June 19, 2009, 12:00 AM

How e-retailers can avoid the e-mail spam folder

E-retailers can avoid getting their messages caught in the dreaded junk box by taking some simple steps, Austin Bliss, president of FreshAddress, said during a presentation this week.


E-retailers spend a great deal of time and effort on developing captivating, creative e-mails. So it’s naturally frustrating when a merchant finds that many of its messages are being sent directly to the junk box. Austin Bliss, president of FreshAddress, a provider of e-mail appending and change of address services, offered tips on how e-retailers can avoid getting caught in the dreaded spam filter during his presentation at the Internet Retailer 2009 Conference & Exhibition.

A key way to avoid the spam trap is to make sure all messages are being delivered to active e-mail accounts, Bliss said. One way to do this is to check for activity. If e-mails to a particular subscriber have not been opened for months, it could be a defunct account or bad address.

“Repeated attempts to a known undeliverable address is the behavior of a spammer,” Bliss said. “Over 30% of your customers will change their e-mail addresses this year. Watch for inactivity.”

Another way to make sure addresses are valid is to utilize a double opt in procedure. With such procedures, retailers send an e-mail to the address provided and ask the consumer to go to her inbox, open the special message and click on a link in the e-mail. Only then will she be added to the list.

Retailers also should make sure that the box that consumers enter their e-mail into is long enough so that the entire address can be read, Bliss said. Merchants also may want to implement a spell check feature that checks for spelling errors in common e-mail programs like Hotmail, Gmail and Yahoo.

A confirmation page can also help, Bliss added. After shoppers submit an e-mail address, a retailer can show the consumers what they’ve entered and ask them to confirm that the address is correct.

Beyond helping consumers avoid typos, e-retailers should avoid them as well. Misspelled words or poor grammar signals to providers that the message may be coming from a spammer.

Bliss also stressed being diligent about good list-building practices. The best way to build a list is to ask customers to provide their e-mails. Offering incentives like discounts can help, Bliss said. It can also help to explain what the e-mails will provide, such as information on sales or new products or other content like recipes in the case of a cookware retailer or home decorating tips for a home furnishings retailer.

List buying or finding e-mail lists on the Internet can be dangerous as Internet service providers sometimes add seemingly valid e-mail addresses to such lists to identify unsolicited e-mail and hunt down spammers, Bliss said. It’s important to send e-mails to consumers who have asked for them or opted in, he added. Also, to avoid shoppers moving messages to the spam folder, e-retailers should make it clear upfront what types of messages they will send and how often. “Don’t just assume that someone wants your e-mail. ISP’s watch complaint rates very closely,” Bliss said. “Their No. 1 goal is to keep their customers happy, not to deliver your marketing e-mails.”



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