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Inbox Placement Rates, Evolving

Recently, Laura Atkins wrote an article on proxy email engagement metrics, called Reporting Email Disposition, which sparked a subsequent article by Laura Villevieille (deliverability analyst for IBM) regarding new “dream” metrics for Inbox Performance.  Early this summer, in a similar vein, I started a conversation on the MAAWG senders’ forum about gaining further insight on how to achieve precise inbox placement from ISPs, so that senders would be able to rely less on general seed list inbox placement rates and depend more on actual inbox placement and read rates, directly obtainable from the ISPs themselves.

At the time, it seemed as though there were was some reluctance from ISPs and receivers to build a vast new protocol.  The conversation quickly died, in large part because the senders had much more to gain than the ISPs.   It was noted that the advantages to senders were enormous and that demanding access to such data without explicit incentives to the ISPs would be a non-starter.  Then, suddenly, everything changed.

Mail.ru was not in the picture at the time of the forum dialogue, yet some prominent ESPs expressed interest in applying this information to its current set of metrics and engagement practices.  At that time, a bigger question was being raised.  What is the value proposition for the ISPs?  That central question led to many others.  What would ISPs require in exchange for sharing this information?  What incentives can senders provide ISPs to make this information widely available?  Can this information help derail spammers?  If so, how?  For example, what percentage of true inbox placements came from spammers?  From this data, what egregious tactics are spammers using to infiltrate the inbox?

For some deliverability professionals, this is the holy grail.  Knowing which emails successfully landed.  Gaining access to this data that can begin to answer these questions is a distinct win for marketers and senders. Using these engagement metrics can help reengineer marketing automation rules, setting up more unique tracks to drive further relevancy.  Further relevancy means increased engagement; increased engagement means less spam or “unwanted email.”

Fast becoming a reality, these dream metrics, such as “true inbox placement” and “read-rates” are now readily available at a few remote ISPs.  While some of us might think these remote ISPs are “insignificant” I beg to differ… For delivery professionals, this data can be obtained at the MTA level.  These metrics make it possible to show true inbox placement, as opposed to the more general 250 delivered metric,  which only shows messages delivered by the receiver, but does not show actual inbox placement, or if the message was routed to the junk folder.   This change constitutes a vast improvement because senders really need to know precisely what happens to the message after it’s been considered received.

The aforementioned dream metrics would help delivery professionals further diagnose issues without opening up trouble tickets with the ISPs, and would allow for richer collaboration between delivery professionals and marketers in regards to which campaigns most resonated with subscribers, why those campaigns were read, and how long messages remained open.

This is an amazing time to be a deliverability professional, because now we know that data can be made programmatically available.  As these metrics evolve, it appears that delivery proxy metrics may be slowly fading.  Even now, progressive ISP Mail.ru has finally made inbox placement data available to senders when they log in.  And so, looking to the future, more questions arise, questions that we look forward to answering.

  • Will they make this data available programmatically via an API?
  • If so, how much will they charge to access this data programmatically?
  • Is charging for this data, incentive enough?
  • Which ISPs will follow?
  • How will we utilize this information to help further thwart spam?
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