Email deliverability predictions: What will 2021 bring?

Pink mailbox with @ symbol on it with a turquoise background.

By Kelly Hogan

Posted on 12-17-2020

2020 has been quite a year. Amidst all that has gone on, the ever-changing business landscape has pressed on. The shifting email marketing landscape has simultaneously demanded our attention and action. 2021 brings a fresh start, but also new challenges and opportunities for email marketers, particularly in the email deliverability realm. Here are 5 predictions on why 2021 will be busy, dynamic, and progressive.

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Subscriber psychographics and demographics will shift with the everchanging ecosystem

To maintain positive sender reputation and great inbox open rates, marketers need to be hyper-connected and hyper-personalized to the needs of their subscribers.

Email content strategy will continue to evolve

In 2021, creative email content and technical features will change and grow. Litmus reports that minimalism, themes of future and nostalgia, and 3D images are all emerging content trends for next year.

Another example is interactivity within email. Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP), which is technology that provides interactive functionality within email, is expected to grow in popularity and usage next year. AMP allows for webpage-esque capabilities, without the additional clicks and site loading. Examples include the ability to browse through a store’s inventory or to fill out a review, directly within the email message. Gmail supports AMP for webmail as well as in the Android and iOS Gmail app. Likewise, Verizon Media Group recently announced that its Yahoo webmail interface is now AMP-enabled.

Keep in mind that as content features emerge and trend, the most important considerations for deliverability are brand relevance and subscriber receptivity. With a well-played hand, creative and technically advanced content can increase the interest and engagement of your subscribers. These elements can contribute to high sending reputation and inbox placement. Reversely, if you target segments of your list with content that does not work or that your subscribers do not understand, the risk for decreased engagement and increased spam complaints are high. Both factors can wreak havoc on your deliverability.

ISPs will continue to develop, optimize and release new features that benefit senders

In Spring 2020, Verizon Media Group (which includes Yahoo, AOL, and Verizon) introduced View Time Optimization (VTO). As Yahoo explains, VTO helps to “deliver an email when users are actively engaging with their inbox. It ensures emails appear close to the top of the inbox, improving the sender’s open rates, click-through rates, and the overall ROI of their email marketing campaign.” Yahoo has also announced recently that senders should time their sends outside the top of the hour, i.e., 7:08 AM or 5:43 PM. As more senders begin to understand the best receiving times as well as implement the VTO feature, competition within the inbox will change and grow.

Further, I predict that Gmail annotations will gain in consumer popularity and sender implementation in 2021. As Gmail explains, “email annotations bring email messages in the Promotions tab to life with images, deals, expiration dates and more.” From a deliverability perspective, the enhanced experience allows for better mailbox engagement and serves to rustle up additional interest in the email content. Both outcomes are significant deliverability boosters to positively influence inbox rates.

Both BIMI and DMARC will rise in importance and sender adoption

DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) is a technical policy that uses SPF (Sender Policy Framework) and DKIM (Domain Keys Identified Mail), which are precursive authentication protocol, to verify email authenticity. Specifically, DMARC puts senders in the driver’s seat, by enabling senders to signify how to handle emails when their existing authentication (SPF or DKIM) fails. Typically, messages are then quarantined or blocked.

BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification) references the sender’s DMARC record to display the sender’s logo adjacent to the email in recipients’ inboxes. It was developed by the AuthIndicators Working Group, which is shepherded by cybersecurity firm Agari and includes key receivers and cybersecurity experts. While some receivers already allow senders to display their logo in emails that pass authentication, BIMI provides a secure, standardized method that also allows control over the format and size of the logo image.

Both BIMI and DMARC are important to deliverability because they enable subscriber confidence. Increased subscriber confidence leads to better subscriber interactions with a sender’s messaging, including higher engagement. Engagement is a cornerstone of sender reputation — with high engagement amongst other key deliverability indicators, comes a higher likelihood of email deliverability and inbox placement. The better a sender’s inbox placement, the better the sender’s bottom line.

The deliverability software market will evolve and further diversify

According to a 2019 study, email marketers reported that competition for attention in the inbox as well as general email deliverability were significant challenges for their email programs. The need for data and services to support email marketing needs remain high. In fact, just recently, a comprehensive study conveyed that the email deliverability tools market is quickly developing with a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) that is predicted to rise over the next few years.

Additionally, recent acquisitions in the email deliverability software marketplace have resulted in significant shifts. 2021 will see new competitors begin to enter the space, and those that currently have market share will bring new perspective and creative tool offerings to best compete.

Topics: Trends & Research, Insights & Inspiration, Financial Services, Healthcare, Media & Entertainment, Non-profits, Retail, Telecom, Travel & Hospitality, COVID-19, Experience Cloud,

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