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Archive for the ‘Operational Tips’ Category

What the new era of “Smart” inboxes means for email delivery

Wednesday, October 13th, 2010 | Industry News, Launchpad-New Products & Services, Operational Tips | No Comments

What the new era of “Smart” inboxes means for email delivery

 Written by Haydn James   on Wednesday, 13 October 2010  

As eMarketers and eBillers, we are constantly fighting the battle of getting every email to its destination through clever, practical design and delivery methodologies. We’ve had to overcome many barriers – strict spam filters, a myriad of different email software and web browsers and not to mention design and copy layout challenges to achieve maximum open rates. If that wasn’t hard enough, we are now faced with another hurdle to overcome:

Inboxes that are automatically able to distinguish between important email and email that should safely be ignored. Introducing the “Smart” inbox.

“Smart” inbox – sounds so sophisticated but so what?

Inboxes are becoming more and more intelligent thanks to new features that allow users to automatically sort and manage incoming mail more effectively. The “Smart” inbox uses a range of variables and filters from sender recognition to user interaction to determine what email is deemed important and what email can be discarded or filed into an “unimportant” folder somewhere or even worse, deleted!
Take for example Google Mail, who just recently launched their Priority Inbox feature.

The Priority Inbox is segmented into the 3 clear categories of mail:

  • Important and Unread – The heading says it all. This is where you want your marketing messages to be delivered automatically, and where you could expect far greater open and click through rates.
  • Starred – This section is marked as important and requires follow up. You can reasonably expect that emails will be opened from this section as they have been marked by the user for follow up.
  • Everything Else – This really means, “unimportant and I’ll get to it whenever I can email”. Not the kind of place you want your marketing communications to end up. Chances are it is less likely that these will be read.

Using a smart algorithm, Gmail Priority Inbox analyses information, such as the addresses that you mail the most and your email usage behaviours – what emails you click on and which ones you discard without reading.

Also, when the user marks messages important or unimportant, the algorithm adapts itself as it learns and understands what type of mail they deem as important and what is generally not. Plus future messages will be treated in the same way, without the user having to do anything.

What does this mean for you?

The “Smart” inbox has major implications for marketers and companies wanting to communicate with their bases. Gone are the days where we can assume that emails are generally going to appear in an inbox sorted by date received. Now more than ever we should be applying best practice to email design and delivery.

On the plus side, the rewards for delivering wanted, relevant messages are that your emails get priority positioning in an uncluttered inbox.

Conversely, the penalties for getting it wrong result in poor inbox positioning or worse, it may never reach the inbox at all.

What then should you do to ensure priority positioning?

Here are a number of things you should be doing:

  • Segment and profile your base so you can tailor your communications to be more relevant to your customer. The more relevant the communications, the greater the chance of it being opened and/or marked as important
  • Send effective welcome messages – there is no better time to tell your customers to add your sender address to their contacts list and describe what communications they can expect from you. Also, use it as an opportunity to educate them on the importance of marking messages as important or “starring” them for later reading
  • Review the design and copy of your communications ensuring you have included strong subject lines and pre-headers. Also ensure you find a good balance between text and images so your email can be scanned quickly in the preview pane when images have not been downloaded yet.
  • Drive meaningful interaction with your customers by ensuring you have strong, visible and readable calls to action. Include social media sharing capabilities and where possible include features such as call-me-back’s and polls
  • Introduce a lifecycle communication programme – Where you have a number of critical triggered transactional messages and important scheduled communications such as electronic statements, all sent from the same address. Due to their nature these messages will most likely be opened or marked as important by the user. So your marketing communications sent from the same address will be recognised as relevant and important too.

While “Smart” Inboxes are relatively new and may represent a small percentage of your database, the point is, the email landscape is changing. You should be changing your thinking too.

(P.S. – We used Gmail as an example to highlight “Smart” inbox concept – the other email service providers do have similar features built in as well, so this concept is not unique to Gmail. Where smaller service providers may not have this feature now you can reasonably expect that they will follow.)

Thursday, October 7th, 2010 | Customer Applications, Industry News, Operational Tips | No Comments

The future of eBilling – what are the trends?

1. Online portal paper suppression rates will continue to disappoint;

15% of any average consumer base is usually ‘technologists’ who are happy to embrace a technology like eBilling. The remaining 85% are generally concerned about the cumbersome registration process associated with online billing, and then once logged in find it fairly confusing to navigate and retrieve their bill.

2. Billers will begin charging for paper bills or full detailed bills, however this will have little lasting impact on paperless adoption rates;

We have seen a number of billers trying to charge for paper bills, the most recent example being ‘T-Mobile’ in North America. This usually results in a consumer backlash – consumers are not willing to pay for an item that they believe should be provided to them anyway. The result: although this strategy may impact paperless adoption rates, it is fraught with danger.

3. Detailed online bill analysis will not improve paperless adoption;

Many organizations have enabled detailed online bill analysis, but haven’t yet addressed the 85% of consumers who have refused to register for the service in the first place, so a solution like this will impress technologists, but not the remainder of the base.

4. Integration with personal financial management tools will do little to assist with paperless adoption;

Personal financial management tools are elements that will again only attract technologists who are willing to register for a paperless solution. So the inclusion of tools like this still doesn’t address the 85% of people who are reluctant to sign up for paperless billing.

5. Internet Banking will continue to be the most common method of eBill Payment;

Internet banking is a very convenient way to pay, however it still requires additional logging on and navigating within the security requirements of an online portal. Consumers are looking for easy, simple ways to pay their bills without having to log into a separate environment.

6. ‘Pushed’ email bills (delivered to the inbox) will continue to grow in popularity among consumers;

In every country that we operate, we continue to receive rave reviews from consumers because our solution allows them to receive their bills without having to collect them anywhere. It is delivered directly into their inbox, and it allows them to facilitate payment directly from within the bill, without having to visit a separate payment portal.

7. Home-grown ‘Push’ eBilling solutions will disappoint because of the requirement to pre-register online;

We’ve seen a number of billers try to implement their own electronic ‘push’ solution. However, it usually fails because there is still a registration requirement and consumers are looking for a service that is provided to them automatically without the need for a complicated system generated username and password process.

8. The EU proposals for electronic invoicing methods will continue to frustrate, confuse and slow down the adoption of eInvoicing in Europe. This will not affect electronic invoicing adoption in the US.

If you are in the EU, you may be familiar with the discussions that have been ongoing for the past 3 / 4 years regarding electronic invoicing across Europe.

On 26 March 2010, the 27 EU Nation States reached an agreement that the solution proposed by these EU Ministers doesn’t effectively allow the rapid introduction of eInvoicing. We predict that these conversations will continue for another 2 years, so why wait for the bureaucrats? Instead, implement something that makes business sense.

Conclusion: The solution to an effective paperless billing strategy is to remove all registration requirements.

  • As long as you have the consumers email address, you can provide an electronic bill.
  • Make sure that the bill is delivered directly to the inbox.
  • Ensure that they don’t have to jump through any hoops to receive their bill.
  • Make payment as simple as possible by including capability to settle the bill within the eBill itself.
  • Any marketing included in the eBill must be personalized in order to drive more targeted traffic back to your website. Enabling cross sell and up sell opportunities.

Intelligent Mail Services & the USPS

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010 | Operational Tips | No Comments

Intelligent Mail

Intelligent Mail is the technology platform for the next generation of mailing services, features and products. Mailers and the Postal Service™ will gain end-to-end visibility into the mailstream through the use of the suite of Intelligent Mail barcodes and by submitting electronic documentation, which will create actionable information about mail for marketing, financial and operational environments.

Steps to Getting Started
To get started with Intelligent Mail here are a few basic steps to get you on your way:

Talk with your local BMEU or MDA to receive guidance on how to best meet your mailing needs with the Intelligent Mail options the Postal Service has provided.

Apply for a Mailer ID (MID), which you will use to identify your mailpieces and mail aggregates.

Register for Business Customer Gateway access, which you will use to submit electronic documentation.

Learn about the suite of Intelligent Mail barcodes: Intelligent Mail barcode for letters, cards and flats, Intelligent Mail Tray barcode, Intelligent Mail Container barcode and Intelligent Mail Package barcode.

Determine which OneCode Services you would like to use.

Access guides and specifications for Intelligent Mail.

Review presentations about Intelligent Mail.

Each of the aforementioned steps are explained at the following link:

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