[Updated April 2017] From deliverability risks to DMARC email authentication and other factors, This Email News Digest covers some issues that email campaigns encounter with transactional email.

A Checklist from Email News Digest

Does your current email service provider or sending platform measure up when it comes to the demands of a successful transactional email program?  Here’s a quick checklist of points to bear in mind:

• Deliverability: What delivery rates do you see on your transactional emails?  Percentagewise, this ought to be in the upper 90s.  Don’t take excuses for anything less.

• Reporting: Does your system allow you to track and report all messages that go out, whether from you or an authorized affiliate?  Too many providers don’t track them at all, to be honest.

• Data Complexity: If you’re merging targeted marketing messages, for example, with transactional emails, can your provider handle the complex data rules involved?

• Design:  Too many transactional emails are design disasters that miss CRM opportunities galore, or just look bad, period.  People appreciate clear, directive design – and it fosters reactivity.

• Testing: Often, transactional email templates don’t get tested in all environments, particularly HTML.  If your provider doesn’t offer that capability?  There are plenty that do.

• Response Management: Is anyone doing it?  When customers reply, somebody has to respond – even if it’s to a ‘do not reply’ message.   They’re trying to open a dialogue – jump on it!

Our shamelessly self-serving full disclosure?  We can attest that SparkPost helps senders execute on all of these points.

DMARC Helps Businesses Win at the Reputation Game

This post by Linda Musthaler at Network World reminds us of one danger DMARC guards against that might not immediately be first in mind: the ongoing, often incremental damage to your brand. As Linda explains,

 According to the Anti-Phishing Working Group, an average of 418 companies had their good names besmirched as part of a phishing attempt each month in the last quarter of 2012. Perhaps your own company was among them.

“Besmirched” is putting it gently (and a favorite word at Email News Digest).  Companies and providers are often victims just as much as users.  And transactional emails are obviously a primo target.  But the short-term and long-term damage to a brand can be significant – just look to Yahoo! and its recent email woes. We’ve got to remember that, regardless of whether an attack owes its success to an internal vulnerability or to the outrageous sophistication of the hacker, it’s your reputation that takes a hit, however miniscule, in the perceptions of most users.

A brand is really and truly owned by the marketplace, not the company behind it: it lives in the mind of customers, stakeholders and the public.  Policing that perception on every front is why firms spend billions to protect themselves at every touchpoint. It’s often unfair, but even the smallest stains on your reputation can build until a meme takes over – for instance, that Brand X’s email platform, whether outsourced or enterprise-based, is unreliable, phishing-ridden, and somehow reflective, in its hiccups and failures, of the brand itself.


The Open Advantage of Transactional Email

Transactional emails simply get opened.  Makes sense, of course.  But how much more often than other items in the inbox?  Let’s throw out a number…well, it’s a pretty confirmed number: transactional emails have an open rate of 52%.  When you put that in context, as Marketing Sherpa did, it’s obvious that they’re on the order of being 100% more effective than e-newsletters, in Chris Hexton’s analysis at MarketingLand (source of the 52% number).

Why the superior open rates? Transactional emails are contextual and organic, for starters – they’re sent in response to customer action and desire.  That context is, as Hexton points out, getting larger, creating opportunities like those the social sites such as LinkedIn understand very well, as they exploit user involvement with their social nature to maximize downstream engagement.

Avoiding Deliverability Risks in Transactional Email

Here’s a trenchant post by MailJet that gets at one of the most critical risks in transactional emails: how to avoid the spam folder. Transactional emails have a higher reactivity rate than other emails, so anti-spam filters give them a higher reputation score, and don’t consign them as spam – usually!

But just a mistake or two in addressing, formatting or other simple-to-redress areas could send your message into Spamville.  Moreover, it means subsequent transactional emails might get go the same route – and that’s not good for business.

Want case studies on brands that are using transactional email successfully? Download the Guide Building Trust and Loyalty with Transactional Email!