What You Need to Know to Improve your Hotmail Deliverability
As you may have read, Microsoft recently unveiled some big new changes to Windows Live Hotmail that could have significant impact on email marketers. We see this is more than just a feature upgrade to Windows Live Hotmail: this is a continuation of a number of changes we've seen and we anticipate similar actions from other big mailbox providers in their ongoing battle to be the inbox of choice and to compete against social networks.
How they might impact your marketing programmes:
Trusted Senders Icon: Intended to protect consumers against phishing, this will visually identify authenticated email.
Sweep: Consumers have always been able to filter mail from specific senders to certain folders or take mass actions against certain folders. Consumers can do this in all webmail clients now, and even in the previous Windows Live Hotmail version. But the new Sweep feature makes it easier to automatically file or remove "gray mail," which Microsoft defines as mail that subscribers signed up for but no longer want, by offering a simplified button. This means that you should see lower complaint rates if your email practices are following Emailvision's advice, as sweeping messages into the trash or into a folder for later reading will not affect a marketer's sender reputation like a complaint would.
Time travelling filters: This feature has actually existed for a while, but Microsoft is now talking about it more openly. Getting to the inbox isn't always permanent. Microsoft's filters can retroactively remove messages that were placed in the inbox if the reputation of the sender is later revealed to be poor and the recipient has not yet seen the message in their mailbox.
One click filters: These provide an easy way to view groups of messages. With one click, you can see mail from your contacts, or mail from social sites. These views give easy access to certain email such as that from known contacts. Similar to a feature in Yahoo! this is an element that could de-emphasise marketing messages.
Prompted Unsubscribe: Silent unsubscribers -- subscribers who delete messages without reading or opting out -- will now become vocal. Subscribers that delete your messages multiple times without ever opening the message will now be prompted if they want to unsubscribe from the message. If they do ask to be unsubscribed but still continue to receive messages, Windows Live Hotmail could then block messages from that sender. This feature was talked about prospectively as a part of their ongoing plans to continue to revitalise the inbox at Windows Live Hotmail.
Bottom line: Reputation and engagement matter more than ever.
In light of these changes, you can take these steps:
You can't fix what you can't see: If you aren't already reviewing your metrics reports by ISP in Campaign Commander, now is definitely the time to start. At a base level you'll want to see if these Hotmail changes impact your response rates. More sophisticated mailers will want to start customising campaigns for Hotmail recipients. In particular, you'll want to pay close attention to activity by Hotmail addresses and try and re-engage inactives much sooner than normal.
Keep your reputation squeaky clean: This is a given but reputation is a driving factor behind the "time travel" filters, so the penalties for being tagged as a bad actor will continue to multiply.
Implement the Campaign Commander™ unsubscribe: Don't get caught without a working unsubscribe mechanism unless you want Microsoft to block your messages permanently to senders that continually delete your messages without reading them.
Should you have any questions, please do not hesitate to call your Account Manager or leave a comment below.
Global Support & Deliverability Director
22 Jul 2010