Practical Ecommerce

Email Provider Looks Back on 2009

Spammers were exploiting social networking sites and phishing was one of the top crimes around the globe in 2009, according to a study released by email service provider, ReturnPath. In a retrospective list of the top ten email trends for 2009, ReturnPath puts the proliferation of unwanted email at the top of the heap.

Spam, Spam, Spam

The number of unwanted email messages sent in 2009 reached the highest levels ever recorded. ReturnPath quotes a statistic from online security management company MX Logic that says spam accounted for 94.6 percent of all emails last year. A quote attributed to AllSpammedUp reports, “Spam has increased over 141 percent since March 2009, and also found that spam volumes grow by over 117 billion emails a day.” The ReturnPath study says McAfee reported a similar increase, blaming the main source of the expansion on commercial emailers taking advantage of social networking opportunities.

Whitelists Reduce False Positives

2009 brought an increase in false positives, the misidentification and misdirection of requested, expected and wanted emails resulting in messages that fail to reach the designated recipient–in other words, legitimate email messages that were blocked by spam filters. ReturnPath reported that an increase in misidentified emails took a harsh toll on 2009 marketing campaigns; however, businesses that used a whitelist of trusted addresses were able to significantly reduce the occurrence of false positives.

Phishing Hits the Big and Small

Phishing is when bad guys pose on the Internet as a trusted business and trick customers into revealing sensitive personal data. The ReturnPath report pointed to phishing as one of the world’s most prevalent criminal activities in 2009, causing significant losses not only to business in the financial sector, such as eBay, PayPal, but also to ecommerce merchants, brand marketers and even the social network, Facebook.

Email and Social Networking Blend

Email providers took social networking to the inbox in 2009, with new features designed to enhance the user experience. Yahoo! introduced an email feature that specially highlights unread messages from the user’s personal contact list, as well as a tab that allows users to share what they are doing in a Twitter-like fashion.

Another new initiative by Microsoft Office allows users to program the inbox to give more importance to emails from “friends,” which could be used to positively influence click-through rates.

On the other side of the email/social media-blending phenomenon, the social networking pioneer, MySpace, has started up its own system of email inboxes.

Feedback Loops Reduce Spam Complaints

Reduced spam complaints are listed by ReturnPath as an important email trend of the year, due to real-time data delivered through improved feedback loops. Spam complaints are best handled immediately, and specific information about the source of complaints at the moment they occur has allowed marketers to create better email messages, and to produce cleaner, more receptive mailing lists.

Five More Email Trends

Five more 2009 trends in email marketing caught the interest of ReturnPath.

  1. Commercial senders gained more access to ISPs to help troubleshoot delivery issues. To quote ReturnPath “More ISPs are providing ‘postmaster pages’ to improve transparency and provide key information about email delivery into their network.”

  2. A big trend in 2009 was the merger or acquisition of several large ISPs, such as IBM’s acquisition of some of Outblaze’s messaging assets; and the migration of European companies Tele2 France, Club-Internet and Neuf’s to the French mobile phone company, SFR.

  3. Google became the third most popular web email application in 2009, gaining 45 percent more users than in 2008. ReturnPath notes that Gmail does not offer feedback loops or whitelisting programs, making it more difficult for email marketers to circumvent its spam blockers.

  4. Outbound abuse remained a problem and a concern for emailers throughout 2009. That is when an ISP is inadvertently spamming itself, causing it to be blacklisted by other ISPs.

  5. Email was still flourishing in 2009, with marketers developing coordinated and synchronized social marketing and email campaigns, and using social media outlets to collect email addresses.

Kate Monteith

Kate Monteith

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