I did not have a lot of predictions for what will happen with email at the beginning of the year so I did not do a traditional beginning of the year post. Over the last 3 – 4 weeks, though, I have noticed some things that I think show where the industry is going.
Authentication. In January two announcements happened that lead me to believe most legitimate mail will be DK/DKIM signed by the end of the year. AOTA announced that approximately 50% of all email was currently authenticated. They did not separate out SPF/SenderID authentication from DK/DKIM authentication, but this still suggests email authentication is being widely adopted. AOL announced they will be checking DKIM on their inbound mail. I expect more and more email will be DKIM signed in response to this announcement.
Filtering. The end of 2007 marked a steady uptick in mail being filtered or blocked by recipient domains. I expect this trend to continue throughout 2008. Recipient domains are rolling out new technology to measure complaints, evaluate reputation and monitor unwanted email in ways that tease out the bad actors from the good. This means more bad and borderline email will be blocked. Over the short term, I expect to see more good email blocked, too, but expect this will resolve itself by Q2/Q3.
Sender Improvements. As the ISPs get better at filtering, I expect that many borderline senders will discover they cannot continue to have sloppy subscription practices and still get their mail delivered. Improved authentication and better filtering let ISPs pin-point blocks. Instead of having to block by IP or by domain, they can block only some mail from a domain, or only some mail from an IP. There are a number of senders who are sending mail that users do not want mixed with mail that recipients do want. Right now, if there is more mail that recipients want in that mix, then ISPs let the mail through. This will not continue to happen through 2008. Senders will need to send mail users actively want in order to see good delivery.
Less is more. A lot of other email bloggers have talked about this, and I will echo their predictions. Less email is more. Send relevant mail that your customers want. Target, target, target. Good mailers will not send offers to their entire database, instead they will send mail to a select portion of their database.
Feedback loops. Use of feedback loops by recipient domains will continue to grow.
Mobile email. More recipients will be receiving email on mobile devices.
Suggestions for 2008
- If you are not signing mail with DKIM, you should plan to by the end of the year.
- Review your privacy practices, and your signup process before then end of Q1. Specifically look at things from a user and a use-ability perspective. If this was not your company, would you still sign up here?
- Sign up for your own mailing list. See how much email your recipients are receiving. What user experience are you treating them to?
- Monitor your bounces and rejections. Generate reports so you know where your mail is not being delivered and why.
Overall, I expect to see a lot of consolidation, emphasis on good practice and tighter filtering. I think the first half of 2008 is going to be challenging for marketers, as what worked in the past is not going to work in the future. Mailers are going to be held to a much higher standard in the past and are going to find it more difficult to hide bad mail in a stream of mostly good mail.