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Combatting False Abuse in Email Marketing And How Snapdeal Finds A Way Out

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Email marketing entails a lot of challenges. It’s not as simple as drafting an email and hitting the ‘SEND’ button and results magically appear. It’s also not about numbers that brings sales and rewards. The challenge is to go through the three stages of deliverability, reputation and readers’ response. At every stage the crucial factor is to be fighting back SPAM.

What is SPAM?

SPAM or SPAM emails are unwanted emails that reach a person’s inbox, emails that she has not asked for. SPAM emails are also emails that do not hold true to the compliances set forth by laws for email marketing that various Email Service Providers (ESPs) and Internet Service Providers (ISPs) must follow. In India, however, like many other countries we do not have email marketing laws. Most often we follow the United States’ CAN-SPAM Act.

When does an email become SPAM and what is False Abuse?

An email that you send to a customer, a visitor on your website or a client (or any other) can be marked SPAM if:

  1. It does not comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  2. Its sender does not have a good reputation.
  3. Receiver’s engagement with or perception of the email.

Let’s see the CAN-SPAM Compliances first:

  • The pre-header should be valid having a proper sender name and domain, good subject line, a decent preview text.
  • There should be an unsubscribe link in the email in case the receiver wants to discontinue receiving emails.
  • The email should have sender/company information like the sender/company name and correct postal address.
  • The sender must have the receiver’s permission to send her emails.
  • The email should not have misleading information with a deceptive subject line and sender details and content.
  • The first email should be sent as an advertisement.
  • The senders must know what others are doing on their behalf.
  • Opt-out requests should be honored within ten days.

An email has to adhere to these compliances strictly else the ESP marks it as possible SPAM delivering it into the SPAM folder of the receiver.

Let’s see the next challenge in the Reputation phase:

A sender’s reputation is very important. A sender with a bad reputation will not be favored by good ESPs and ISPs and will have high chances of emails landing into the SPAM folder. There are a few checks for SPAM:

  • Content: SPAM filters filter emails based on their content and mark certain kind of content as SPAM. The content should not be aimed at Phishing or other bad practices and should also not look like it. It can be checked on before sending out a campaign.
  • Percentage of SPAM Complaints: If the SPAM complaints are more than 0.1% of the total emails sent, the sender has to be careful as continuous complaints can increase chances of blacklisting.
  • Blacklisting: In case the sender does not follow the correct regulations and practices and gets high SPAM the risk of blacklisting is high.

These checks above are done by the ESPs and ISPs. Compliance checks are instantaneous and reputation takes time to build. The big challenge is also when these two challenges are taken care of and the receivers straightaway doesn’t care for all your hard work. Here’s where the receiver’s engagement with or perception of the email matters the most. They just mark your all-good email as SPAM because they’re simply ignorant. This is called False Abuse.

Many a times when a reader wants to unsubscribe to an email, she does not know the difference between Unsubscribe and SPAM. Hence she marks the email as SPAM the moment she does not want to receive them anymore. This number is not a small percentage. Experts say that 29% of the people are ignorant about the use of the unsubscribe link and hence click on the ‘Report SPAM’ button. This report goes directly to the ESP (and not to the sender) and if the percentage of SPAM reports is high, the ESP (despite knowing that it’s not the sender’s fault) has to take action by sending a warning that the SPAM complaints need to be lowered down. While the sender removes those email addresses from the database these complaints can be continuous due to other receivers’ ignorance. If the number of complaints goes not go down, the ESP tells the web hosting provider to refrain from the sender’s domain and then chances are that the web hosting provider can temporarily suspend the domain and send a notice to the sender. Even after that if SPAM complaints are continuous, then the domain can be lost.

Snapdeal's Report SPAM

Snapdeal’s Approach to False Abuse

Most websites face this issue wherein even despite customer/visitor/reader having given permission to send her emails marks it as SPAM. Snapdeal worked out a way to combat this by introducing a Report SPAM button next to its unsubscribe link. This button sends the SPAM complaints directly to Snapdeal instead of sending it to the ESP first. This is a step to prevent false abuse reports from reaching the ESPs (and overloading them) and the sender/company can take care of it at its end. If the receiver literally wants to report an email as SPAM, she has to report it as SPAM through options in her Inbox.

Reporting SPAM

Reporting SPAM

  • Email-Marketing

  • Digital-Marketing

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