As a sender, whether you manage email in house or utilize an ESP like mobileStorm, you may be wondering lately\”¦\”¦

Why are my messages being delayed?   Is my ESP to blame? What should I expect and why?

The truth of the matter is, it\’s the holiday season and everyone, (YES including spammers), send a LOT of email. As you can imagine, the onset of increasing volumes has created chronic email congestion, resulting in delayed and in some cases non delivery.

To provide a more familiar picture, think back to Thanksgiving day or past holidays where you were caught in a traffic jam (bumper to bumper) and couldn\’t seem to get anywhere. As a result, you were late.

Just as holiday road traffic can be a provoking situation for travelers, the same applies to email. However you may be wondering, who is supposed to manage all this traffic and make sure it gets delivered anyway? Isn\’t that the ISP\’s Job? The answer is yes, but it doesn\’t quite work the way you may think.

During the holiday chaos, ISPs, especially AOL, Hotmail, and Yahoo, are completely slammed due to the influx of email traffic.  Unfortunately, they have very low resources to manage the inbound capacity (Annalivia Ford from AOL talks about this on her blog tiled \”It\’s a racket“. Hence, they are forced to use literally every resource available to ensure their members (your subscribers) get \”prioritized\” mail. Well\”¦what is considered priority to a subscriber?   It\’s usually personal email where friends and family wish each other happy season greetings, or other communication among colleagues.

Although these messages are high in priority, ISPs also understand their customers need to receive other types of communication. For example, to ensure messages such as receipts, email confirmations, and itineraries are delivered, they place priority on transactional type of mail. Since bandwidth is limited, ISPs are forced to limit the number of non priority messages by rate limiting or deferring mail (usually a marketer\’s campaigns) until resources become available.

However, ISPs do encourage in some cases to retry sending messages. This process may take up to 3 days, (depending on your MTA configuration) before it is actually delivered.  Furthermore, ISPs also look for messages that have good levels of subscriber engagement. This is actually tied to their reputation calculator which contains other metrics, but engagement is an important factor to review when deciding prioritization once resources are available. After all is said and done, there is also the war on SPAM which accounts for 80% of the traffic on the internet.  It is no surprise keeping this forth type of mail out of  the inbox completely hogs up the majority of bandwidth   ISPs have left to   accept and process legitimate email.

As for the ESP, many have asked, what part do they play in this seasonal headache? Are they to blame? Like our traffic jam analogy, ESPs represent the means of transportation used to get to your destination. Although many differ in size, have a variety of features, performance, offerings, and top notch customer service, their basic function is the same.  However, we do work with clients to ensure they are engaged with their subscribers, and send mail that people are expecting and want.

Delayed email during the holiday is something that is a common issue each year and will subside once the season is over.  ISPs have a tough job and so do senders, however, be patient. These guys have a lot of mail to deliver and they will eventually get to yours as long as you plan ahead for delays, constantly review your email program, implement best practices, and keep it relevant.

Until next time\”¦

Deliver and stay engaged