Outlook.com – Not A Strong Outlook?

In the last edition of our newsletter, we wrote about the July 31, 2012 launch of Microsoft’s new webmail service, Outlook.com. Now that roughly two months have elapsed, the question is… has it taken off? Are customers switching from their old Microsoft domain (e.g. hotmail) to Outlook.com? And are we as marketers in for a wild ride as our customers change email addresses?

Let The Data Speak

Here at FreshAddress, we hygiene tens of millions of email addresses every month on behalf of our clients – in fact, we’re giving a prize for whoever most closely guesses when we hit 3 billion email addresses processed! So for a snapshot of the progress Microsoft has made converting their customers to Outlook.com, we studied two clients who collect more than 4 million email addresses a year via their website.

Both companies, an online retailer (“site 1”), and a real estate provider (“site 2”), use our SafeToSend™ API to QC their new user registrations, which revealed the following summary data:

Unique Microsoft-domain email addresses* that were Outlook.com

Week Site 1 Site 2
8/10-8/17 0.33% 0.17%
9/10-9/17 0.14% 0.11%

*=hotmail.com, live.com, outlook.com, msn.com

Interestingly it appears the use of the new Outlook.com domain has actually decreased since the launch. And if you look beyond Hotmail.com and other Microsoft-domain users, the reality is even starker:

Unique email addresses that were Outlook.com

Week Site 1 Site 2
8/10-8/17 0.005% 0.003%
9/10-9/17 0.002% 0.002%

Much Ado About Nothing?

So far, it appears Outlook.com has failed to take the market like wildfire, even among users of other Microsoft email addresses who were presumably targeted for the migration. However, this is not to suggest you should move on to other matters and ignore the issue of email change of address.

Repeated studies have shown that up to 30% of your customers change their email addresses every year. While they may not be switching to Outlook.com, they are switching to many other providers for lots of other reasons… graduating from school, getting married and changing their name, getting a new ISP, getting a new job, etc.

Three Easy Ways To Insulate Yourself From Email Address Changes

  1. Make it easy for your customers to proactively tell you their new email addresses! Integrate an email change mechanism into your unsubscribe or preference page.
  2. Routinely confirm your customer’s email address during ‘touches’ (e.g. when they call in to customer service, when they log in to your website, when they are in your store, etc.).
  3. Commit yourself to quarterly Email Change of Address (ECOA) processing. Establish email messaging activity baselines and watch carefully for drops in engagement levels… which are an indicator your customer may have gotten a new email address. Immediately queue these inactive customers and any bouncing email addresses for your next ECOA run.

The Last Word

It’s impossible to predict when Outlook.com will become the de facto email domain for all of Microsoft but one thing is certain – people are constantly changing their email addresses and, when they do, very few of them make the effort to update their online relationships. If you want to be sure your well-crafted email communications are not falling on deaf ears, do everything you can to reconnect with these “lost” customers… before one of your competitors beats you to it.

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