Alice Spencer
Alice Spencer
Posted 16 March 2023

What’s happening with Microsoft and its spam filters?

Maintaining a good reputation at Microsoft, in order to have emails delivered to the inbox has been getting progressively harder over time, as their spam filters continue to evolve.

Over the past week, across the email industry, it has been reported that a big change has been seen in Microsoft’s filtering leading to much higher spam placement, and delays to emails being delivered for many senders. 

This comes at a time when many retailers are already struggling to continue to drive high levels of engagement. The impact of the economic environment is leading to consumers being more price-conscious and wary with spending. As a result, customer loyalty is weakening as many consumers experiment with new brands for the first time, something we also saw at the start of Covid, during Peak. 

It is currently unclear if these changes are temporary (following Microsoft having to fix an issue with their spam filters failing in February) or if this is a permanent change that is now catching out many businesses. What is clear, is that even if the current state of Microsoft filtering is temporary they will only continue to make it harder for mail to reach the inbox.

So what should marketers who are impacted do?

In the first instance whether your emails are being accepted but placed into spam or Microsoft is delaying delivery of the mail you will want to review the Microsoft contacts you are sending to. 

Key things to look at include:

  • How many Microsoft contacts are you sending to versus how many have recently purchased from you? 
  • How many of the contacts have clicked through on an email recently?
  • Are leads engaging differently to customers?
  • How long are you continuing to email leads after they have subscribed but not converted?
  • Have you seen higher-than-usual complaints or unsubscribes for campaigns?

Looking at this data in increments of the last 30 days, last 90 days, and last 180 days can help to establish when contacts are starting to disengage with the mail. 

Using this data, you can start to build a reputation repair plan in which you reduce sending volumes to Microsoft, targeting only your most recently engaged contacts and over time building the audience back up. As part of this, you will also need to establish a benchmark open rate for good performance. Whilst opens can no longer be used as a direct measure of contact engagement, they are still useful as a proxy for placement (as in most cases pre-fetching only happens when the email is delivered to the inbox, not the spam folder). 

In the long term marketers can prepare for ever more stringent mailbox filtering by

  • Focussing on customer retention and engagement in email. 
  • Looking at alternative channels such as SMS or Push for contacts not engaging with email
  • Building out retention-led automations to support broadcast campaign performance
  • Being conscious of and adapting to changing consumer demand

We will be sharing advice and best practice on improving email engagement over the coming months, to help mitigate these ongoing challenges,  improve relevance, and drive engagement in the customer experience. 

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