Timeliness of email


There’s been an interesting discussion in the comments from yesterday’s post about temp failing. My position is that email is not a 100% reliable medium for transmitting time sensitive information.
Two things happened today to reinforce that.

  1. Yahoo announced they were having incoming MTA issues again, causing them to non-specifically defer mail. This has been going on for almost a week, causing mail delays all over the net. Other ISPs are dealing with backups and delays. Bulk senders are also seeing problems across the board.
  2. Yesterday I received email from a local brew pub about their tapping party for a new beer. Usually these announcements come 10 – 12 days before the actual party so I mentally noted that the tapping party was “coming up.” Today we went to the same pub for lunch, and discovered the party was last night and we’d missed it. Well, bummer.

In one case email delays are technical, in they other case they’re user error. In both cases, they’re things that senders can’t really control, though.

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  • In the first case I’d have to agree with you. I think the immediacy of text messaging makes it an appropriate addition to corporate messaging to users – the smaller, nimbler brother of email if you will. Companies should focus on where each type of communication works best and communicate to their subscribers the reason for obtaining email address vs. phone number for texting.
    On the other point, such issues can’t be completely avoided but they can be greatly reduced in the following ways:
    1) when announcing events, the creative should strive to call-out the timing of the event, if possible associating the date/time with something easy for users to remember (e.g. “Our day-after-Valentine’s-day sale”)
    2) where events occur frequently like the one you described, marketers should strive for consistency in the amount of time b/w event notifications and event starts – utilizing follow-up messaging reminders where applicable
    3) add-to-calendar button links can be added to campaigns to make it easy for users to add events to digital calendars and get reminders in a way that works best for them. This isn’t very difficult to employ, and from my research can be done with Google, Yahoo, and MSN/Live web calendars as well as iCal and Outlook Calendar.
    I’m actually in process of writing about the third point for http://www.emailresponsibly.com/ and would love to explore the idea further. Thanks for the post – it’s helping me get the gears moving.

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