Guest post by: Jordie van Rijn

With the latest version of Hotmail, Microsoft started their battle against greyMail. The ultimate goal is to keep the Inbox nice and tidy and the users coming back to the Hotmail service. Greymail? What does that mean to you? The underlying trend is undeniable. Marketeers need to adjust email strategy to an interaction strategy, otherwise your email might get greyed out.

True Spam and email we don’t want
The era of true spam is over. In 2006 the average inbox ranked up to 35% spam messages. Now it is less than 3%. The inbox is still (too) crowded, but now its far less about Spam, but more the combination of interesting and uninteresting email.

The uninteresting email contains messages we’d rather not see in our inbox. 75% of the messages that are tagged as being SPAM actually are legitimate email newsletters, offers or alerts. E-mailings that people signed up for, but don’t want anymore. That is what is called greymail.

The general public calls legitimate but unwanted email Spam just the same. But those emails might be interesting and wanted for other recipients that signed up/ (or at least they are supposed to be). It’s not all black and white, that is why these e-mails are called greymail. Greymail takes up too much time and space in the inbox. Email providers like Hotmail and Gmail are taking action by recognizing these messages and placing them out of sight.

More is coming: The dawn of the engagement inbox
The movement towards more and more strictly filtered email didn’t just appear out of the blue. In may 2010 Hotmail announced that email would be filtered on relevance. This ended up being Hotmail Sweep, while they were working behind the scenes to refine the technology.

Galileo Vieira of the Hotmail team at the launch of the Greymail features:

“We’ve been rebuilding “from the ground up” – meaning back-end infrastructure work – for a couple of years now. The back-end work takes a lot of time … thanks to the rebuilding from the ground-up, you’ll see a lot of new things in a faster release cadence from now on, so keep an eye out.”

Filtering on relevance works
Gmail already proved that filtering on relevance works. With the priority inbox, people spend 13% less on unimportant email, and it is a self-learning system. An individual user can tag what email he finds important and what type of mail it is. This information is fed back into the system and adds to the accuracy of the filters.

A lasting trend in email marketing
Do you see where this is going? Spamfilters have become so powerful that they are ready for the next step. Filtering and sorting of email based on type and relevance. It can ensure that interesting, wanted email gets more attention. Helped by the software algorithms uninteresting email is shoved to the side and gets less attention. So if you want your messages to be read…

The messages that are perceived as interesting and quality content is rewarded with extra attention. This has always been the case, people already filtered the email by relevance and gave your company their own ‘reputation score’ in their mind. There are 11.3 companies in what Merkle calls the Email inner circle. The inner circle gets most of the attention, a lasting trend, aided by technology.

Increasing your engagement score
Good news for marketers that send quality and interesting messages already. They will appear above the average, mediocre e-mail. And will produce above average email marketing results. But email filters also need to be confirmed in their perception. This is already a big thing when switching email service providers. Marketers need to be aware that unengaged e-mail recipients can hurt your send reputation and cause email to end up in the junk or “uninteresting” folder.

Some Email service providers are adding features to easily see who is acting on your email and who isn’t. They give them an engagement score. The best thing you can do though is make sure your emails are acted upon. Stimulate opens, clicks, even replies as quickly as you can after the sign-up.

About the author:
Jordie van Rijn is an email marketing specialist, working with A-brands like AEGON, Unilever, Roche and Heineken to keep their customers loyal and brand enthusiasts. As the co-founder of Emailtestbox, he drives to inspire marketeers to optimize their email marketing and get the most out of their marketing efforts. He spends his free time thinking about email marketing. Contact him via twitter: @jvanrijn