September 28, 2007, 12:00 AM

Christmas Blitz

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To ensure messages get through an ISP’s authentication checks to reach recipients, retailers must authenticate their outbound mail with one or more of these authentication technologies. While corporate IT will be integral to the decision, ultimately it may hinge on what authentication technology each of your ISPs uses.

Avoiding spam blockers

Retailers are aware of the benefits of segmenting mailing lists to increase response, reduce mailing expenses and increase customer loyalty. Marketing-driven segmentation creates smaller mailing lists based on common interests or buying habits. It often makes sense to send targeted campaigns to subsets of your customer base, rather than blasting a general campaign to everyone. But there’s another type of segmentation marketers should embrace.

IP segmentation increases deliverability and helps keep you off the “spammer” list. Spammers generally send large volumes of mail from one IP address quickly. If all of your e-mail goes out over the same IP address, it can cause overuse, indicating to an ISP that you may be a spammer. This, in turn, will most likely result in blocked mail.

Segmenting by IP address allows you to assign a different IP address to different campaigns or types of mailing. For example, you might have one IP address for transactions, another for promotional campaigns and a third for your monthly newsletter. Going a bit further, you might assign an IP address to campaigns targeted at your business customers and use another address for campaigns sent to consumers.

By segmenting your outgoing mail by IP address, you reduce the volume of mail going out on each address, which reduces the chance that ISPs will misinterpret your intentions. Moreover, if an ISP mistakenly tags one of your IP addresses as a possible spammer, your other mail will keep moving toward the inboxes.

IP segmentation also aids in diagnosing delivery problems. A combination of real-time reporting and IP segmentation makes it relatively easy to identify which campaign is having deliverability problems, so that corrective action can be taken before the next mailing.

If you’re using an e-mail service provider, ask for your own IP address. If you share an address with another company and they do something the ISPs don’t like, your next campaign also may be blocked. Ask for a set of unique IP addresses if you want to segment your mailings by category.

Keep the list clean

Spammers obtain vast mailing lists and then mass mail to the entire list hoping a few messages get delivered-and expect a lot of bounces. They continue to send to the same list with the same results. These high bounce rates signal ISPs that these messages may be coming from a spammer. The ISP then blocks mail from that domain in an effort to stop the spam.

Legitimate retailers can get caught in this trap if they, too, have repeatedly high bounce rates. Moreover, rejected messages also represent lost opportunities and wasted resources. While most senders can cite statistics on how many of their messages are undelivered, few know why. Furthermore, many e-mail delivery systems only handle bounces that occur during delivery, ignoring the out-of-bound rejection messages that arrive hours or days after the delivery has occurred.

Knowing about every bounced message as well as why and by whom a message was rejected is critical information that enables retailers to take immediate corrective action to boost future deliverability. An e-mail delivery solution that can automatically capture and organize all bounces provides the information necessary to effortlessly manage mailing lists to increase deliverability rates and keep your company off the “spammer” list.

Some e-mail systems also provide real-time analytics that provide immediate insights into the deliverability of each mailing. On-demand reporting allows e-mail marketers to make adjustments to improve deliverability before subsequent campaigns are sent. Similarly, an e-mail solution that has workflow and policy management capability will alert administrators of mail processing problems when they happen, so that corrections can be made immediately.

Upgrading your e-mail delivery system to send high volumes of mail without slowing down-or finding an e-mail service provider that has this capability-is the first step to handling high-volume holiday marketing blitzes. Once the mail goes out, it has to be delivered in order to make a sale. Making sure your mail gets delivered in today’s e-mail environment requires new deliverability strategies. Establishing good ISP relations, maintaining a good reputation with ISPs, authenticating your mail, employing marketing and IP address segmentation strategies, adopting good list hygiene and having a way to evaluate and correct sending problems in real time will help increase your revenue this holiday season.

Barry Abel is vice president of field operations for Message Systems, an e-mail software solutions provider. He can be reached at

Staying on the whitelist

ISPs look at e-mail senders’ IP addresses to help them spot spam. Retailers can stay off the spammer list by using separate IP addresses for:

— Business customers vs. retail customers

— Order confirmation messages

— Newsletters

— Marketing messages

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