In the ever-evolving landscape of email marketing, retailers are constantly fighting to not only stay top-of-mind but out of the spam folder. As technology advances, so, too, do the tools and algorithms employed by email service providers to filter out spam. As a result, retailers must adapt their email marketing strategies to align with these advancements.

Google, which currently holds 28.78% market share of the email world, and Yahoo, which holds 2.74%, are rolling out stringent rules for email senders. The consequences of not following these rules can be dire, with emails either forwarded to the ominous spam folder or, worse, left undelivered.

Research has shown that an alarming 16% of all emails face the risk of being categorised as spam. For retailers eager to make the most of every email and every interaction during a period of slow consumer spending, this requires strategic thought. Here are a few things to consider in order to master email deliverability and avoid the dreaded spam folder:

Email authentication

Authenticating emails is a critical aspect of modern email marketing, as it plays a pivotal role in establishing trust, enhancing deliverability and safeguarding against fraudulent activities. Email authentication mechanisms are designed to verify the legitimacy of the sender – your business, for example – reassuring both email service providers and recipients that the messages they receive are from a genuine source.

Email authentication is not just a technical necessity but a strategic imperative for online retailers. It not only safeguards customers from potential threats but also contributes to building and maintaining a positive brand image, building customer trust and improving the effectiveness of email marketing campaigns. Through Zoho CRM retailers can tap features and integrations designed to reduce bounce rates, complaints, and spam.

Unsubscribing made easy

To enhance user experience and compliance with Google and Yahoo’s rules, senders are now required to provide an unsubscribe option, and the business must process these requests within two days. This rapid response time not only demonstrates a commitment to respecting users’ preferences but also helps maintain a positive sender reputation for a retailer.

For online retailers, the inclusion of one-click unsubscribe buttons in emails enhances customer experience, builds trust, and maintains a positive reputation. It does so by proving that the retailer cares about customers and wants its email marketing to be targeted to people who actually find it useful.

For example, smartwatch brand Fitbit has a button at the end of their emails labeled ‘Unsubscribe’, but when a recipient does, another email appears with a personalised message to say “We’ll miss you! We’ll just be here hoping that absence really does make the heart grow fonder.”It’s a simple, friendly and effective line to leave on – leaving a positive taste in the mouth and the door open for a relationship in the future.

Minimise spam complaint rates

With Google and Yahoo now setting their tolerance for spam complaints at 0.3%, retail marketers are confronted with the task of keeping their complaint rates below 0.1% to ensure their emails are delivered effectively. This highlights the critical need for online retailers to stay vigilant and follow industry best practices. Retailers need to pay close attention to their email strategies, ensuring they align with current standards to maintain positive deliverability outcomes.

To achieve this low complaint rate, retailers need to steer clear of unsolicited messages, overly promotional language, and deceptive practices that may trigger recipients to mark emails as spam. Recently, the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) received several consumer complaints about the retail brand, Kmart, after the company sent 212,471 messages to unsubscribed customers between July 2022 and May 2023. Kmart has since been fined $1.3 million due to not adhering to the regulations.

Emails that resonate with recipients and provide genuine value are ones that directly target the recipient. For example, a customer who has previously purchased a facial moisturiser from a specific brand receives an email alerting them to a sale on that brand for the current month.

In 2024, the battle to escape the spam folder will continue. In this race against the ‘spam trap’, authentication, one-click unsubscribing, and maintaining a low spam complaint rate emerge as strategic imperatives, not just for compliance but for ensuring sustained success for retailers. Australian retailers are encouraged to embrace these strategies, especially amidst a period of decreased consumer spending. It is now essential to leverage all marketing channels to ensure the survival and success of retailers.

Vijay Sundaram is chief strategy officer at Zoho.