Gmail continues to reign as the most popular email platform for consumers all over the world, with nearly 2 billion users as of July 2023. Any time they make the news, whether it be for releasing new features, implementing new rules, or otherwise, it’s crucial to understand the impact they have on your email marketing program. Gmail has recently announced new requirements for ‘bulk senders’ that will go in effect February 1, 2024. Let’s unpack everything announced:

What is considered a ‘bulk sender’ by Gmail?

These new requirements specifically apply to any entity that sends more than 5,000 messages to Gmail addresses in a single day, or what they’re calling a ‘bulk sender.’ This will likely apply to most online retailers with an active email marketing program with consistent growth.

What are the new requirements?

By February 1, 2024, Gmail is requiring all bulk senders authenticate their email, enable easy unsubscription, and ensure they’re sending wanted email. 

Gmail wants bulk senders to follow their outlined best practices for sending, including setting up DKIM authentication (DomainKeys Identified Mail) and allowing contacts to unsubscribe in a single click from commercial email. Additionally, those unsubscription requests should be processed within two days. The best ways to do this are through an embedded unsubscribe link that removes contacts from a list with one click and enabling list-unsubscribe within your message header. This sets a special header in your emails with an unsubscribe function that Gmail can send a user’s unsubscribe request to and they'll be removed immediately.

To further protect consumers from receiving unwanted email, Gmail will be enforcing a spam rate threshold that bulk senders must stay within to ensure overall delivery. While they haven’t shared exact details on this requirement and what the threshold will be, you should always focus on sending marketing emails to contacts who have given explicit consent to opt-in or interacted with your brand in a way that provides implicit consent (i.e., purchased, put something in their cart, etc.). The best way to do this is through explicit subscription points on your website like a Two-Step Popup and collecting shopping activity through JavaScript.

A DMARC record will also be required for all bulk sending domains. DMARC will need to align between the DKIM domain (your From Address) or the SPF domain (your bounce domain). Thankfully Gmail is asking only for a p=none policy – This means the record is set up but in a ‘monitor-only’ mode and will not affect any traffic delivered to an ISP or Receiver. This will allow more time for domain owners to set up proper DMARC monitoring, as well as to eventually get all other mail streams into compliance for DMARC and change to a quarantine or reject policy. 

Why is Gmail doing this?

These changes to bulk sender best practices are for the good of the email ecosystem. These changes will help ensure that legitimate brands and domains are less likely to be spoofed or have their reputation hijacked by a bad actor. In short, Gmail is enacting these new requirements to keep their users’ inboxes ‘even safer and more spam-free.’ They want to eliminate the sending of unauthenticated messages and provide the most secure email experience they possibly can. They’re additionally predicting their industry partners will follow suit in the coming months, with all inboxes requiring the same send parameters.

What is Listrak doing to ensure compliance?

The great news is, if you’re already sending with Listrak, your program is likely already fully equipped to handle these requirements without any further action! Listrak provides easy-to-use unsubscribe links for your email campaigns that meet the single click and processing rules, as well as the steps to set up DKIM authentication (which is typically handled during implementation). 

Even with permission-based email marketing, user churn will still occur on any subscriber list. Listrak continues to offer insights and easy-to-use filtering options to prioritize sending campaigns to engaged and active users. Users that have not shown positive activity for an extended period should be filtered out and removed from your list. This will positively contribute towards the goal of a low spam rate.

What do I do next?

If you’re leveraging a Preference Center or opt-down to manage unsubscribe activity with your program, you’ll want to work with your Account Manager to ensure that it is set up to meet the single-click unsubscription requirement and that DKIM verification is properly enabled. Additionally, we always recommend auditing your subscription points to 1) confirm they’re actively bringing in new subscribers and 2) you’re reaching across the customer journey to promote signing up for your email marketing program. This is especially critical going into the holiday season, so take the time do this now!

While this announcement from Gmail might seem a little daunting, your Listrak email marketing program is likely already up to date and properly configured to meet all the new requirements. Listrak is here to help as your trusted marketing partner, and our Client Services and Support teams are ready to validate any setting you would like to confirm. Be sure to reach out to them for more information. 

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