How To Plan An Effective Newsletter Strategy

Newsletters are one of the most important parts of email marketing. Not only do they offer ample space for advertising, but they also help to maintain the relationships between customers and companies.

At first glance, the topic of creating a newsletter may seem to be one of the easiest elements of marketing: you open an email platform, write up your text, choose your contact list and send. Unfortunately though (or maybe fortunately – because you can get creative with it), it’s not so easy. At least not if you want it to be successful. If you want your newsletter to have the desired outcome, you need to nail its creation.

In this article, you will learn all the basics on how to create and send newsletters. You will learn how to develop a well thought out newsletter strategy, which criteria an email software must meet and how to choose the best design. We will also show you how to target audience groups with different content and how to find the best time to send your newsletters out.

 

The Strengths and Weaknesses of Newsletters

The immense popularity of newsletters isn’t a coincidence. Email marketing is one of the most effective marketing channels. The average ROI is $38 for each $1 invested and 72% of customers prefer to be approached via email. Well-designed marketing emails sent regularly, like newsletters, guarantee constant website traffic, webinars and other event registrations and product sales. As newsletters statistically form the largest part of all marketing emails sent, they hold a great deal of marketing potential.

Strengths

Creating a newsletter has a number of advantages, from the driving traffic, to saving cost, and integration with other platforms. Here are just a few:

Constant source of traffic

One of the main reasons for creating a newsletter is the regular website traffic that it generates. Organic engagement on social media platforms like Facebook is declining dramatically. Banner advertising is rarely noticed in the era of ad blockers. Written press releases sent by email will often be ignored by journalists and online editors.

Luckily, this is not true for newsletters. Emails that reach someone’s inbox are usually seen, and the likelihood that they will be opened is high, provided that the subject line is appealing and the sender is recognized (as you will learn more about below). Well designed newsletters containing relevant content will enhance your chances of the reader clicking on the call-to-actions for more information.

Considerable savings

Another factor that is not to be underestimated is how much money you save compared to other using other marketing tools. Paid advertisements like banner advertising, Google AdWords, Facebook Ads and influencer marketing are considerably more expensive than newsletter marketing. The cost of a newsletter software is usually low. Labor costs are also lower as the newsletter is created and optimized faster than other media. Depending on the chosen provider, newsletter creation may even be free. This way, costs are minimized.

Easy performance measurement

The success of a marketing tool is based on whether it reaches the required relevance or not. In order to find out, performance must be measurable. Measuring the performance of a newsletter is simple. The statistics section of your email software provides you with all the information about open rates, click rates, unsubscribe rates, bounces, which user terminals were used to open the newsletter and when, which links are clicked on, etc. These KPIs will help you accurately calculate the Return On Investment (ROI) and produce target-audience relevant newsletter content.

 

Newsletter Open Rates

Independence from third parties

When you create a newsletter, you are independent from other service providers and softwares. Publishers and influencers, as well as social media platforms and Google, are much more likely to increase ads cost than an email service provider is to increase the cost of its product. And even if they do, prices usually only increase by a small amount. With other marketing tools, increases are usually in the three, if not four, digit range.

Easily linked to other online marketing channels

Newsletters and other marketing tools such as social media can be combined very well. And last, but not least, newsletters can reach recipients anywhere. Whether they are in the office on their work computer, on the sofa at home on a tablet, or on the go on their smartphone, emails can be opened and read anywhere.

Targeted customer care

All the above reasons prove that emails are a great medium for targeting audiences and customer care.

Weaknesses

Where there is light, there is also darkness. Even if newsletters provide many benefits, they also have a few shortcomings.

Absence of physical haptics

Unlike with analog advertising media like brochures, flyers, magazines, etc. there is no haptic experience with email newsletters. For instance, a desk calendar is visibly looked at all year round. Emails, on the other hand, do not have such a physical presence.

Ease of deletion

The fact that emails tend to be deleted more quickly and less intensively read than other media cannot be denied. There are many reasons for this: a full inbox, unappealing subject lines, content that is not relevant, etc. Although these inhibiting elements can be minimized, except for the first one, a 100% interaction rate can never be guaranteed. This is true not only for newsletters. but for all marketing tools.

If one weighs up the benefits and drawbacks of newsletters, then it quickly becomes clear that the benefits by far outweigh the drawbacks.

 

Newsletter Strenghts & Weaknesses

Summary of the strengths and weaknesses of newsletters

 

What Makes a Newsletter Strategy Successful?

Planning is key to the success of any newsletter campaign and should not be overlooked under any circumstances. Take the time to define your strategy. When planning a newsletter, it is important to be systematic and go through different stages. This can be challenging, but a well-thought-out newsletter strategy will pay off in the long run.

Step 1: Set out your Goals

The first step in developing your newsletter strategy should always be defining your goals. It can be helpful to review your business goals, visions, and corporate values before you do this: it will give you a good overview of your company and its main aims, which your newsletter should also be working towards.

To identify the aims of your newsletter strategy, you should consider why it is that you want to create the campaign. The more clarity you have on the reasons behind it, the more successful you will be. Ask yourself the following questions:

What do you want to achieve? Do you want to make potential and existing customers aware of new blog posts, special events, or products? Or is it more about, winning new customers and strengthening bonds with existing customers?

The goals you should focus on will depend on your company, as objectives can vary greatly across different industries and organizations.

Step 2: Develop your KPIs

The definition of specific KPIs is super important when planning your newsletter. KPIs are key figures that help you to measure the success of your email marketing campaign and, in turn, of your overall strategy. They are a reflection of how well your email marketing is performing.

Some of the key figures include:

  • Open rate
  • Click rate
  • Deliverability rate
  • Sign-up rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Bounce rate
  • Spam rate
  • Conversion rate
  • Rate of new subscriptions, etc.

Note that KPIs will depend on the goals you have previously set. You should identify and evaluate KPIs that are crucial for achieving your goals. This allows you to analyze and evaluate your campaigns and objectively determine their success or failure, and to adapt your strategy at any time.

KPIs Table

Step 3: Find the Optimal Sending Time

When planning, you should consider the best time to send out your marketing email. The time at which you send out your newsletter is critical for its success. It is vital that you reach your recipients when they are likely to be in front of their computer or have their phone or tablet in their hands. But how do you find out what the best times are?

This can be achieved by analyzing your target group and carrying out various tests. Try and send out your newsletter at different times to identify when your open rates are at their highest and, therefore, when the majority of recipients read your emails.

You can also use analysis tools that show you when your target group is active on your website. You can use this knowledge to send out your campaign at the time when they are active.

The best thing you can do is to concentrate on analyzing your target group and evaluating your A/B tests and tracking systems in order to find the best dispatch time for your campaigns.

Best-Newsletter-Sending-Times

Step 4: Create Content Guidelines

The content of your newsletter is essential to achieving your goals. Setting up content guidelines ensures that your content sticks to your defined aims. So, your newsletter content should ensure that your goals are met, and they guide and motivate your target group to perform certain activities.

Consider what type of content is most appropriate for your strategy and audience. If you’re struggling for inspiration on potential topics, then we recommend taking a closer look at the newsletters of your competitors and successful newsletters from other companies (it goes without saying, though, that you should not just copy exactly what they’re doing). This is a good opportunity to find inspiration and ideas for new, potential content areas, products, and events.

Another method that can work well is a preliminary survey. This lets you ask your target audience what content they want to be featured in your newsletter. A target group survey can give you new ideas and inspiration. You can incentivize people to take part by offering with a freebie giveaway, etc.

Step 5: Choose your Newsletter Software

Once your newsletter strategy is in place and you know exactly what your objectives are, and which resources you need to meet them, all you need to do is ensure that you have the technical infrastructure to meet your needs. Essentially, you need a professional newsletter software to create, send out, and evaluate your email campaigns.

There are plenty of free ways to create and send your newsletter. WordPress, for example, allows you to send emails directly from your website’s back end, and many hosts provide an SMTP relay which can be used to send your newsletter. That said, we would advise against using these services, as they come with a high risk of damaging your deliverability and reputation.

You need to choose a professional provider that can meet your requirements and can guarantee both high deliverability and the security of your data. Of course, there are many email service providers out there on the market and choosing the right one is not easy. The old saying remains true: We really are spoiled for choice!

First, think about what features you need to successfully implement your newsletter strategy and what services you value most. You can get a good feel for this by making a list and then comparing the various newsletter tools against one another.

To make your life a little easier, we’ve put together a list of items that any professional email service should offer:

    • A drag-and-drop email editor to create newsletters in minutes;
    • A selection of pre-made and customizable responsive newsletter templates;
    • Personalization, for the creation of individual email content;
    • Segmentation options to divide up contact lists and target different audiences;
    • Integrated image editing for easy image adjustment;
    • Responsive subscription widget to build legally compliant newsletter subscriber lists;
    • Intelligent contact management for efficiently dealing with contacts’ data;
    • Optimal deliverability to ensure emails reach inboxes;
    • A/B testing, to try out your campaigns;
    • Detailed statistics, so you can optimally analyze your sent newsletters;
    • A free trial, so you can verify that the newsletter software meets all of your needs;
    • Compatibility with other systems and services, such as WordPress, shop systems, etc.;
    • GDPR compliance and other certifications.
Passport - Drag-&-Drop

Step 6: Build a Contact List

Before you can finally implement your newsletter strategy and create and send your campaigns, you need email recipients. Building a high quality contact list is often considered a challenge, but as long as you take a couple of factors into consideration, it’s not that difficult.

Stay away from Bought Lists

This is fundamental: resist the temptation of buying email lists. Purchased lists contain email recipients who have probably never been in contact with you, don’t know your company at all and don’t want to receive your emails. This makes the risk of your being blocked and ending up in the spam folder very high. The damage is significant, as your deliverability and reputation will suffer.

Win Subscribers with a Responsive Sign-Up Widget

When building your email list, use a responsive sign-up widget connected to a double opt-in form. Double opt-in ensures that no fake email address enter your database and damage your reputation and deliverability. This minimizes the risk of being classified as a spammer by your recipients or their ISPs.

Subscription Widget Setup

 

Add the sign-up widget to your different pages on your website, like your home page, blog, resources pages, etc.

You should also be sure to request as little information as possible when users are registering, as giving up too much data can be seen as a deterrent. To make sure you secure your subscribers as soon as possible, just ask for their email address. You can ask for further information later on. Additionally, you should highlight the benefits of signing up and show your users what great added value your newsletter offers them.

Segmented Newsletter Subscription

 

Top tip: Divide your email recipients into specific segments and guarantee that you actually deliver the added value you have promised. This allows you to tailor content to each segment.

Use Landing Pages as Newsletter Lead Generation

As well as a responsive subscription widget, you can create special newsletter landing pages in order to grow your contact list. The advantage of a landing page is that you can align the entire page with the newsletter subscription and apply all of the optimization options that apply to landing pages.

Miss Selfridge Newsletter Subscription

 

Users visiting your newsletter landing page will not be distracted by any other elements on the website, as the entire focus of the page will only be on subscribing to your marketing communications.

This is the best opportunity to present all of the advantages your newsletter offers to your customers. Make it clear what your potential recipient will be missing out on if they do not subscribe. Ideally, you will already have defined this in your newsletter strategy.

The advantages of a newsletter could include:

      • Special offers;
      • Updates;
      • Latest industry news;
      • Invitations to exclusive events;
      • Access to exclusive content such as e-books, courses, checklists, or guides.
Zalando Newsletter Subscription

 

Granting access to exclusive content upon registration – such as a step-by-step guide or a discount – will significantly increase your subscription rate.

And finally the time for planning has come to an end! Now you can create and send your newsletter.

Step 7: Creating a newsletter

A newsletter is formed by the following three components: design, content and legal information. We will discuss all three in detail below.

Newsletter Design – The First Impact

The first step to creating a newsletter is setting up a corresponding email template. You can use a template provided by your email service provider and amend it as necessary. Alternatively, you can upload a newsletter template you have already created or that you have bought from a third party. In this case, make sure that the selected layout is responsive so that your email campaigns will be perfectly displayed on every end device.

Our advice: don’t use several columns in your newsletter. As many recipients will initially see incoming emails in preview mode, the ideal width of a newsletter is between 500 and 680 px.

Follow the best practices of email design. A clear structure ensures that subscribers grasp the content and core message(s) immediately. The following layout is proven to work for classic newsletters, like the ones promoting new content. Insert your company logo in the upper section so that the readers immediately associate the newsletter to you. Add images in order to attract the readers’ attention, followed by a brief text and a clear CTA (Call to Action).

 

 

If you work with different types of newsletters, you will need to use different newsletter designs. Ensure you act sensibly here. The colors used should correspond to your CI. Combine these colors with large white areas. This ensures clarity and professionalism.

Clearly separate the upper section, main body and the footer of your newsletter from each other. Where appropriate, use images or color contrasts to carry out visual separation. Ensure that the embedded links have sufficient space between them in order to avoid erroneous clicks.

Newsletter content – the centerpiece

The sender’s name, subject line, and header are part of the content and are the first step in the creation of the newsletter content.

 

Newsletter Content

Choosing a sender’s name

The average email user receives almost 125 emails every day. In order for your newsletter to be noticed by your subscribers, devote most attention to your sender’s name.

We recommend using your brand name. Either choose a non-personal name like ‘Mailjet Marketing Team’ or if you are a sole proprietor, the combination of your own and your company’s name. In case you are a personal brand, only using your own name is conceivable.

 

SenderNameExample

Formulating a subject line

After the sender’s name has been chosen (and it should stay the same for all future newsletters), the subject line should be defined. Along with the sender’s name, the subject line determines whether or not your newsletter will be opened.

The tone and language should match the style of your brand. Be bold and try out something new. Amusing text, questions, citing the recipient’s name, or even emojis, all jazz up the subject line and draw attention to your newsletter. As you’re are probably very reluctant to be labeled as a spammer, avoid the use of “spam words” like free, only available today or only available now at all costs.

Writing the heading

The heading is the third text element that you customize. Together with the subject line, it summarizes the email content and motivates the recipient to pay attention to your newsletter.

Creating newsletter content

It is now time for the core text: the heart of the newsletter content. Possible content may include:

    • Promoting the latest blog articles
    • New freebies like guides, white papers, studies, etc
    • Invitations to seminars, webinars, and other events
    • Special marketing campaigns like advent calendars, yearly calendars etc

 

Newsletter Promoting Webinar

 

The following rule applies: an email usually has a key message. The newsletter is one of the few exceptions. You can draw attention to multiple contents here. However, make sure not to advertise too much content at the same time. Research has shown that the majority of recipients click the first call-to-action.

Therefore, you must always have your primary objective in mind when creating it. Place the most important information at the beginning or near the beginning. The more subscribers have to scroll down, the higher the likelihood that content further down will not receive any attention.

Images etc. optically enhance the newsletter. But beware! Too many graphical elements impact negatively on the deliverability rate as this is a favored tactic of spammers. ISPs know this well and often block emails containing large image components. So you should aim to have a balance between text and graphics. We recommend a ratio of text to image of 60:40 or 70:30 in favor of the text.

When you create your newsletter, don’t forget to add Alt tags to the images and scale them down to the size you want. Bear in mind, that some email clients block images so that subscribers just see a large white area.

Likewise, some newsletter software packages distort large images. In this case, it means that the images in question have to be modified afterwards with an image editing program. This costs valuable time. For newsletter solutions with integrated image editing programs, obviously, no external processing is necessary.

 

Image Cropping

Legal notices

Those who conduct email marketing must adhere to certain legal guidelines. The newsletter must contain T&Cs and an unsubscribe link.

 

Newsletter Unsub Link

 

It’s also a legal requirement that the recipient has given consent to receiving the newsletter. So stay away from sending unsolicited marketing emails as these are legally regarded as advertising. The practice of double opt-in, mentioned above, avoids legal disputes, warnings, and expensive financial penalties.

Both also provide a threat if you (after May 25th, 2018) use a newsletter software that is not compliant with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Step 8: Sending your newsletter – now things get interesting

Once you have created your newsletter, test whether it’s displayed correctly on different screens. Use the preview version to check how the email is displayed on desktop, tablet, and smartphone. In addition, send a test email to yourself and view it on different end devices to be on the safe side. If everything is OK, then send or schedule your marketing email to be sent out later.

 

Schedule Campaign

 

Step 9: Analyzing and optimizing newsletters

Simply creating and sending a newsletter is not enough. In order to be successful (in the long term), you need to analyze the performance of your newsletter thoroughly. This helps identify your strengths and potential weaknesses and optimize your emails.

Track the following metrics for newsletter analysis:

  • Open rate: The percentage of subscribers who have opened the newsletter.
  • Click rate: The percentage of recipients who have clicked on at least one link (Call-To-Action).
  • Conversions and/or revenue per click: The percentage of readers who have executed the desired action after left clicking on the target page (purchase, download, read complete blog article etc).

 

Newsletter Stat Overview

 

Use this data to determine the exact performance of your newsletter and make any adjustments to individual elements. We recommend always implementing these adjustments using A/B testing.

Have you already developed a successful newsletter strategy? What challenges did you have to overcome? Your opinion is important to us! Take a short survey about our blog and share your ideas, questions and experiences with us at contact@mailjet.com.

Like this article? Then share it on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. And don’t forget to sign up to our newsletter :).

Big Data: What Is It and How Does It Work?

More and more data is being created every day. We are storing more information for each person, and we are even starting to store more information from devices, too. Internet of Things is not something imaginary and really soon even your coffee machine will be tracking your coffee drinking habits and storing them on the cloud. The term Big Data first appeared in the 60’s, but it is taking on a new importance nowadays.

What is Big Data?

Do you know that a jet engine can generate more than 10 terabytes of data for only 30 mins of flying? And how many flights there are per day? That is petabytes of information daily. The New York Stock Exchange generates about one terabyte of new trade data per day. Photo and video uploads, messages and comments on Facebook create more than 500 terabytes of new data every day. That’s a lot of data, right? That’s what we call Big Data.

Big Data is becoming an increasingly inseparable part of our lives. Everyone is using some kind of technology or coming into contact with products and big companies. Those big companies are offering us their data while also using the data we offer to them. They are constantly analyzing that data to produce more efficiently and develop new products.

big-data-definition
Source: Hitec Dubai

 

To really understand Big Data, it’s helpful to know something about its history. By definition, Big Data is data that contains greater variety, arriving in increasing volumes, and finally with ever-higher velocity. That is why when we are speaking about Big Data, we are always talking about the “Big Vs” of Big Data. And there are more than three now, because the concept Behind Big Data evolved.

Data storage nowadays is cheaper than what it used to be a few years ago, and this makes it easier and less expensive to store more data. But why do you need so much data? Well, data can help you with anything – present this data to your customers, use it to create new products and functionalities, make business decisions, and so many more opportunities.

The name Big Data is not that new, but the concept behind handling a lot of data is changing. What we were calling Big Data a few years ago was far less data than it is now. It actually started around the 1960s when the first part of data warehouses was opened.

Forty years later, companies saw how many datasets could be gathered through online services, sites, applications, and any product that customers interact with. This is when the first of the Big Data services started gaining popularity (Hadoop, NoSQL, etc.). Having such tools was mandatory because they are making storing and analyzing Big Data easier and cheaper.

The Internet of Things is no longer only a dream. More devices are connected to the internet, gathering data on customer usage patterns and product performance. And then someone said, “Why not use that to have machines learn by themselves?” – so, machine learning was created and this started generating data, too.

internet_of_things_iot
Source: FreeCodeCamp

 

Can you imagine how much data this is? And on top of that, can you imagine how many uses you can find for all this data? Having this much data will help you make decisions because you have all the information you could ever need. You can resolve any problem or difficulty with ease.

Simply said, Big Data is larger and complex data sets, received especially from new data sources. Those sets are so large that the traditional software used for data processing were not able to manage them easily, so a new set of tools and software were created.

Big Data Tools

As Big Data is something that is always growing, the tools that are meant to be used with it are also always evolving and improving. Tools such as Hadoop, Pig, Hive, Cassandra, Spark, Kafka, etc. are used depending upon the requirement of the organisation. There are so many solutions, and a big part of them are open-source ones. There’s also a foundation – Apache Software Foundation (ASF), that is supporting many of these Big Data projects.

As those tools are really important for Big Data, we are going to say a few words for some of them. Maybe one of the most established ones for analyzing Big Data is Apache Hadoop, which is an open-source framework for storing and processing large sets of data.

big-data-tools
Source: TechTiding

 

Another one that is getting more and more attention is Apache Spark. One of Spark’s strengths is that it can store a big part of the processing data in the memory and on the disk, which can be much faster. Spark can work with Hadoop (Hadoop Distributed File System), Apache Cassandra, or OpenStack Swift and a lot of other data storing solutions. But one of its best features is that Spark can run on a single local machine and this makes working with it so much easier.

Another solution is Apache Kafka which allows users to publish and subscribe to real-time data feeds. The main task of Kafka is to bring the reliability of other messaging systems to streaming data.

Other big data tools are:

  • Apache Lucene can be used for any recommendation engines because it uses full-text indexing and search software libraries.
  • Apache Zeppelin is an incubating project that enables interactive data analytics with SQL and other programming languages.
  • Elasticsearch is more of an enterprise search engine. The best of this solution is that it can generate insights from structured and unstructured data.
  • TensorFlow is a software library that is gaining more and more attention because it is used for machine learning.

Big Data will continue to grow and change and this means that the tools are going to do the same. And maybe, in a few years, the constructions we are going to use will be completely different. But as we mentioned, some of the tools are working with structured or unstructured data. Let’s see what we mean by that.

Types of Big Data

Behind Big Data, there are three types of data – structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data. In each type there is a lot of useful information that you can mine to be used in different projects.

big-data-types
Source: E-skillsbusinesstoolbox

 

  • Structured data is fixed-format and frequently numeric in nature. So, in most cases it is something that is handled by machines and not humans. This type of data consists of information already managed by the organization in databases and spreadsheets stored in SQL databases, data lakes and data warehouses.
  • Unstructured data is information that is unorganized and does not fall into a predetermined format because it can be almost anything. For example, it includes data gathered from social media sources and it can be put into text document files held in Hadoop like clusters or NoSQL systems.
  • Semi-structured data can contain both the forms of data such as web server logs or data from sensors that you have set up. To be precise, it refers to the data that, although has not been classified under a particular repository (database), still contains vital information or tags that segregate individual elements within the data.

Big Data always includes multiple sources and most of the time is from different types, too. So knowing how to integrate all of the tools you need to work with different types is not always an easy task.

How does Big Data work?

The main idea behind Big Data is that the more you know about anything, the more you can gain insights and make a decision or find a solution. In most cases this process is completely automated – we have such advanced tools that run millions of simulations to give us the best possible outcome. But to achieve that with the help of analytics tools, machine learning or even artificial intelligence, you need to know how Big Data works and set up everything correctly.

big-data-analytics-paving-path-businesses-decision
Source: Datafloq

 

The need to handle so much data requires a really stable and well-structured infrastructure. It will need to quickly process huge volumes and different types of data and this can overload a single server or cluster. This is why you need to have a well-thought out system behind Big Data.

All the processes should be considered according to the capacity of the system. And this can potentially demand hundreds or thousands of servers for larger companies. As you can imagine, this can start to get pricey. And when you add in all the tools that you will need… it starts to pile up. Therefore, you need to know how Big Data works and the three main actions behind it so you can plan your budget beforehand, and build the best system possible.

1. Integration

Big Data is always collected from many sources and as we are speaking for enormous loads of information, new strategies and technologies to handle it need to be discovered. In some cases, we are talking for petabytes of information flowing into your system, so it will be a challenge to integrate such volume of information in your system. You will have to receive the data, process it and format it in the right form that your business needs and that your customers can understand.

2. Management

What else might you need for such a large volume of information? You will need a place to store it. Your storage solution can be in the cloud, on-premises, or both. You can also choose in what form your data will be stored, so you can have it available in real-time on-demand. This is why more and more people are choosing a cloud solution for storage because it supports your current compute requirements.

3. Analysis

Okay, you have the data received and stored, but you need to analyze it so you can use it. Explore your data and use it to make any important decisions such as knowing what features are mostly researched from your customers or use it to share research. Do whatever you want and need with it – put it to work, because you did big investments to have this infrastructure set up, so you need to use it.

As we mentioned when we are talking for Big Data we are always talking about the big Vs behind it. When Big Data appeared there were only 3Vs, but now there are more. And there are always adding more and more depending on what you need the Big Data for. We are going to mention some of the Vs in the next part of the article.

The big Vs behind Big Data

Big-Data-Illustration

Volume

As the name suggests, Big Data suggests we are talking about high volumes of data. So the amount of data that you receive matters. This can be data of unknown value, such as data on the number of clicks on a webpage or a mobile app. It might be tens of terabytes of data for some organizations, and for others, it may be hundreds of petabytes. Or you may know exactly the source and the value of the data you receive, but still we are talking for big volumes that you are going to receive on a daily basis.

Velocity

Velocity is the big V that represents how fast is the rate at which data is received and treated. If the data is streamed directly into the memory and not written on a disk, it means that the velocity will be higher, and consequently you will operate way faster and provide near real-time data. But this will also require the means to evaluate the data in real-time. Velocity is also the big V that is the most important for fields like machine learning and artificial intelligence.

Variety

Variety refers to the types of data that are available. When you work with so much data, you need to know that a big part of it is unstructured and semistructured (text, audio, video, etc.). It will require some additional processing of the metadata to make it understandable for everybody.

Veracity

Veracity refers to how accurate the data in the data sets is. You can collect a lot of data from social media or websites, but how can you be sure that the data is accurate and correct? Low-quality data without verification can cause issues. Uncertain data may lead to inaccurate analysis and cause you to make bad decisions. As a result, you need to always verify your data and be sure that you have enough accurate data available to have valid and meaningful results.

Value

As we said, not all data collected has value and can be used to make business decisions. It is important to know the value of the data you have at your disposal. And you will have to set in place means to clean your data and confirm that the data is relevant for the current purpose you have in mind.

Variability

When you have a lot of data you can actually use it for multiple purposes and format it in different ways. It is not easy to collect so much data, analyze it and manage it in the right way, so it’s normal to use it multiple times. This is what the variability stands for: the option to use the data for multiple purposes.

We now know a lot about Big Data – what it is, the types of data and the big Vs. But this isn’t really all that useful if we don’t know what Big Data can do and why it’s becoming increasingly important.

Why is Big Data so important?

Big data has a lot of potential. You can use the valuable insights that this data provides for making marketing decisions about your product and brand. Brands that are utilizing Big Data have the ability to make faster and more informed business decisions. Using all the information you have for your customers, you can make your product more customer-centric and create the content that your customer wants or personalize their journeys. Making decisions when you have all the information you need is easier, right?

To give you an example, just think how useful Big Data is in medical research when used to identify how dangerous it could be to contract certain illnesses, depending on some personal medical information or knowing how some diseases should be treated.. This is only one example of the use of Big Data, but it is one of the most important ones.

big-data-usages

Something like online dating could become more than 90% accurate once machines learn how to match couples perfectly based on all the information they have for those two people. Any machine failures or crashes can be minimized because you will be aware of under what conditions the failure happen. You can have a car that drives itself and it’s safer than any other car driven by a real person because it doesn’t make human mistakes. It analyzes Big Data information in real time and knows the best route to take to arrive at your destination on time.

Based on all the information they have for their clients, companies can now accurately predict what segments of their customers will want to buy their products and at what time, so they will know the best time to release it. And Big Data is also helping companies run their operations in a much more efficient way.

Big Data is important for the progress of our technology and it can make our lives easier if we use it wisely and for good. The potential of Big Data is endless, so let’s check out some of the use cases.

Big Data uses

Analyzing Big Data can be done by humans and by machines depending on your needs. Using different analytical means, you can combine different types of data and sources to make meaningful discoveries and decisions. Like that, you can release your products faster and target the right audience. Below you can see some of the most common uses of Big Data.

Product Development

When your main business is your product Big Data is more than mandatory for you. Let’s take an example that almost everybody knows – Netflix. How do you think Netflix manages to send you an email with recommendations picked especially for you every week? With the help of Big Data analysis, of course. They use predictive models and inform you of new shows you may like by classifying the data of past and current shows that you watched or marked as a favourite. Other companies are using additional resources such as social media information, store selling information, focus groups, surveys, tests, and much more to know how to proceed when releasing a new product and focus on who to target.

Comparative analysis

When you know how your customers behave and can observe them in real-time, you can compare this to the journeys that other similar products have established and you will know on which points you appear stronger than your competitors.

big-data-use-cases
Source: B.telligent

 

Customer Experience

The market is so big that it is hard for a product to stand out as unique. So what you can do to distinguish yourself is put effort into personalizing your customers’ experiences. Big data enables you to gather data from social media, web visits, call logs, and other sources to improve the experience of interacting and maximize the value delivered.

Machine Learning

Machine learning is so trendy right now and everybody wants to know more. We are now able to create machines that are learning by themselves and the ability to do so is coming from Big Data and machine learning models that have been developed thanks to it.

Scalability and predicting failures

Knowing at any time how much of your infrastructure you need to mobilize or the possibility to predict mechanical failures is important. It will not be easy to analyze all the data at first because you will be overloaded with structured (time periods, equipment) as well as unstructured data (log entries, error messages, etc.). But by taking all those indications into consideration, you can spot potential issues before the problems happen or scale the use of your resources. With Big Data, you can analyze customer feedback and predict future demands, so you will know when you need to have more resources available.

Fraud and Compliance

Hacking… we all hate it, but it is becoming more and more frequent. Someone is trying to impersonate your brand, someone is trying to steal your data and the data of your clients… And hackers are becoming more creative every day. But the same applies to security and compliance requirements – they are constantly changing. Big Data can help you identify patterns in data that indicate fraud and you will know when and how to react.

Your data analysts can find multiple purposes for your data and find how to connect the different types of data you have. You can use this data for publishing official research and bring more attention to your brand.

Where is Big Data headed in the future?

Big Data is already changing the game in many fields and will undoubtedly continue to grow. Just imagine how much this can change our lives in the future! Once everything around us starts using the Internet (Internet of Things), the possibilities of using Big Data will be enormous. The amount of data available to us is only going to increase, and analytics technology will become more advanced. Big Data is one of the things that is going to shape the future of humanity.

Big-data-future

All the tools used for Big Data are going to envolve as well. The infrastructure requirements are going to change. Maybe in the future we will be able to store all the data we need on only one machine and it will have more than enough space. This could potentially make everything cheaper and easier to work with. Big Data is one of the subjects that we at Mailjet are interested in and it is something that we will follow for sure.

If you want to know more on how we are using Big Data and what tools we are using, don’t forget to follow us on Twitter and Facebook to be the first ones to see our next article on the matter.

What Is Phishing?

Even though technical security measures are improving constantly, phishing remains one of the cheapest and simplest ways for cybercriminals to get access to sensitive information. As easy as clicking a link, victims of phishing are susceptible to sharing private information and put themselves at risk of identity theft.

To know how to best protect yourself, you need to understand what a phishing attack is, what types there are, and how you can recognize it if and when it appears in your inbox. Keep reading and we’ll help you avoid any security issues from phishing.

What is a phishing attack?

Phishing is an online scam where criminals impersonate legitimate entities in order to trick victims into sharing sensitive information or installing malware.

The term ”phishing” is a play on the word “fishing” since in both cases someone throws out bait and waits for users or fish to “bite”. Most often hackers do this via malicious emails that appear to be from trusted senders by including a link that will seem to take you to the company’s website. Once you fill in your data, that sensitive information can be stolen.

phishing-email-mailjet
Source: Liscio

 

That data can be any private information that could be valuable, such as login credentials (email and password), financial data (credit card details or online banking credentials) or even personal data (date of birth, address or social security number). Phishing is considered a type of social engineering attack because it relies on human failures instead of hardware or software ones.

A brief history of phishing

The first example of phishing is from the mid-1990s, when an attempt to steal AOL user names and passwords was made using tools like AOHell. Despite many warnings from AOL, the attacks were successful, since phishing was a brand new concept and not something user had ever seen before. Following the initial AOL attacks, many early phishing scams came with obvious signs that they were not legitimate – including strange spelling, weird formatting, pixelated images and messages that often didn’t make a lot of sense.

aol-scam-email

Some phishing campaigns remain really easy to recognize (we’ve all received the email from the down on his luck prince who wants to leave his fortune to you), but others have become so advanced that it’s nearly impossible to tell them apart from real emails. This is because phishers have evolved along with new technical capabilities. Scams have now spread to social media, messaging services and apps.

If you check email or social media sites from your phone, you may become an easy target. Since the email interface on mobile phones is a lot smaller than on a computer, it makes it more difficult to flag signs of phishing, such as seeing the full URL.

Ultimately, if you have an email address, it is all but guaranteed that you have received a phishing message in your inbox at least once.

How does a phishing attack work?

A basic phishing attack attempts to trick a user into entering personal details or other confidential information. Around 3.7 billion people send 269 billion emails every single day and that makes for an ideal channel for cybercriminals. Imagine if even 1% of those emails are a scam, and 1% of those work. That is 26.9M success attempts every day!

We can assure you that more than 1% of the emails sent are a scam, but we’d like to help you make sure that far less than 1%of those are successful.

A phishing attack can have a specific target, such as people using a specific product, or can be scattershot, going after the general public with fake contests and prizes. In both cases, the victims are asked to enter their names, email addresses and, in some cases, passwords and bank details.

phishing-works-mailjet

Another option is that the email contains a malicious attachment that you will be requested to download. In many cases, the malicious payload will be hidden inside a Microsoft Office document which requires the user to enable macros to run. Once you try to open the document you may be asked to update your software or provide certain permissions to allow the document to be viewed properly. But if you agree with any of this, you are likely opening yourself up to a severe security breach.

How do phishers find the email addresses they want to target?

There are a lot of ways for phishers to retrieve your email address and link it to a service you are using, and this can happen without your knowledge or the knowledge of the service provider.

Here are a few:

  • Searching over the web for the @ sign. Spammers and cybercriminals use advanced tools to scan the web and harvest email addresses. If you ever posted your email address online, a spammer will easily find it.
  • Cybercriminals use tools to generate common usernames (using the first letter of a first name and a common last name) and combine them with common domains. These tools are like the ones that are used to crack passwords.
  • Spammers can buy lists and this can be done legally and illegally. Make sure you read the privacy policy carefully when you provide your email anywhere. Even if GDPR is protecting you, you need to protect yourself as well.
  • Phishers are also able to find what each service provider would ask you to do as a client and then find a vulnerability to figure out if you are a client. For example, in the case of ESPs, scammers can check your public DNS records (SPF, CNAME, TXT) and try to find information that can link it to the ESP you use.

 

Now we know the basics of what is phishing, its history, and how it works, we can explore some of the most common types of phishing.

What are the different types of phishing attacks?

We can easily assume that pretty much everybody has already received a phishing attack via email or landed on a suspicious website. There are many types of attacks and hackers are becoming more and more creative every day, so we need to stay on top of some of the new methods being used to easily flag it as risky before getting caught.

Below, we have listed some of the most popular types of attacks that are used today. The main difference between these attacks is the method being used and the target. Let’s first dig deeper into the different targets that phishers are going after.

Phishing Targets

Spray and pray

The ‘spray and pray’ approach is the least complex type of phishing attack, where one message is mass-mailed to millions of users. These messages claim urgency one way or another. Either by stating that there is an “important” message from your bank or a popular service, or that “you’ve won the latest iPhone and need to claim it now.”

Depending on the hacker’s technical abilities, spray & pray attacks may not even involve fake web pages – victims are often just told to respond to the attacker via email with sensitive information. These attacks are mostly ineffective but can be sent to a massive amount of email addresses. It doesn’t take many victims to be deemed a success for the phisher.

spear-phishing-vs-phishing
Source: Terranova Security

Spear phishing

Spear phishing is more advanced. Unlike “spray and pray”, which sends to a mass list, ‘spear phishing’ targets specific groups with a more personalized message. Phishers will, for instance, target users of a specific brand and will design the email to replicate the brand. In fact, they can target anything from a specific organization to a department within that organization, or even an individual in order to ensure the greatest chance that the email is opened and more personal information is acquired. The highest profile cyber-attacks typically come from this type of approach.

The message will be designed to look as if someone wants you to change your password because of an issue on the service side. In this case, the message will appear to be a legit message – as close as possible to the original one and they will redirect you to a page that looks like a real one too. These attacks are way more effective because they are well planned.

Phishing Methods

Depending on the target, the methods may vary. Spray and pray targets require less effort than spear phishing for example. You do not need to invest so much in finding a targeted list of emails, creating custom landing pages, and so on. As phishing has evolved over time, more and more we’re seeing methods that are not limited to email, but also include websites or social media.

Clone phishing

Clone phishing emails will look nearly identical to an email that you have previously received. However, in this case, the new email will be sent from a spoofed address that resembles the original one.
For example help@appplehelp.com instead of help@apple.com (notice the three “P”s).

clone-phishing-concept

Within the content, the only difference between the cloned email and the original email is that the links and/or attachments have been changed, likely directing you to malicious sites or software. As the email looks really close to the original one the recipients are more likely to fall for this sort of attack.

Whaling/CEO fraud

This is an attack targeting a smaller group of people – high-profile individuals, such as board members or members of the finance or IT team of a company. The email can appear to be coming from a trusted source, such as the CEO of your company.

seo-phishing
Source: Quora

 

This attack is harder to create because hackers will firstly need to find the exact right targets, and then find the right way to impersonate their CEO. However, the rewards are potentially greater: CEOs and other C-level executives have more information and greater levels of access than junior employees. Inboxes like GSuite can help prevent this by assigning profile pictures to internal colleagues’ email addresses, but also through features like whitelisting.

Business Email Compromise (BEC)/Email spoofing

BEC attacks are mostly “urgent” requests from a brand or a brand’s senior staff member. These emails are social engineering tactics to fool other staff members or users into giving their bank account details or making a donation.

A lot of popular service providers in the software space become victims to such attacks. Here’s an example of a phishing email sent from someone trying to impersonate WordPress:

wordpress-phishing
Source: 360 Total Security

 

Once you have clicked on a link or any of the buttons you will be redirected to a fake page created to collect your information.

Websites

Fake websites pages are designed to look and sound authentic. In most cases you will land on a simple login page or payment page, as they are very easy to recreate for many use cases and can be effective at capturing personal information.

paypal-phish-site
Source: KrebsonSecurity

Pharming/DNS cache poisoning

This method of phishing would require the hacker to create a website that impersonates a real one and, by exploiting vulnerabilities in the domain name system, match the URL with the IP behind it. In fact, the phishers would be able to redirect the traffic from a real site to a fake one. This is maybe the most dangerous type of phishing, because DNS records are not controlled by the end-user and it is harder to defend yourself against this attack.

DNS-spoofing
Source: Imperva

Typosquatting/URL hijacking

This type of phishing is easier to create than the pharming one, because you don’t have to completely impersonate exactly the domain you want to spoof. The URL will look genuine but with a slight difference from the real one. The goal is to take advantage of typos when users enter URLs. For instance, they might:

  • Misspell the legitimate URL by using letters that are next to each other on the keyboard;
  • Swap two letters around;
  • Add an extra letter;
  • Swap letters that sound the same in some cases – “n” and “m”, for example.

Clickjacking/iframe overlay

This type of attack means that hackers are placing clickable content over legitimate buttons. For example, an online shopper might think they are clicking a button to make a purchase, but will instead download malware.

clickjacking-attacks
Source: Netsparker

Social Media

Nowadays, everything happens on social media, including phishing attacks. Imagine receiving a Facebook message with a link asking “Vote for me” or “Do you remember your time in Paris?” that redirects you to the Facebook login page when you click on it. Strange, right? But some people are not paying close attention or think that it is just a glitch, and will enter their username and password. But this new page is not really Facebook, and scammers now have your account details…

Some attacks are easier to spot, such as Facebook or Twitter bot sending you a private message containing a shortened URL. This URL likely leads to an empty page or one with suspicious content.

fb-phishing
Source: Kaspersky

 

New attacks using social media continues to emerge, and some of them are playing a longer game. For example, they may be pretending to be someone else on the internet, which is not that hard to do with so many public images. Over time, these fake profiles may send you legitimate messages along with phishing messages to capture more information about you.

SMS and mobile phishing

Now that nearly everyone has a smartphone in their pocket, most of the world is even more vulnerable to phishing attacks via SMS or any other messaging apps. An SMS phishing attack works mostly in the same way as an email attack, presenting the victim with content as an incentive to click through to a malicious URL. The SMS are short and likely somewhat relevant to your life in order to grab the attention of the recipient quite easily and make them act quickly without thinking. Because of the plain text nature of SMS, and the ease of phone number spoofing, it is more difficult to spot this. After the link in the SMS is clicked, the attack works in the same way as the one with email attacks do.

mobile-phishing
Source: Knowbe4

 

Another type of phishing on mobile devices is done through suspicious apps that are downloaded from unauthorized sites. The app may contain scripts that, once opened on your device, can access all of your data. All your passwords can be accessed and if you have saved your bank or credit card details, they will be exposed as well.

How to recognize a phishing attack

There are a few things you need to pay attention to whenever an email or a website seems suspicious. While some phishing campaigns are created to appear authentic, there are always some key clues to help spot them easily. Let’s have a look over some of the things that may show you if you are being a victim of a phishing attack.

The sender address

Check if you have ever received something from the same sender. If the phisher was smart enough, they will mask the sender address well, and the difference could be only one letter, so you may not even see it if you don’t take a closer look.

Misspelled domain names

If you have received a message that looks to be from an official company account (something like “support@mailjet-com.com”) be sure to confirm that this is the proper email domain for this company. Even if the message looks legitimate, with proper spelling and grammar, the correct formatting and the right company logo, it could still be a fraudulent account.

One clue is to check if the domain is slightly different than usual (like adding a suffix to a domain name). More importantly though, most legitimate brands will never ask you to communicate personal information by email.

Bad grammar and spelling

Many phishing attacks are not very well planned, especially “spray and pray” attacks, and the messages may contain spelling and grammar mistakes. Official messages from any major organisation are unlikely to contain bad spelling or grammar, so badly written messages should act as an immediate indication that the message might not be legitimate.

Suspicious attachments/links

It’s quite common for email phishing messages to ask the user to click on a link to a fake website designed for malicious purposes. The URL will look legitimate, but there will be small errors like missing or replaced letters.

If the message seems odd, it is always smart to take a second to examine the link more closely, by hovering the pointer over it to see if the web address is different than the real one. You can always contact the brand using their public email address or phone number to double check before clicking anything suspicious.

Sense of urgency

Many phishing attacks contain messages that warn of issues with your account, or problems with your payment. This is because the phisher are trying to make you act quickly without thinking too much. In these cases, it is even more important to double check the links in the message and the sender address.

The message is too good to be true

We’re sorry to break your bubble, but any message claiming that you have won a voucher or a prize is most likely a phishing attack. We’re sure it will require a bit more work than just putting in your personal information into a website, so you need to be super cautious and check all the key giveaways.

But hey, if you actually won a prize, congrats!

What to do if you become a victim of a phishing attack?

If you’ve been the victim of a phishing attack, the first thing to do is change all of your passwords immediately. It is a good idea to not only change the password for the service the phisher may be impersonating, but all passwords. It’s alarming what a phisher can do with just one login credential. Consider using a password manager in the future to lower the risk, and make sure you have an antivirus solution with secure web browsing features installed and up to date.

Also, it’s always good to reach out to the service provider that was mimicked in the phishing attack and follow any additional instructions from them.

Phishing-mailjet
Source: Houseofit

How to mitigate phishing attacks

There are some preventative measures that you can take to avoid phishing attacks or at least mitigate them. Here are some ideas:

  • Use your own links: If you are accessing websites daily or even weekly, it is better to use bookmarks for those sites. This is the only way to guarantee you land on the legitimate site. So even if you receive a notification, from say your bank, it is much safer to access your account via a bookmark than following a link.
  • Use Browser Extensions: Install or activate a web tool that identifies malicious sites for you so you know the website you find is legitimate. Example: Signal Spam plugin.
  • Install antivirus systems: Antivirus systems allow you to check if there is malware in a file before you open it, and potentially corrupt your computer.
  • Be Suspicious! Build a positive security culture at your company: On the internet, it is not a bad thing to be suspicious. Of course, some things are harder to check and need more technical knowledge, but you can do at least the most common steps.
  • Train your staff: If you are a security specialist, it is a smart idea to conduct regular security training for your employees to best recognize a phishing attack and what to do in such case.
  • Test the effectiveness of the training: Simulated phishing attacks will help you determine the effectiveness of the staff awareness training, and which employees might need further education. Plus, a little non-malicious phishing among friends can be fun. 😉
  • Use 2-factor authentication whenever possible: If criminals steal your credentials, they will still not be able to use them without the second authentication means (SMS, authentication app, hardware token, etc.).

Summary

It might have been around for almost twenty years, but phishing continues to be a threat for two reasons – it’s simple to carry out and it works. So if you come across a pop-up message or suspicious emails from someone you don’t know (a desperate prince, maybe?) or a brand you don’t use… don’t click on it! You don’t want to leak your information to some hacker on the other side.

You can never be too cautious when it comes to using the internet. Take some preventive measures, and ensure you’re on the safe side when you are making online purchases or entering your usernames and passwords.

Once you learn how to identify phishing attempts, it can even be entertaining to track some of the best and worst examples. Some might be impressively realistic, while others are just…

Have any questions about phishing that we haven’t covered in this post? Share them with us on Twitter.

The MJML Holiday Tutorial To Win At Responsive Email Coding

The holiday season is a key period for any marketer. It’s a great time to engage with users and customers and stand out in our recipients’ inboxes. However, holiday season or not, more than 50% of users will read our email on mobile devices. This means that, as beautiful as they are, our email campaigns still have to look perfect, whatever email clients and devices recipients use to read them.

A few months back, we told you about MJML, the framework for responsive email coding that we open-sourced. The MJML team, helped by the community, has been hard at work and has come a long way since then. In fact, MJML 4.0.0 has just been released. The MJML community keeps growing fast and we want to help you be a part of it.

And since we’re endlessly generous, we’ve put together this “How to” post, to guide you through the creation of your very first MJML email campaign.

Did anyone say beautiful and responsive? Oh, yeah. Take it as our holiday gift. ;)

 

Leveraging MJML to create your holiday campaign

To get started, we’ll put theory into practice by recreating this beautiful H&M holiday campaign:

Holiday Christmas campaign by H&M

 

By the way, if you’re looking for inspiration for your email campaigns, ReallyGoodEmails is the place to go!

 

Coding emails with MJML

Before we start, let’s get ready to use MJML. There are several ways to code in MJML, such as running it locally or using the online editor. By choosing the online editor, you’ll be able to start immediately, but running it locally enables you to use your favorite email editor (with plugins for Atom, Sublime Text, Vim) and always be up to date with the latest version.

Once you’ve decided which method suits you best, we’re ready to get started. Here is what a basic MJML layout looks like:

Getting started with some styles

In this email by H&M, we can see that there are some elements with similar styles which are used several times, such as the menu and description of the images or the “Shop Now” calls to action.

Creating CSS styles for the “Shop Now” calls to action

<mj-style> enables you to use CSS in MJML, leveraging CSS classes and styles. Those styles will be inlined to the HTML upon rendering. In the code snippet below we’ve created a CSS class that we will use to style the “Shop Now” CTAs, as well as redefined the default style for the link tag to prevent links from being blue and underlined.

Styling MJML components

Instead of manually adding styles to MJML components, <mj-attributes> enables us to inline MJML styles in various ways. First, it’s possible to apply a style to all components at once, using <mj-all />. In this stage, we’re setting the default padding for all components to 0. We’ll be able to override this default padding by manually setting a new one on the components directly. Then, we can create mj-classes using the <mj-class /> tag, which we will then apply on some MJML components, such as the “preheader” and “menu” mj-classes. Finally, we can set default styles for a component as described here.

 

Structuring the email

An MJML file is generally made of rows (<mj-section>), which are themselves made of columns (<mj-column>). The only components which are not laid out in columns are high-level components such as <mj-hero> and <mj-navbar>, or <mj-include>. Always remember to wrap content inside a column, even if you only have one column.

Creating the preheader

In this case, we have a simple layout with two columns. Therefore, we just have to create a section that will be composed of two columns, with one of them being wider than the other. To add text in each column, we’ll use <mj-text> components and apply the “preheader” mj-class on them.

preheader

Styling the header

 

H&M Logo

To add the H&M logo, we’ll juste create the section and use the <mj-image> tag to add the image, using the “width” attribute to size it as we wish. Note that, even if there is only one column, the image is nested inside a <mj-column> tag.

Menu

Desktop view
When viewed on desktop, the menu is formed of four columns, aligned side-by-side. This layout is again explicit with MJML, we just have to create a section and wrap the four columns inside. To add the menu items, we’ll use the <mj-text> component as we did before, although this time we’ll be applying the “menu” mj-class. The great thing about <mj-text> is that it can contain any HTML, so we’ll just add links to the menu items using the HTML <a> tag. Note that all the <a> tags will be styled according to the CSS styles we added in the <mj-style> definition, in the header of the MJML file. In this case, it means that the text-decoration will be set to none and the text color to black.

header

Mobile view
We’re almost done, but not just yet! If you scale down the original email, you’ll notice that the layout changes on mobile. The menu keeps the first three items on the same line, while the fourth one (“Store locator”) is broken to the following line. If you try to scale down the MJML email, you’ll see that all columns stack one under the other. Don’t worry though, it’s really easy to prevent columns from stacking, leveraging the <mj-group> component.

To replicate the original email’s behavior, we’ll wrap the first three columns inside a group component and leave the fourth one out. We’ll make sure to add a width of 75% to the group component and a width of 25% to the item that is left out, so that columns are equally split.

header-mobile

Promocode

To replicate this, we actually have two options. We could have used the <mj-divider> component above and below a text component, but we decided to use a section with a border-top and a border-bottom attribute. Aside from the border, there’s nothing really new as we’re once again using the <mj-text> component with HTML inside.

Structuring the body of the email

Main image

This one is really easy (get used to it, you’re doing MJML… we love easy!). All you have to do is use the <mj-image> tag. As the image takes the whole width of the container, you don’t even have to set the width attribute.main-image
We’ll use the same technique for the snowballs, bed, hooded blanket and Instagram images.

Holiday Classics section

As this is full text, we can just use <mj-text> and define HTML styles on <span> tags to match the original styles of the email (we could also have created CSS classes or MJML classes for those text elements). Note the use of our CSS class “shop-now”.holidayclassics We’ll use the same technique for the “Holiday Snugs” section.

Four-column images layout

Desktop view Quite similarly to the menu, we have a section that is split into four columns. Inside each column, we’ll use the image and text components. Note that because each image fills the column they’re contained in (minus the padding), we don’t have to manually set the width.4-column-desktop Mobile view In the original email, the mobile layout of this section displays two images, side-by-side. We’ll achieve this by using <mj-group>, just as we did with the menu. This time, we’ll wrap two groups of two columns in a group component so they scale two-by-two on mobile.4-column-mobile

Note that we’re using align=”center” on mobile and desktop, while the original email aligns text to the left on desktop and centers text on mobile. It is not possible yet to add media queries in MJML but this is an improvement we’re working on! Obviously, you can also add the media queries to the HTML generated by MJML.

Two-column images layout

This should be easy by now. The only thing we’ll need to do to achieve this layout is to use a section formed of two columns. Once again, there’s no need to set the width and the images will stack automatically on mobile.2-column-desktop

Divider

Guess what? There’s a component for that! <mj-divider> enables you to easily add a divider to your email. Cool, isn’t it?divider

Footer

This section is different from the rest, as the background color fills the whole width of the view port. To achieve this result, all you’ll have to do is use “full-width=’full-width’” on the section component.

footer

Social networks icons

Similarly to what we’ve done before, we’ll wrap six columns in a group component to ensure they don’t stack on mobile. In this case, we’re using the width attribute, as we want the icons to be smaller than the width of the columns.

Footer text

This part is very straightforward, we’ll just wrap the text in a text component and use HTML tags and style to achieve the original result.

H&M Logo

Similarly to the H&M logo in the header, we only have to use the image component with a custom width.

Rendering MJML to HTML and testing

That’s it! We just recreated this beautiful campaign with approximately 430 lines of MJML, while the original file contained more than 1540 lines of HTML.

Before sending our campaign though, it’s good practice to test it on the major email clients we want to target, using a tool such as Litmus or Email on Acid. All we have to do is send or upload the HTML generated by MJML to one of these platforms, which will generate previews for us. Want a sneak peak? Check here what the email looks like in the major email clients, including Yahoo, Gmail Android and Outlook!

Join the community

Of course, we’re sure you don’t just want to be able to replicate H&M’s email, regardless of how cool we think it is. To create your awesome newsletters this Holiday Season, play around, mix and match different bits and pieces and explore the documentation to discover all the available components. You’ll be able to create show-stopping designs in no time.  

Already in love with MJML? Come chat and find answers on the MJML Slack, report and contribute on Github, follow us on Twitter and subscribe to the newsletter on https://mjml.io.

 

Want to define your email strategy to win customers over this holiday season? Check out Mailjet’s Ultimate Guide To Holiday Emailing.

Holiday Emailing Guide

 

Use Mailjet in Your Azure Portal

We all know that the future of computing is in the cloud. People are using cloud services more and more frequently (even if they don’t know it), and businesses are moving in the same direction because it’s less expensive and more efficient. One of the best examples for a cloud-based platform is Microsoft Azure. Keep reading to find out more about Azure and how you can integrate it with Mailjet with.

What is Azure?

Azure is a cloud computing platform, launched in February 2010 by Microsoft. It offers services that help you leverage any other Microsoft technology such as cloud-hosted versions of common enterprise Microsoft solutions like Active Directory and SQL Server. Azure is a platform with endless possibilities that combines Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS), Platform as a Service (PaaS), and Software as a Service (SaaS) solutions. Yeah, you heard us right. All that in one.

Microsoft Azure is a collection of cloud computing services where you can add different resources that you need. With a usage-based billing formula, Azure is a compelling option for enterprises transitioning from on-premise Windows servers to the cloud because it makes it easier to manage everything you need.

But, the billing system doesn’t only make Azure a solution for big companies. The infinite scalability of Azure can make it just right for your small, personal business as well. And any organization using technologies like Windows Server and Active Directory will find Azure to be a really effective, new solution. Microsoft Azure provides a directory of hundreds of different services you can use, including full virtual machines, databases, file storage, backups, and services for mobile and web apps.

What makes Azure so interesting?

Instead of building an expensive, on-premise server installation, or renting servers from data centres, Azure’s billing structure is based on resource consumption. This makes Azure a less expensive solution in most cases. Of course, the pricing depends on what types of services and storage option you choose.

One of the best things that Azure is offering is the ability to instantly provision computing resources on demand. This means that you can manage all the recourse you want directly fromAzure, and for this, you won’t need to have a ton of different accounts. Microsoft maintains a growing directory of Azure services, with more being added all the time. One of the best examples is the combination of Azure and Office 365 which will make the life of your IT guys easier. If you’re looking for even more uses, you can integrate Azure with your email solution, which is possible with our integration with Azure.

You can use the Azure cloud platform for building, deploying and managing services and applications anywhere you want, while being sure that it provides secure, reliable access to your cloud-hosted data. We all know that Microsoft has one of the most proven architectures. By using Microsoft Azure, you can rely on a better disaster recovery too. Azure is not a centralized local solution, and this creates limitless options for disaster recovery plans.

If that wasn’t enough, Azure also comes with advanced alert capabilities so you will know in an instant if there are any issues that are impacting your business.

Azure has so many functionalities that we’re almost 100% certain that you will find everything you need, including an integration with Mailjet.

How to connect Mailjet and Azure

By integrating with Azure, Mailjet helps to save time and money by providing a transactional and marketing email service all from within the Azure platform. You can use our API or SMTP solutions to send and receive emails, easily synchronize your data back into your applications hosted on Azure, track email events in real-time and much more. You will also gain access to an advanced user interface which includes a real-time metrics dashboard and advanced email marketing features such as A/B Testing, Real-time Monitoring, Campaign Comparison, and Segmentation. Do you want to give al these features a try? Let’s start then and see how you can enable Mailjet in Azure.

Enable Mailjet in Azure

First off, you’re going to need to access your Azure account and click on the “New” button in the left part of the page.

mailjet-azure-dashboard

Then just enter “Mailjet” and choose our service.

mailjet-azure-resources

You will have to select the “Create” button once you have opened the new tab by double-clicking on Mailjet.

mailjet-azure-create

And now the set up begins – you will need to choose a ‘Name’ to identify the Mailjet Email Service in your Azure settings. The name needs to be between 2 and 64 characters long and alphanumeric. Make sure to also select the “Subscription” type you prefer and choose an existing ‘Resource Group’ for the Mailjet Email Service, or create a new one. Keep in mind that the Resource Group name should be up to 90 characters long, can only include alphanumeric characters, periods, underscores, hyphens, and parentheses.

You will have to select the “Location” and the “Pricing Tier” you would like to use. And of course, you will have to agree with all the legal terms of use. Don’t forget to tick the ‘Pin to dashboard’ checkbox to be able to find the Mailjet resource more easily after the deployment. Click on ‘Create’ to start the deployment.

mailjet-azure-setup

Once the deployment has finished, you will see a ‘Deployment Succeeded’ pop-up notification. You will be able to find the Mailjet resource on the Dashboard if the ‘Pin to Dashboard’ option has been selected during the setup. Otherwise, you will find it in the ‘All Resources’ section of the main menu.

mailjet-azure-all-resources

The Mailjet resource will have been added, and all new accounts get activated automatically right away so you can access your resource and start creating awesome еmail campaigns immediately. For now, you can use your Mailjet account only through Azure, but if you want to have the possibility to access your account from our site, please follow the steps described here.

Find Your Mailjet API Keys

To use Mailjet with SMTP or API, you will need your API key and your secret key because they function as user name and password. To grab them, you need to access to the Mailjet configuration screen from Azure, then click on ‘Manage’.

mailjet-azure-manage

You will arrive at your ‘Mailjet Account Settings’ page. Under ‘REST API’, click on ‘Master API key & Sub API key management’.

mailjet-azure-api

You will see your ‘Public’ and ‘Secret API Key’ here. You will also see any Sub-account API Keys that may have been added.

mailjet-azure-api-key

There is only one step left for you to have your Mailjet resource completely functional – add a sender and validate it.

Configure Mailjet for Use

Click on ‘Manage’ to access your Mailjet Account Settings where you can validate a sender address for your Mailjet resource. To do this, click on ‘Add a Sender Domain or Address’ from your Account page.

mailjet-azure-sender

From here, you will add a new sender address. If you want to use more than one email address linked to the same top-level domain, you can add the domain instead. For more information, please see the Mailjet FAQ.

mailjet-azure-domains

You will also have to configure your SPF and DKIM records, just to be sure that you are doing everything you can to achieve the best deliverability possible. A good option would be to set up DMARC and customize your return path, too.

Setting up your Mailjet’s SMTP relay

To set up your SMTP relay you will have to click on “Manage” the Mailjet resources and access the Settings tab. Under the Properties tab, you will have to fill out your API key and also set up Mailjet’s SMTP server in-v3.mailjet.com and the port you would like to use. If you want to check which ports Mailjet supports, you can visit our article on the subject.

mailjet-azure-smtp

And your password (API secret key) needs to be added in Key Management.

mailjet-azure-management

You are all set up to use Mailjet’s SMTP relay from your Azure now. But if you prefer to use API, keep reading. 😉

Using Mailjet’s API

As you probably guessed already, to use Mailjet’s API with Azure, you will have to use our .NET wrapper and reference the Mailjet .NET class library. The Mailjet NuGet Package is an easy way to retrieve the Mailjet API and configure your application with all dependencies. NuGet is a Visual Studio extension that facilitates installing and updating tools and libraries. It is included with Microsoft Visual Studio 2015 and above.

Open a new “Project” in Visual Studio and choose the template:

mailjet-azure-api-setup

In Visual Studio, go to ‘Tools’ → ‘NuGet Package Manager’ → ‘Package Manager Console’ to open the Console.

mailjet-azure-api-resources

Select the Project from the ‘Default Project’ menu, then enter ‘Install-Package Mailjet.Api’ in the Console to install it.

mailjet-azure-console

Once installed, you will be able to view the installed dependency under ‘Dependencies’ → ‘NuGet’ → ‘Mailjet.Api’.

mailjet-azure-api-console

Mailjet.Api is the name of Mailjet’s .NET class library. It contains the following namespaces: – Mailjet.Client – Mailjet.Client.Resources

Add the following code namespace declarations at the start of a C# file, in which you want to programmatically access the Mailjet Email Service.

using Mailjet.Client;
using Mailjet.Client.Resources;

And now you can benefit from all advantages of Mailjet’s API.

mailjet-azure-happy

Summing it up

Now you know more about what Azure is: one of the best cloud computing platforms with the most functionalities. By using Azure, you can forget about the expensive on prem infrastructure and be sure that you can have access to your infra anytime,anywhere. You can also add countless additional resources to your platform and manage everything you need in one place. The integration with Mailjet will give you the possibility to take care of your emailing from Azure with more ease and create perfect emails. Don’t miss out on such a sweet opportunity.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for more tips and news.

Deliverability Mistakes to Avoid During the Holiday Season

The holiday season is almost upon us, which means marketers (especially those in retail) will begin to increase their sending frequencies, and will also widen their nets to reach out to as many contacts as possible. As a result, at Mailjet we’re expecting to see very high volumes coming from our senders and the risk to deliverability increases as a result of emails being sent to older and more inactive contacts.

Both of these actions can lead to poor deliverability if not done with care.

Of course, this isn’t something that only Mailjet faces, as anyone in the email industry – from email marketers, other email service providers, and deliverability services (like our friends at 250ok) – can attest to. So, in an effort to do our small part to ensure the email industry is best prepared for the holiday season, we thought we’d share some tips on how we are approaching it this year.

Plan ahead for the holiday season

In short, just like preparing for your holiday parties and gift exchanges, the best piece of advice we can give to you is plan ahead!

We understand that most retailers make the bulk of their revenue during Q4, so the stakes are high. But at ISPs like Gmail, Outlook, and Yahoo!, the email volume level is also incredibly high, and they can tend to take longer to mitigate deliverability issues during this period of high email activity.

While we cannot magically fix all issues, preventing a deliverability issue through responsible sending and a well-planned holiday strategy is how we can help ensure success this season.

Here are some key dates with huge sending volumes to keep in mind this holiday season:

  • Nov 23rd – 28th: Week leading up to Black Friday, to advertise upcoming sales.
  • Nov 29th: Black Friday (historically the biggest email day of the year).
  • Nov 30th: Small Business Saturday.
  • Dec 2nd: Cyber Monday.
  • Dec 9th – 24th: Weeks leading up to Christmas, to advertise holiday sales & wish their customers a happy holiday season.

In fact, at Mailjet, we often see an email volume increase of nearly 60% on Black Friday, and 17% on Cyber Monday. The only day that has ever been higher was the day GDPR came into effect in May 2018.

Email Volume in 2018

Source: Mailjet (2018)

Considering the fact that sending high email volumes during the holiday season is a global trend, it’s important to remember that ISPs have to handle this additional load of emails from everyone around the world.

This can lead to delays in email delivery and sometimes even temporary deferrals for good senders, since the ISPs servers are overloaded with messages. Holiday sending activities are also known to lead to stricter and more aggressive ISP spam filtering (making it harder to hit the inbox), and longer turnaround times on responses from ISP Support teams when email service providers like Mailjet reach out to them to resolve deliverability issues.

The key to strong deliverability during the holidays is to plan ahead and have a well-thought-out approach.

The most common mistakes we tend to see during the holidays

Increasing sent volume “overnight”

An example of this would be going from a smaller and more targeted list of “active recipients” (those who have signed up, opened or clicked on an email within the past 3-6 months), to contacting “everyone in their contact list” without ramping up to the larger volume slowly, over the course of several sends.

ISPs will perceive any large increases in volume from one campaign to the next as “spikes“. These are viewed very suspiciously by the ISPs, since they mimic spammer behavior, and can lead to spam folder placement and blocks.

To play it safe, any increase in volume from one day to the next should not be more than roughly 25% larger than the maximum daily volume you’ve sent within the past two weeks. For example, if you typically send to 100K recipients, you should target no more than 125K in the next campaign, then 156K, and so on). Given this compounding growth, you should get to your necessary list size relatively quickly.

Senders with great data quality and reputation can sometimes get away with much larger increases in volume, but this is not recommended, especially during the holidays.

This recommendation is especially important for senders on dedicated IPs, but it is also important for shared pool senders because some ISPs (like Gmail) track reputation at the sender address and domain-level, so spikes in volume from one particular domain can also be viewed as suspicious.

Sending to inactive contacts who haven’t been targeted in a long time

Some examples of this include “addresses which have not been emailed to since last holiday season” and “anyone who has not been sent an email in more than 3-6 months“.

Sending to inactive contacts can lead to high hard bounce rates and spam trap hits if the addresses being contacted no longer exist. Both of these can cause deliverability issues.

We can also expect to see low user engagement (i.e. opens/clicks) as well as higher-than-normal user complaints and unsubscribes if someone hasn’t been contacted in such a long time that they “forgot” they signed up. These also lead to deliverability issues, particularly high complaints.

It’s ok to reach back to your more inactive segments, but do so carefully. It’s important to remember that you will make most of your money (and receive the highest engagement) from your active recipients. The only way to optimize your ROI on your active subscribers is by ensuring 100% of your email is going to the inbox. Sending to inactives can compromise this.

We recommend to keep the new “inactive” segment to no more than 10% of the daily volume you plan to send as a start. If the test goes well, then you can try increasing it the next time you send. But do it slowly!

If you see signs of any of the problems mentioned above, you can pause and re-assess if it’s still worth targeting inactives (knowing it will lead to poor inbox delivery for both inactives AND actives).

 

Increasing the frequency of sending to the point where users are overwhelmed by “inbox noise”

This is another very common example around the holiday season. An example would be a company that normally sends newsletters about sales once per week, and is now sending 3x per week (or daily!).

If recipients are not used to this high frequency and become overwhelmed or annoyed by it, or simply don’t find the content useful at that frequency, it can lead to higher complaint and unsubscribe rates, as well as lower open and click rates. All of these reactions are viewed negatively by ISPs, leading to junk foldering and blocks.

It’s OK to increase frequency, but you need to provide valuable content that is worth the recipient’s time, attention and inbox placement.

Also remember that it is not only you who is sending more email during the holidays… it’s basically everyone on the internet! Which means you are fighting for recipient attention. More email in a recipient’s inbox (from you, and the rest of the internet) means less chance for one particular email to be read. As a result, you might see slightly lower open rates due to seasonality.

Time for you to get ready

We prepared a small presentation for our Customer Success team below, which can be a helpful guide and summary of these ideas.

Remember, if we can leave you with one piece of advice: “plan ahead”.

9 Responsive Email Templates For Your Holiday Campaigns

The end of the year is an exciting and stressful time for marketers. Exciting because there’s so much to look forward to during the holidays, like giving and receiving presents and embracing our creative side when trying to design stunning holiday email templates.

But, at the same time, it’s crazy stressful. So many things to think about all at once: Halloween, Black Friday & Cyber Monday, Christmas, New Year… All this comes at the time of the year when you have to assess how the year went, and plan ahead for what’s just around the corner.

Okay, we’re sorry. We didn’t mean to stress you out even more… And to be fair, there’s no reason for you to be that stressed. That’s because Mailjet has a surprise for you: six responsive email templates that will help you win the battle of the inbox this holiday season.

Responsive holiday email templates for the special dates

We always try and come up with new ideas to help make your life easier for everyone during the holiday season. This year, as part of our 2019 Holiday Toolkit, we have created three new, responsive email templates that allow you to create beautiful email campaigns in a matter of minutes.

For those of you who aren’t familiar with it, Mailjet’s easy-to-use email editor, Passport, helps you design your own emails without the hassle of coding. But for those of us who aren’t very creative, coming up with a concept or layout can be time-consuming and maybe even frustrating.

Ladies and gentlemen, here’s where our Holiday Templates come into play. Coded using our own open-source markup language, MJML, these templates are ready for you to use and adapt to match your own brand.

Black Friday Email Template

We’ve created an email template for your Black Friday and Cyber Monday campaigns. We all know that the main focus on these two occasions is on promoting special offers, so you don’t want to distract the customer with useless information. It’s best to get straight to the point, which is why the offer and CTA should be what stands out overall in the image.

Black Friday Holiday Email Template

With a sleek and enticing design, this Black Friday and Cyber Monday template uses a pop of color to draw the eye to the most important part of the email: your CTAs. In this template, there are many different CTAs for you to offer different products, or different discounts.

Do you like this Black Friday email template? Download it here for free.

Black Friday Holiday Email Template

Another Black Friday and Cyber Monday template we offer keeps it nice and simple, with the combination between white and black providing an elegant touch. It uses a solid background and avoids multiple CTAs to ensure you don’t lose the reader’s attention.

Another important thing is to be consistent with your brand, so that when your subscribers open the email they recognize you straightaway.

Do you like this Black Friday email template? Download it here for free.

Christmas Email Template

During Christmas, the focus is still on buying, but it is quite different from Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Our templates have been created to address these very differences.

During Black Friday, the key is the discount or promotion itself. But your Christmas campaigns on the other hand, they need to give your subscribers a flavor of what you offer. Including an overview of some of your products, something that will make the reader think: “Oh, that would be perfect for X”, is a great place to start.

Christmas Holiday Email Template

Simple and easy to navigate, this Christmas email template lets you share the holiday spirit while helping your customers with their Christmas shopping. You have tons of room to share your products with your customers, or just send them a nice note for the holiday season.

Do you like this Christmas email template? Download it here for free.

Christmas Holiday Template

Use enticing titles that link back to the holiday season can give it a bit of Christmas touch to attract the readers’ attention, and get them into the holiday spirit. Lastly, take it a step further by using personalization and segmentation in your Christmas emails, to make your customers feel even more special.

Do you like this Christmas email template? Download it here for free.

Happy New Year Email Template

Okay, this one may come as a bit of a surprise. “Why do I need a Happy New Year template?”, you might wonder. Well, to send them your best wishes for the new year, of course.

You want to build brand loyalty by letting your customers know that you think about them, that you cherish them, and you wish them all the best for the coming year. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that the only emails that bring value to your business are promotional ones.

New Year Holiday Email Template

Wishing your customers a peaceful and productive new year is so easy now that you have this beautiful template.

While you’re wishing them a Happy New Year, you can also take the time to hint at what might be coming., Are there any big updates in the coming year, or maybe some new product launches? You can use this email to hint at them, or maybe even announce them!

Do you like this Happy New Year email template? Download it here for free.

New Year Holiday Template 2017
And why not make them even more fun by including some animated content? Always remember that customers want to feel close to the brands.

Do you like our Happy New Year email template? Download it here for free.

Mailjet Account Banner

Responsive holiday email templates for your seasonal promotions

Seasonal product email template

Christmas time is buying time, too. Everybody is looking to buy presents for their loved ones and there is hardly any other period in which people are willing to spend as much money as they do during the Christmas season.

If you’re planning to send out a campaign promoting your products, check out our template Oslo. Its sleek design is perfect to highlight your seasonal offer and products. Enhance the Christmas feeling by including a festive picture at the top, and keep the email clean and simple, ensuring your products shine.

holiday email template for product promo
It’s also important to use high quality pictures, but make sure these are not too large, as they might not display properly on all devices. Choose a clear headline that describes the content and entices the reader to open your email, like “Our special Christmas products“.

And don’t forget: even if your holiday campaign is related to Christmas, it still needs to reflect your company’s brand identity.

Do you want to see all our templates? Check out our template gallery here.

Special promo email template

Saying “thank you” to your loyal customers is one of the most powerful things you can do. One of the best ways to do so is by offering a special promo discount.

Our template Racoon is perfect for that. It drives the reader’s attention to the central element, your special offer, but it also includes some products that your customers might want to use the discount on. However, the focus should always be on the seasonal promotion you are offering.

Racoon Email Template

Be as personal as possible. This is your loyal customers we’re talking about – you want them to feel special. Include a personalized intro text, segment your lists based on the data you have from them or, even better, use dynamic content to target them better.

Do you want to see all our templates? Check out our template gallery here.

Company’s story email template

December is the perfect time to give your customers an end-of-the-year company summary. Duh, you might think. Yet many business still avoid talking about themselves.

Part of building brand loyalty is being open about what you’ve been up to and sharing your success with your customers. What did you achieve this year and what can your customers expect next year?

Our template Colorado is a great choice to do just that. It includes a timeline in which you can show your most important milestones, and also gives you the opportunity to add a quote from the CEO or another relevant employee. Top it up with a special gift or promotion, to celebrate and thank your customers for the success you’ve had this last year, and drive more traffic to your holiday offers.

holiday email template for year recap

Your email needs to engage your reader, so remember who your audience is. You are not sending this campaign to investors or stakeholders, you are sending it to your customers. Keep it entertaining and relevant. Don’t just give facts, create a story around your company that works alongside your company’s brand identity.

Do you want to see all our templates? Check out our template gallery here.

You can also find great email templates here.

Start designing your campaigns

As we’ve already said, our aim is to make life easier for all of us marketers. And our templates are extremely handy.

The best thing about using these Passport templates is that it’ll only take minutes to adapt and edit them to match your needs. Try them out or experiment with some of our other options by visiting our template gallery. The only thing you need is to have access to your Mailjet account or create a free account.

We hope that you love our templates as much as we do, and that they will help your email campaigns make a splash in the holiday inbox. Just don’t forget the importance of the subject lines you use, because they will make a huge impact on your open rates.

If you need any more inspiration on building your Holiday campaigns, you can find everything you need in our Mailjet’s Holiday Emailing Toolkit.

Have you created beautiful email campaigns with our Holiday Templates? Share your thoughts with us via Twitter.

***

This blog post is an updated version of the post “Beautiful Responsive Email Templates For Your Holiday Campaigns“, published on the Mailjet blog on November 24, 2017 by Laura Chieri.

How To Prepare Your Infrastructure For Black Friday

More and more customers prefer online shopping to grab the best deal on Black Friday. It is so much easier to get your Christmas shopping over and done with without even leaving your home. But what does this mean for eCommerce websites? It’s simple – you need to prepare for a huge amount of traffic on Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To be ready for it, you will need a stable infrastructure. We’ll show you why.

Why preparing your infrastructure for Black Friday is important?

Holidays are approaching and this is the most wonderful time of the year, right? This means that you need to start thinking about all the presents you need to get for all your loved ones. And what better time to get them but Black Friday? For all sellers, this is one of the busiest times of the year, too.

More and more shoppers are eager to participate in Black Friday shopping. The traffic you might experience can be bigger than the traffic you experience day to day, so you need to be ready. We don’t want you to lose customers simply because your site is not ready for them. No business – big or small – should forget to prepare for those big sale days.

Over the last few years, a lot of big brands, including Walmart, J. Crew, Lowe’s and GAME, lost a lot of money and damaged their customers’ trust because they weren’t completely ready for Black Friday. It is not only important to focus on stock and offers, but also how you can support all the shoppers that are going to come to you.

Your platform needs to be suitably powerful. It needs to be able to process extreme peak loads and avoid costly and embarrassing website crashes throughout the lead up to Christmas. In some cases, this can mean quickly expanding your infrastructure or just preparing all your resources for use on this day.

infrastructure-black-friday-crashe

Getting ready for Black Friday: Operating with a stable infrastructure

Having a stable infrastructure means that you have the capability to rebound from catastrophic failure as quickly as possible, that there is no automatic restart planned for this day, and making sure there are enough resources available. If you focus on these three things, you should be in a pretty good place in terms of your uptime.

To be prepared means that your infrastructure will be ready to handle a lot of traffic, without you having to worry about it during Black Friday. Depending on whether you use your own homebuilt solution or procured infrastructure, you’ll need to consider some of the risks and actions to ensure optimal functioning throught the day.

Homebuilt infrastructure

If you are using a homebuilt infrastructure, it means that you will have to prepare well in advance for Black Friday. It is true that sometimes having your own infra is cheaper, but it can be more time consuming because you are the one having to take care of every aspect of that infrastructure.

As any solution does, this one has its own pros and cons. Let’s start with the pros:

  • Everything is in your hands – you can decide what should be done and how.
  • You can make as many tests as you want and analyze the results by yourself so you can implement the best solution.
  • You have access to the servers and all data that is stored on them. You can also be sure that the data is safe and no one can access it.

And now for the cons:

  • That everything is in your hands is as much a positive attribute as a negative one because, if anything happens, you need to be the one to react and save the day (literally).
  • As we mentioned, you need to think about everything well in advance because most of the time you will have to add more hardware to expand your infra.
  • You need constant monitoring so you don’t miss anything, particularly on high peak days.
  • You will need a real superhero to take care of your infrastructure, and even if you find them, you need to be sure that you can trust them to be there 100% of the time to intervene, maintain, repair, and manage your servers.
infrastrucure-black-friday-it
  • In most cases, your infrastructure is built to handle your usual daily needs, possibly a bit more than that. which means you might need to get additional resources to handle the increased traffic just for Black Friday. To have an agile infrastructure on-premises is not always cheaper than having your infrastructure outsourced to a third-party.

Cloud-based infrastructure

It is true that one of the quickest ways for retailers to deal with any amount of high traffic is to use on-demand cloud-based infrastructure. But what exactly are the pros and cons of choosing a cloud solution?

Let’s look at the pros:

  • Cloud providers are responsible for all aspects of cloud server management and they are guaranteeing you an uptime, that they need to maintain.
  • You don’t need to think about anything hardware related – your provider will take care of it. This is just the first thing that the cloud infra is taking off of your plate.
  • Flexibility and scalability are entirely customizable. They are also the two things that will be most beneficial for you on Black Friday. You can request more resources or even use auto-scalability features if your provider offers those for peak moments like Black Friday. Pay a bit more for that period only and then just give it up and go back to your regular capacity.
cloud-infrastructure-black-friday
  • You have far more than one person constantly monitoring the infra performance to intervene in case of an email emergency.

But what about the cons?

  • Cloud infrastructure includes all the essential components such as virtual servers, PCs, and storage clusters, but you don’t have any access or control over it.
  • You won’t have direct access to the physical location in which your data is stored, so you will have to trust your provider is doing everything they can to keep your data secured.
  • There is always a risk of occasional downtime while you wait for a problem to be resolved, but you will know that there is a strong team of IT specialist working to fix everything for you in a matter of minutes.

Tips to prepare for Black Friday spikes

Every seller’s situation is unique, therefore there is no one solution that will work perfectly for everybody. We are going to mention only a few tips that we think should be taken into consideration while you are planning for Black Friday.

Remember: it’s always good to plan in advance so you can make any adjustments well before the big day.

Plan enough elasticity for your site

A lot of customers are making their purchases online because it is easier for them. This way they can avoid the big lines in the store.

lines-black-friday

That means that, as a seller, you should expect more web traffic during key shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday. To make sure you won’t lose customers and lose money in any unplanned downtime or lag, you need to stress-test your infrastructure well in advance. This way you will know the limit of your system and know that you can handle the amount of traffic you expect.

But how will you know how much traffic to expect? You can use machine learning to forecast demands – when you see that your volume is gradually increasing on this day, you can use the machine learning algorithms to calculate what resources you might need and request them from your cloud provider.

You need to check with your network provider that you can have a bigger amount of bandwidth for when a large number of customers attempt to enter and use your site at the same time. Most of the customers spend no more than 15 seconds evaluating your site and deciding if they want to stay or leave. So you need to make sure that they can open everything fast and without any issues.

A lot of brands are relying more and more on cloud solutions like Google Cloud. For example, Lush decided that Google Cloud can help them better manage any site traffic climbs, storage solutions and preventing any outages. And even more – they saved 40% of the price of their hosting solution after the migration. It might be worth it for you to take some time to learn more about the cloud infrastructure option and see if this is a good solution for you.

Don’t forget about security

As much as we hate them, hackers are always present and most of the times, no matter how much we hate to admit it, they are really smart people.

infrastructure-black-friday-security

Hackers know that you will experience a large influx of traffic and that these days are critical for your financial welfare. So what if a hacker doesn’t like you or your brand? He can try to ruin your best sale days. To avoid this, you need to have an infrastructure that it is not only stable, but also secure.

Let’s look at the different threats you could face during this period:

  • Orchestrated Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks is a high risk during peak traffic periods because the work of the hacker is made easier with the already increased traffic you are expecting.
  • Since you are going to receive a lot of online payments during days like Black Friday, you need to make sure that the data of your clients is secured and no one can get to it without you knowing. GDPR and your customers will hunt you down if you ever allow this. Here as well, stress tests would be a perfect way to test your infrastructure for different types of attacks and see if everything will go smoothly.
  • Phishing scams during holidays like Black Friday is another type of attack that shouldn’t be neglected. Hackers send messages relating to payment, order confirmations, and coupons that contain malicious links. Will this is something that can’t be prevented, it’s important to educate your employees and, if possible, your customers that they should not trust those emails and how to recognize them.

 

Improve the use of your site on mobile

A lot of consumers are only using their phones to make purchases. We get it: it’s easy! You can be anywhere, pick up your phone, and get presents for the whole family.

You need to be sure that your site loads on mobile as fast as it does on a computer, or that your app for mobile is up-to-date and can handle all the visits. So you need to be sure that you are using a solution (either cloud-based or in-house) that can deliver content across globally distributed points of presence.

Make payment and return options easier

Both the payment process and the payment success rates are crucial to your profit on Black Friday.

Don’t forget to include popular payment methods like PayPal and ease the procedure for all of your customers. Don’t forget that you will have to probably take care of thousands of payments on such peak days, so you need to be sure that your infrastructure can handle it and you have enough bandwidth to execute all those payments without a delay.

payment-black-friday

Another pain point is the return options – yes, this is not something that will happen immediately on Black Friday, but it is still worth mentioning it. It is good to have an easy return policy for customers that bought items online and give them the chance to return the items in person in the nearest store.

Also, having data analytics combined with machine learning enables you to understand why returns happen and learn to make better product recommendations in the first place.

Ensure all your emails are sent

Can we make this one BIG and FLASHY? Emails are a key element in your sales activity around Black Friday, and you’ll need to pay special attention to what happens both on the days before, and during the actual day.

Of course, you’ll already have sent the biggest part of your marketing campaigns to tell your customers about all the discounts that you are going to offer, but it is never a bad thing to remind them again. But sending a newsletter on Black Friday is not an easy thing because your customers’ mailboxes will be overflowing with emails.

There are two things you’ll need to plan for and pay special attention to:

infrastructure-black-friday-email

Black Friday marketing campaigns

On the marketing side, something that you need to consider is that there should be constant monitoring of your deliverability. There are a lot of emails to be sent and the ISPs can react badly.

Most of the ISPs adapt their policies during such high peak seasons too, and they know that the volumes will be higher (yes, they are preparing their infras as well). However, they are heightening their anti-spam and security policies. Because of that, if you don’t have your own compliance or deliverability team to monitor your reputation as a sender, it might be better to consider outsourcing your emailing infrastructure.

Transactional emails on Black Friday

Now your customers know that you are offering amazing discounts for Black Friday and they’ve decided to stop by your site to buy something. They see a nice K-Pop Funko they like (no judging!), press ‘Buy’ and it’s done. It is time for the transactional email to shine.

Of course, you can create a beautiful one, but what if it never arrives to your customer’s mailbox? This is something you never want to even hear about, and specially not on a day like Black Friday.

The most important thing is to be ready to handle a lot of transactional emails on that day. Transactional emails include new accounts to password resets too, and if those emails are not delivered on time, it will mean that you are losing a customer. No one will want to wait for hours for an email to arrive so they can give you their money.

Then we’ve got order confirmations and delivery notices, and there’s hopefully going to be a lot of those during Black Friday, more than on any regular day! On Black Friday, every buyer will be eager to receive this confirmation in minutes, or sooner, to be sure that everything went well and their purchase will be delivered. If those emails are not delivered you may see a lot of customers asking you on Twitter, chats or even by phone.

Having a tool that helps you monitor your transactional emails and alerts you if something goes wrong can be great for days like Black Friday (or any day, really). At Mailjet, we wrote about how our tool Real-Time Monitoring can help you do just that during Black Friday.

infrastructure-black-friday-transactional-email

Your email infrastructure will need to be ready for the increased email volume too, and to do so, you’ll need to look at the sending speed and scalability. On days that you are expecting to send high volumes – no matter if they are the last marketing reminders for the sales or transactional emails that need to be sent on time – your email infrastructure should be ready too. Again, things can be a little different if you have a homebuilt email infrastructure or work with a third party solution.

Having your email infrastructure in-house is not so different than having any kind of homebuilt infra – you need hardware, configuration, monitoring and maintenance ready. When you need to send more emails you will have to adapt to all this and invest more money to meet higher email demands. So this can be more expensive than just outsourcing your email solution to an ESP.

By having your email infrastructure outsourced you can just get a bit higher subscription for such high sending peaks, but still be sure that someone is taking care of your deliverability and will be there to help you in case of need.

At Mailjet, we work hard to ensure email is not one thing you have to worry about during Black Friday. Your emailing is something that we can help you with by delivering your email on time and to the customer’s inbox.

If you’re not sure whether you should choose a homebuilt or outsourced email infrastructure, check our Email Infrastructure Guide and find what is best for you and your business.

EN-Infra-Guide-Banner

Monitor your infrastructure’s performance during the day

You can plan for almost anything, but customers can always surprise you. Imagine that your biggest competitor didn’t plan for Black Friday and experiences some issues – then all of their customers will come directly to you. This means that the traffic you are going to experience will be even bigger than what you expected.

This is why you need to keep an eye on your infrastructure during the Black Friday and Cyber Week sales. You will know if there is something you need to improve immediately or implement a hotfix. You need to be prepared to react fast to keep things going smoothly and not allow any downtimes or crashes.

The best advice we can give you is to stay agile and resilient at the same time, don’t make your system so tight that it breaks easily. Allow yourself some flexibility – plan for even more than what you expect and remain diligent.

The work is not over after Black Friday

Let’s say that all the extravaganza of Black Friday and Cyber Monday is over. Now it is important to check all the information you have gathered and analyze it. This will not only help you make improvements for next year, but will also be key to ensure the Christmas season just around the corner runs smoothly.

A great tip? Check the news for any known crashes or issues with famous brands. Most of the time there is information on why this happened and you can learn a lesson without experiencing it on your own back.

There are many more scenarios we could talk about but, we’ve covered the most important to help you get ready. Think about your business and what makes the most sense for you to focus on to achieve the maximum results.

Trust us when we say that it all comes down to having a stable infrastructure and planning ahead. If you are sure you’ve got that covered and you are ready to provide the best customer experience possible across all customer touchpoints, all that remains for you is to be jolly.

jolly-after-black-friday

Data Privacy and Security at Mailjet

You’ve probably already heard, but just in case you haven’t, let us share the news with you: Mailjet has been acquired by Mailgun!

While we’re all very excited here, we understand that some of you might have questions about what this means for Mailjet clients, especially in regards to data privacy and security.

The short answer is that nothing will change and Mailjet will remain a separate entity that will continue to offer the highest standards of data privacy and security.

Want to know more about how Mailjet protects your data? Read on!

Data privacy and security: Mailjet’s core values

If you are a Mailjet user, you probably know that we’ve been putting data privacy and security first for a long time, working hard to guarantee the highest standards for all our users.

As a European entity, we abide by the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation. In fact, we were the first company to obtain the AFAQ certification from AFNOR, which guarantees compliance with the principles of GDPR. This hasn’t changed and Mailjet will continue to offer a GDPR-compliant email solution for all of our clients around the world.

Mailjet also makes data security a priority, which is why we went through the rigorous process to obtain the ISO 27001 certification, the international standard for best practices of information security process. This certification requires companies to not only implement company-wide processes pertaining to security policies, data handling and access, but also infrastructure controls.

Our security processes begin with our product development, and the scope, lifecycle and fundamental principles of Mailjet’s security policy are to the highest standard, ensuring all information hosted on the Google Cloud platform is secure.

These accomplishments in data privacy and security propel Mailjet to another level of service excellence in the competitive email industry. We’re proud of these achievements and what it means not just for our clients, but for the individuals whose data we protect on behalf of our clients.

Alexis Renard

CEO at Mailjet

How does Mailjet ensure the privacy of your personal data?

Mailjet’s ‘privacy by design’ approach ensures that personal data processing is compliant from the very beginning.

We ensure the protection of our customers’ data from end to end through the implementation of strong technical and organizational measures including, our data retention periods, data storage and transfers, and encryption protocols – are publicly available under the principles of accountability and transparency we prioritise at Mailjet.

GDPR Compliance

The most important regulation businesses with European contacts need to comply with is the EU General Data Protection Regulation (or GDPR).

GDPR came into force on May 25, 2018. Any company, organization, association and administration, both European or non-European with EU customers, has to comply with GDPR. And this doesn’t just affect your own business, it also means that any third-party solutions you work with has to be GDPR-compliant as well.

Mailjet was the first company to obtain the AFAQ certification from AFNOR, which guarantees compliance with the principles of GDPR, and our clients can continue to expect the highest level of data protection.

Third-party providers are often the weakest link in a company’s ability to be GDPR-compliant. Email service providers pose an especially high risk as they regularly process and store a large scale of personal data (example: first name, email address, IP addresses) on behalf of enterprises. That is why compliance from the entire processing chain is so important today.

Darine Fayed

Head of Legal and Data Protection Officer at Mailjet.

Data Servers in the EU

At Mailjet, all our data is and will continue to be stored in EU servers.

While GDPR doesn’t strictly demand that EU citizen’s data remains in the EU, it does require that the physical servers where the data is stored are safe and under protection, and that any data transfer out of the EU has to be done under strict rules.

By keeping our data servers in the EU, we offer our clients additional reassurance over the privacy and security of their data, as we can ensure that their protection is ruled by the stricter European laws.

CLOUD Act

Over the last few months, the United States’ CLOUD Act (or Clarifying Lawful Overseas Use of Data Act) has become an important issue in the data privacy landscape. The CLOUD Act came into effect on March 23, 2018 and allows federal law enforcement to request the data stored on US-based technology companies servers, regardless of where those servers are based. This includes companies most of us use on a daily basis, like Apple, Google, Facebook or Microsoft, as well as most companies hosted on a cloud infrastructure (GCP, AWS, Azure, etc.).

However, there are many misconceptions surrounding the CLOUD Act. US authorities can only request disclosures to personal data directly related to the investigation of serious criminal activities and/or national security concerns, and will have to do it through a warrant or subpoena.

Like many of our European competitors, our data is stored on Google Cloud servers in Europe, meaning we were already under CLOUD Act requirement and our recent acquisition doesn’t affect this. Mailjet will continue to adhere to the strictest security standards under its ISO 27001 certification. All our data will continue to be secured and encrypted at rest, and can only be requested for the investigation of serious criminal activities.

How does Mailjet keep your data safe?

Data security is key for email sending. When you partner with Mailjet, all your data is stored on servers within Europe (Google Cloud Platform). Your data is copied and placed in separate locations in real-time, and all communications sent through our application are encrypted.

Encryption

One of the ways in which we protect the information contained in emails is through encryption. Contrary to popular belief, DKIM does not provide encryption of the messages, however, it does add a layer of authentication that helps you protect your emails.

Mailjet encrypts the channel that sends your email from server A (your sending server) to server B (your recipient’s server). This is the role of the Transport Layer Security, or TLS. The only issue here is that TLS is still not used by all the ISPs. Meaning that if you send a TLS encrypted message and your recipient’s server doesn’t follow this protocol, the encryption won’t be effective.

Security of the data storage servers

We’ve already mentioned how important it is to ensure that the servers where the data is stored are safe.

If you rely on a third party to store the data, look for solutions that offer the best guarantee for concerns like redundancies, fire risk prevention, high security levels, energy self-sufficiency, and so on. Since you’re not the one directly managing the server, you have to be sure that all of these necessary precautions are followed, to ensure the maximum level of security. If you have European customers, having your servers located in Europe can also be a good idea, since the stricter European laws will apply. Both Mailjet and Mailgun have servers in the EU to help ensure optimal security and privacy.

To ensure our servers are secure, Mailjet keeps its data in the European Union, where the privacy and security requirements of GDPR guarantee the highest level of protection, including limited access to the servers and 24/7 surveillance. On top of that, our data centers are controlled against power failure, with redundant power systems.

Organizations collect, process and hold ever-increasing volumes of personal data to enable relevant and timely email communication with their customers. Data security continues to be a huge responsibility and challenge, and they need assurance that their email service provider can deliver this.

Pierre Puchois

CTO at Mailjet.

Learn more about data security at Mailjet on our blog post ‘What Makes Mailjet a Secure Email Solution?

More questions? Ask Mailjet!

Do you have any more questions about Privacy and Security at Mailjet? Check out our FAQs to learn more about how we use and store your data, or send your questions directly to our team by filling in a Support ticket.

Welcome Aboard Mailjet’s Next Journey with Mailgun

I am pleased to announce that we have been acquired by Mailgun. Together with Mailgun, we strengthen Thoma Bravo’s email offering with better experiences for marketers and developers on a global scale.

From the beginning, we set out to build a powerful email solution for marketers and developers alike. Since then, our team has worked hard to build a product experience that empowers teams of all sizes to work together to create, send and optimize beautifully responsive marketing and transactional emails.

Mailgun is known for its reliable, scalable infrastructure and robust email APIs. It caters primarily to developers and technically progressive teams who need the ability to send, receive, and track email easily from within their applications. Through this acquisition, Mailgun brings additional expertise and resources that will not only help us expand and grow our footprint, but also accelerate our roadmap and bring additional deliverability tools to our customers.

As part of Mailgun, Mailjet will continue to maintain a separate brand, develop new products and enhance our existing offerings. Our customers will likely notice a much stronger infrastructure and additional products and features for better deliverability to be released in the next year.

Meanwhile, our customers can continue to expect the highest level of security and data protection as we remain ISO27001 certified and GDPR compliant as certified by AFNOR. We’re thrilled about what this means for our customers in SMBs and enterprises alike, as well as the platform in general, as we will offer better inbox placement, more insights into your emails, and other positive outcomes.

By building on both of our companies’ strong commitment to serving our customers, we see an incredible opportunity to not only be the best solutions that enable smarter email creation and better deliverability, but also the trusted partners to advise our customers on complex email challenges around the world.

Whether you are one of our valued customers, or are in the process of considering us for your email needs, our team of passionate email experts look forward to serving you in the next chapter of our journey together.

Onwards and upwards!

Sincere gratitude,

Alexis Renard (CEO)

To read the full press release please click here. If you have any questions, please contact us at contact@mailjet.com