubscribe from the mailing. Microsoft will then respond to the marketer notifying them to remove the user from future mailings. For any mailings received from the marketer after this process was put in place, the mailings will be automatically sent to the Junk folder as a way to address this complication with email deliverability.

Finally, another change that Microsoft has implemented is the ability to flag emails. Much like Gmail’s labels, or Outlook's flags, this functionality allows users to no longer have to mark messages at unread in order to go back and follow up on items but create flags in order to help them better organize their messages in their inbox.

As a marketer, these changes should not change your approach to your email marketing campaigns. As we have always said at StrongView, it is all about relevancy. If your campaigns are not relevant to your users, you will not see the returns you are looking for. But if your customers find your campaigns relevant they will look for those emails no matter where they land within their mailboxes.

In addition to email deliverability news found here, you can also stay connected to the Email Marketing Insights Blog for more of the latest news in email marketing.

Learn about other email deliverability solutions we provide at StrongView.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 5:19 PM
Categories: email marketing, deliverability, hotmail, graymail

Windows Live Mail Re-Invents Itself

As one of the largest webmail providers in the world, Microsoft has apparently decided that they will not sit back and watch others innovate. Instead, they have decided to re-invent themselves with the new Windows Live Hotmail.

I have spent a lot of time talking with users of Hotmail and other email clients, and based on those conversations, it looks like the new features they are introducing should be interesting for both users and marketers alike.

At the recent Email Insider Summit, it was discussed that there are three types of email users, and I believe understanding these types of users helped Microsoft build their new features.

  1. Piler—These are people that let their inbox grow and grow while only opening certain emails. They may have thousands, if not tens of thousands, of emails in their inbox that have never been opened
  2. Filer—These people keep most of their emails but make sure to put it in a certain file for future reference. There are less emails in the physical inbox, but all of the messages are easily accessible for the user when they need them.
  3. Dumper—Think of the Piler, but every so often (say weekly) they simply delete all of their email that they feel are not important enough to respond to or keep.

So why is understanding these three types of email end-users important with regards to the Re-Invention of Windows Live Hotmail? One of the major changes that will potentially affect marketers is the new Sweep function. This function will allow the users to keep their inbox clean while filing or deleting messages from certain mailers or types of messages such as social networking messages.

According to the Microsoft blog, after a lot of research, they decided to focus on 4 key areas to help their end users:

  1. Take back your inbox. We help you quickly get to the important messages and get rid of the mail you don’t want.
  2. Get more done with the mail you receive. Do more without leaving your inbox, so that you don’t have to open a bunch of browser windows just to get simple things done.
  3. Share over email. Stop hassling with attachment size limits – whether you’re sending hundreds of large photos or massive documents. View, edit, and share Microsoft Office documents even if you or the people you’re sharing with don’t have Office installed on their computers – PC or Mac.
  4. Connect from your phone. Sync your email, calendar, and contacts on your mobile devices – whether you’re using a smart phone like the forthcoming Windows Phone 7, or the iPhone, or a phone that just has a simple browser.

Another important item for marketers to understand is the new Windows Live Hotmail is also integrated with the Office Web Apps, which means you can edit documents directly from your inbox. There is also the new SkyDrive which allows you to store documents in a cloud so there is less concern around file size. I am still unsure how this will work with marketing emails, but it is something that we will need to keep our eye on.

You can find out more about the entire new feature set on the Windows Live Blog.

Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 8:03 AM
Categories: Email, Microsoft, Spam, Windows Live Hotmail

Microsoft offers to buy Yahoo!

As most of you have probably heard by now, Microsoft has offered to purchase Yahoo!. As I was watching the news this morning while getting ready for work and heard this for the first time, my first thought was--wow what does this mean for email? Well I am sure a lot of you have already pondered that same question, but I thought I would share my thoughts with you as well. First, the deal is not done yet, and for those of us that watch this industry as much as I do, it isn't a big surprise. Microsoft has to do something to keep up with Google, so by purchasing Yahoo! they are in a better position to do so. Secondly, if they do close this deal (which personally I would be surprised if they didn't), I don't think changing their email systems will be their top priority. To me, this deal is all about advertising, not email. That being said, I can't imagine that this merger would have any great effect on the email space for at least 2-3 years. Let's think about it for a minute.
  1. Yahoo! and Microsoft/Hotmail use two different authentication methods, which one will they choose, or will they use both Sender ID and DKIM together?

  2. Yahoo! manages a number of other domains through their partnership agreements such as SBC/Yahoo and others, what will they do with those streams of mail?

  3. Will they simply get rid of one system and make everyone migrate to the other?

While these are all great questions that my team and I have already begun to ask, the great news is that we will have plenty of notice before any major changes occur. Through our relationships with both organizations, we will be able to prepare our customers and pro-actively manage any changes that might occur due to this proposed merger. Stay tuned for more on this as the saga continues.
Posted by: Spencer Kollas at 9:25 AM
Categories: DKIM, Hotmail, Microsoft, Sender ID, Yahoo, authentication, delivery, email