1. 3 Facts About Email Designers And What They Do For Us

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    I think we do not give enough credit to people who conceptualise, design and ship legitimate emails to our inboxes. Email designing is like a complicated art, due to industry restrictions and the reality that most people take emailing and their own inboxes very seriously. This is what I gathered from the 2 day conference organised by Litmus. I have been wondering since, when and if, things will improve in this domain. Cross-browser email design is today in a much worse spot than front-end development.

    What’s happening to the email designer world?

    Late 2013 I attended the London email design conference, as the title says it is a conference about designing emails, email marketing challenges (mobile, browsers) all wrapped around a friendly community. A lot of information has been shared. Many give it for granted that making a marketing email look nice only takes a matter of minutes but in reality, it’s a total different story.

    Have you ever payed attention to the amount of time that email marketers put into researching the colors, images and text that is sent out to hundreds of thousands, if not million of users every day?

    It's animated click the URL above to see the live version

    Take a look at this email right here, looks catchy and efficient, wonder how many hours went into this

    Whether it is a marketing email with some offers to engage activities, or a transactional email with a password reset, someone did spend the time to code that email, the colors, the text, the layout, the pictures or other images.

    Email designers belong to a weird group of people as they are praised by some, hated by many and mocked by others.

    Praised

    The work of an email designer can raise the engagement between the customers and the company. If an email is well designed, well presented (subject, body preview) and its content smartly portrayed, it leads to an increase of the open rate. This means it could be converting a customer into making a sale.

    Hated

    Customers sometimes receive newsletters which they’re not really interested in. This leads to an uprising anger, as they feel flooded with tons of newsletters from different vendors. A marketing email is not just a pretty email created to annoy its community, it’s a vehicle of transmitting important information to a wide userbase, something that is retained in your inbox and archived, that you can always get back to.

    Laughed at

    Front end designers that create beautiful HTML5/CSS3/JAVASCRIPT compliant websites might tend to mock the art behind the creation of an email with inline style codes, that is so hated and hard to maintain. A lot of times when claiming to be an email designer, people automatically associate you with one of those guys that create those flashy, spammy emails: unfortunately that’s something built into our society and which is hard to move away from. In the past a lot of the emails sent did not follow the strict set of rules and regulations that we have nowadays. Hopefully one day this association with spammy marketers will vanish.

    A challenging world



    Creating a good newsletter design is something that isn’t for the faint hearted. There is a need to fully understand not only about one’s company branding, but also some amounts of psychology to gain an insight into how humans interact with computers and its projected visuals. Although statistics prove that using red-ish buttons will increase your click rate of 25% or above, this is not as simple as adding 1+1.

    Email design proves to be particularly challenging when compared to web design for a lot of reasons, the most crucial being the lack of support for Javascript, font personalisation, email clients rendering emails in different ways, deliverability issues if rules are not respected.. and many more.

    If the lack of all the above, the technology and flexibility given to web designers wasn’t enough, you need to factor deliverability in all the above. Emails need to be permitted to reach the inbox that is where the opt-in laws come in place. If you are serious about deliverability you need to consider a lot of factors: HTML standards, Hosting images on the domain name sending the emails and a few more

    Have you got any email design war-stories to share? The world out there is grey for people involved in the creation of attractive newsletters. If so please do so in the comments!


    Orlando is a Developer Evangelist at Mailjet - he often shares things he learns on the field on this blog!

  2. 8 Lessons Learned From Yahoo’s Bold Move Of Recycling Inactive Email Addresses

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    Since Marissa Mayer was appointed CEO, a lot of things have changed at Yahoo. Banning remote work was one of the big moves, but let’s focus on a particular event that impact us more directly: Yahoo Mail has actually been overhauled. Beyond the radical redesign and the launch of a new mobile app, a big decision was taken: Yahoo decided to recycle inactive email accounts.

    Much ink has been spilled on this issue. Now is the time to put things into perspective. What happened exactly and how does it impact you either as a sender or a recipient? Here are 8 key takeaways everyone should be aware of.

    1- Recycling inactive email addresses was part of a much bigger plan: the Yahoo Mail relaunch

    In Marissa Mayer’s portrait published in Business Insider, we learned that putting out a new version of Yahoo Mail was an absolute top priority. The new CEO even personally managed this project. The team working on this went under a lot of pressure. Sources report that what they achieved in a few months used to take them more than a year. You can tell the ex-Google managed closely the Yahoo Mail redesign, simply by looking at it

    Some members of the team were a bit upset with this micro-management: it ended up with the Lead Designer leaving for Google, while the Yahoo Mail Product Manager went to Disney. Marissa wanted to push her project at any price: the timing was more important than anything else.

    All this tells a lot about the context in which the decision of recycling email addresses was taken.

    Announcing that inactive accounts would be made available to other users was actually an angle to get press coverage and spark the interest of the public for the new Yahoo Mail. It worked quite well, but maybe not in the way Marissa was expecting it to be. Wired and quite a few security experts immediately backfired. Keep on reading to learn why.  

    2- Nice email usernames can be a competitive advantage but there are some downsides

    Offering more choice is perceived as a plus when compared to other webmail providers. This is how the announcement was marketed: “yourname@yahoo.com Can Be Yours!" This sounds attractive, for sure.

    Gmail, for example, doesn’t recycle inactive addresses and news users often have to integrate numbers in their email handle. Security prevails even if this usernames scarcity becomes problematic. So in most cases, offering more choice is relevant. 

    However, I’m not really sure I would like to get the johnsmith@yahoo.com or any popular similar handle. Everyday, millions of people provide fake email addresses to access a service or download something. Are you sure you want to own one of these “popular” addresses? Quite a few users reported that they eventually shut down their new email address and went back to the old one.    

    3- Recycling inactive accounts was also a way to re-engage old Yahoo Email users

    Think about it: people who want a convenient username were not the only ones concerned by Yahoo’s announcement. Any person with a Yahoo account has been impacted and the message delivered to them was: “we recently launched a new interface, and by the way, if you don’t login/authenticate, you may lose access to your ID.”  

    Do you think this is exaggerating? Accessing your email via POP/IMAP isn’t enough - but need actual authentication via a web platform.

    From the marketing side, this seems to be an excellent way to relaunch. However, some security experts criticise this process and denounce a risk shift: “Yahoo transferred the burden of responsibility to the customer by requesting that the person log in to ensure the account remained active.”

    4- Security: when you recycle an email address, it could end up with a creepy user report

    Yahoo defines an “inactive address” by looking at the user engagement (recent authentication, email activity, etc). But how about the sender’s perspective? A true inactive email address would be also one that doesn’t receive any email from anyone.

    When an email address is recycled, a lot of the senders may not be aware of this change. Newsletters, notifications, or even personal emails can be sent to an absolute stranger. As soon as some inactive addresses were recycled, users reported issues:

    "I can gain access to their Pandora (or Facebook) account, but I won’t. I know their name, address and phone number. I know where their child goes to school, I know the last four digits of their social security number. I know they had an eye doctor’s appointment last week and I was just invited to their friend’s wedding," Jenkins said. "The identity theft potential here is kind of crazy."

    It is worth mentioning that Microsoft also recycles email addresses. Hotmail has had this policy for years, and they recently extended it to Live ID and Outlook.com. Their terms of services don’t clearly define this policy so they also went under a lot of criticism.

    Because it is an ongoing process, there is no massive impact. But this doesn’t mean they don’t face any issues: some users also report problems.

    5- Recycling addresses is counter intuitive for an email service, as it might attract spammers

    Webmail and email providers in general always have a big challenge: limit the number of abusers. This is why you have captchas when you create an email account. Think also about Gmail. Remember back in the early days? It was an invite-only service.

    One of the reasons was that they we providing much more storage capacity than their competitors: 1Go VS 2-4Mo for the others (because Gmail launched on April 1, people even thought this was a joke!). So they needed time to make sure they would be able to scale out. But this was not the only reason.  

    In Founders at work, Buchheit, the Gmail architect is interviewed:

    Interviewer - What was the idea behind the invitation-only signup?

    Buchheit - There were few different factors. (…) it controls some of the abuse, by making it harder for, let’s say a spammer to get 10 million accounts, which would be bad”

    Keeping a clean user base is strategic. From this perspective, the Yahoo move sent an odd message to potential abusers: “get recycled email addresses and you might be able to access some personal data and credentials.”

    My guess is even that quite a few “reassigned” addresses could potentially be chased for phishing (name of companies or real people…).

    6- Tough time for the senders: Old email addresses are now more dangerous than ever

    Until recently, a “recycled email address” used to designate a special kind of spam trap:

    "These types of addresses frequently trap legitimate senders with weak list hygiene and data quality practices. Typically, an ISP could/may turn off an abandoned/inactive email address after x period of inactivity - which produces an ‘unknown user’ bounce code. At some point, the ISP will reactivate/recycle the address, hence converting it to a spamtrap; eventually allowing the ‘trap’ address to receive messages (Source: Return Path).

    Today, it also designates an old email address that was reassigned to a new user. You might think this is good news for the senders, but it’s not. The recipient will certainly click the “report as spam” button for all the emails for which he didn’t subscribe himself, which is very bad. This is one of the reasons why Yahoo added a new button: “not my email.”




    7- If senders don’t clean their list for 30 days, they might end up emailing random people

    As soon as the criticism bursted, Yahoo reacted: “We will have a 30-day period between deactivation and before we recycle these IDs for new users. During this time, we’ll send bounce-back emails alerting senders that the deactivated account no longer exists.”

    This means that cleaning your lists is more important than ever. Infact for the average sender, you should (and must) remove all inactive Yahoo email addresses from all lists. But - if you regularly clean single/confirmed opt-in lists properly built, you should be fine.

    8- Bold business driven moves can end up with the creation a new internet standard

    Because this 30-day period didn’t satisfy the security experts, Yahoo worked hard to build a new standard for an email header: Require-Recipient-Valid-Since  (RRVS). It works the following way:

    "If you submit a Facebook request to reset your password, for example, Facebook would add the RRVS header to the reset email, and the new header would signal to Yahoo to check the age of the account before delivering the mail. If the values don’t match, the email would bounce."

    Of course, if you send these kind of emails (transactional), etc & your list(s) contain Yahoo subscribers„ you should consider using this header.


  3. Meet Mailjet’s Deliverability Pilot

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    Do you ever wonder who stands behind Mailjet? Mailjet serves over 16,000 global clients and all the work isn’t done by our robust cloud platform alone. We have a dedicated team of experts that maintain continuous compliance and improvement of Mailjet’s services, aligned with industry best practices. Every now and then, we take a moment to take a closer look at the folks who constantly strive to improve your email delivery. Today’s turn is in fact having his 1 year anniversary at Mailjet as we ushered in 2014, and we are happy to have him on board!

    Udeme Ukutt, Deliverability Director

    Udeme steers Mailjet’s Deliverability & Abuse Team operations with a special quest: ensure consistent aligned with day-by-day global deliverability best common practices. His team continuously handles multiple responsibilities around the clock, like:
    • 24 x 7 abuse desk ops across multiple continents to combat anomalous (spam & phish) activities & stop the bad guys

    • continuously analyze how legitimate, solicited good email get delivered to those who want it - successfully into their inbox folders.

    Since deliverability is a core, complex and important topic, Udeme has one of the busiest jobs at Mailjet. Nevertheless, he is given a few moments to give some extra insights:

    Maggie: You ADORE deliverability and love everything that comes with it. How did you find out this was your thing?

    Udeme: Someone asked me one day, ‘do you love math? Love computers?’ I said, ‘Yes!’… and here I am, breathing deliverability compliance day in and day out. Over the years I’ve learnt & experienced delivery ops on both the sender and receiver sides of the ladder. Nevertheless, I strive to contribute positively even more!

    The average Deliverability ‘peep’ analyzes A LOT of data 24/7, which made this career path a perfect match for me. Funny enough - I always loved math & statistics since I was a little kid.

    Maggie: What is your typical day at Mailjet like?

    Udeme: Every day has something exciting, something that calls for an extra cup of coffee. In fact, each day is unique like the other because we’re constantly progressing with industry trends. We’ve to do that because the industry and the average ISP/receiver consistently maintain their anti-spam filter algorithms, and in parallel we’ve to continually adapt and analyze.

    Like many have said, deliverability is an ongoing mission that’s got no magic solution, no silver bullet! It’s an ever-changing task because we encounter new senders, new data, changing algorithms … daily!

    Maggie: Part of your job is reputation management. What does that mean?  

    Udeme: Reputation management’s something with major impacts on deliverability. ISPs such Yahoo! & Gmail… down to Orange, etc observe the average sender’s reputation to determine ‘trustworthiness’.

    If a spammer uses Mailjet to deliver bad email, this can harm Mailjet’s reputation - as well as the overall reputation of our senders. That’s the reason why its not only in our highest interest - but our senders as well - to establish, enforce and maintain the tightest antiabuse algorithms as possible to protect our reputation.

    Maggie: How do you detect spammers?

    Udeme: Basically we analyze all deployed emails real-time and search for unusual deliverability issues that may trigger off spam indicators. A negative indicator may be a high volume of bounced emails; or high complaints; or vice versa. Primarily, legitimate senders use stuff like properly authenticated mail, high quality solicited lists (ideally made up of confirmed opt-in contacts. Naturally, since all recipients on the list consented to receive emails from the sender, the bounce rate should be low.

    Spammers usually send their emails to what’s classified as third-party data (purchased, rented, etc). Spammer activity is reflected in their sender’s email stats … high rates associated with bounces, spam, complaints, etc. In rare cases, it may happen that a legitimate sender encounters a deliverability issues too. If that’s the case, we would support a legitimate sender with expert advice on how to improve their reputation.

    Maggie: How can senders improve their deliverability? 

    Udeme: To mention a few common ones that help receivers and ISPs to increase mail stream ‘trust’, spot-check these occasionally:

    • Ensure you (properly) implement authenticate email using SPF and DKIM. DMARC is a new technology that’s being recognized more and more, industry-wide.

    • Confirmed opt-in list acquisition practices are strongly recommended as opposed to a single opt-in mechanism.

    • Place focus on message design, content, structure - as well as frequency and relevance of your messages

    • My guess is that you wouldn’t want to fly with a jet plane that hasn’t had a security check either, would you? Or … you’d want to fill it up with proper fuel too, right?”

    Maggie: Thank you for those helpful insights and your precious time, it’s great to have you on board! … and now let’s go back to conquering inboxes. :)

  4. Gmail Images Displayed By Default: What’s The Impact For Our Customers?

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    A few days ago, some observers noted that Gmail was now caching all images contained within emails. Yesterday, an official announcement by Google gave us the real explanation: the famous webmail will now display all images by default. This change is excellent news for email marketing. There are however a few downsides you should be aware of. One particular issue was raised: the tracking for multiple opens. Our team immediately implemented a workaround. 

    What is this big change about?

    Remember the message below? This is what Gmail was displaying by default, for any email containing images. The recipient had to click to see the full message. This is no longer the case: from now on, all images will be displayed by default.

    image

    Google didn’t display the images to protect its users against malicious content. To bypass this risk, Gmail decided to copy all the images on its own servers, in order to ensure security. Of course, this comes with a few side effects. 

    The end of geolocation and user agent tracking

    Many services (Mailjet included) have the capability to display the geographic location of the recipient when they open their emails.

    We base this information on the IP address the images are downloaded from. Now, however, because all images are sucked up by Google, any Gmail and Google Apps user will appear to be at Mountain View, in California… 

    We also indicate which User-Agent was used to access the email: just like for the geoloc, the fact that Google now sits in between us and the recipient keeps us from obtaining this information.

    image

    There is no way to bypass these two unfortunate side effects. Of course, we are looking for a workaround, but there isn’t much hope. Everyone faces the same problem. 

    You should therefore expect the proportion of “other” user agents to surge. The number of recipients based in California should also increase…

    Open tracking: with Mailjet everything works as usual

    The opens statistics are also calculated by using an image: a transparent and unique pixel is placed into the message. Each time the recipient opens the email, the image is downloaded, which allows us to track opens. 

    Gmail’s caching doesn’t keep us from tracking the unique opens, since the pixel must be downloaded at least once, so no worries here.

    However, some email services are no longer able to track multiple opens: indeed, once the pixel is in Google’s cache, there is no way to detect if it was re-loaded or not. 

    Our deliverability team immediately deployed a solution to counter this problem: multiple opens are still accurately tracked with Mailjet. 

    The solution to track multiple opens 

    The trick consists of implementing a particular HTTP header for this transparent tracking pixel: “Content-Length:0”. This keeps Gmail from caching the pixel, and forces a retrieval of the resource each time the email is reopened.  

    image

    This solution also has an adverse effect: it generates a link that produces a 500 error on Google’s side, which means there is no guarantee that Gmail won’t update its system and kill this workaround at some point. In this meantime, it works with us!

    Conclusion : overall, it’s positive

    In any case: unique open tracking is not impacted and nothing indicates that this will ever be the case. The fact that images are displayed by default is terrific for the email marketing industry. 

    This also shows how email is under constant evolution: this is very exciting for us. 

  5. Full Frontal and some ideas to improve conferences

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    The goodness: FullFrontal.

    Full Frontal (FF) is a conference for web developers where Javascript is the core topic of discussion. I have attended this event at the start of November. A number of interesting topics such as “CSS3 animations with no Javascript”, “Javascript optimisation and compression on the browser side” or the soon to be released “ES6 Javascript engine” are brought to the stage and thoroughly presented. There were more presentations but I particularly recommend reading the slides provided for the ones mentioned above. The quality of the presentation and talks however just left me speechless: It delivered, oh yes it did.

    Unlike other conferences I have been to before, this one was held in a movie theater in Brighton, a beautiful city during the summer, in the south of the United Kingdom.

    The FullFrontal talks

    I was lucky to be in the third row, the chairs were supercomfy and I really enjoyed being able to really be captured in awe by the presenters: Each presentation was announced with a little bit of humor by Remy Sharp, one of the organisers, who explained how he met the presenter and why he believed that particular person would fit the conference’s theme and layout.

    I was particularly amazed by the young presenter, Andrew Nesbitt, (who now works at Github) that explored the possibilities of using NodeJS on robots.

    He presented an Xbox-controlled lego mindstorm robot to dispense food to his rabbit, along with the Troll-o-copter, a NodeJS controlled quadcopter that uses the frontal camera to recognize human faces and applies the “troll-face” effect on them!

    Also really impressed with the closing presentation by the legend Jeremy Keith, Time. I was speechless, a talk regarding the impact of time on the internet and our digital-connected future.

    Conferences - what could be improved.

    Like many other conferences the problem is that tickets are served by some online company and they just run out in matter of seconds, the Websummit’s launch party event (Have you read our blog about the websummit?) for example was sold out in 15 seconds. Surely there are a lot of people that are eager to get a ticket but is this system fair?

    Lately I have seen more and more event managers release tickets in batches, once a week over a period of a couple of weeks preceding the event. This approach is more humane I find, everyone multiple chances to get a ticket. I also find quite inappropriate to have early-bird tickets and late-birds tickets. Late-bird tickets’ price is double or triple the amount of the early-bird one: Seriously not everyone knows about an event 5 months in advance!

    Legacy data

    I would also want to raise another issue.

    With the price I have been paying to attend some of these conferences, I am expecting there should be at least some kind of video/media coverage at the event. This allows people to go back and be able to view what they’ve missed and, of course, the great talks. Not immediately, but do have that media out there.

    Not everyone does this, releasing and sharing content, I really think it is a shame. Back in the days there were scribes that would “transcribe” the “knowledge acquired” so that it could be passed on to our future generations. Nowadays everyone just tweets. It’s not possible to pass on knowledge with some tweets: They’re too volatile.

    This is where videotaping can really help, and like the FullFrontal talk on “Time” taught us even that could is volatile.

    Most people upload to YouTube or similar, what if YouTube decides to shut down. Unrealistic but..never say never, especially considering the average lifespan of Google services is 4 years .

    Thankfully at the FullFrontal conference, everything was taped and I am looking forward to see those videos on-line very soon, this way I can pass them on to my friends. That will give them a feeling for what they’ve missed out on; hopefully convince them to come with me next year. Many arrive from all over the world and decide to gather up and discuss the fantastic world of Javascript: This year was my first time at FF and I loved it, I will surely go back next year if I manage to get a ticket. And if they run out, I’ll pray for YouTube feeds!

    Addendum: The full audio for the conference is now live for streaming and downloading


    Orlando is a Developer Evangelist for Mailjet in the UK and Nordics, he regularly blogs on here and if you want to follow his journey feel free to follow him on twitter

  6. 10 Occasions To Meet Us By The End Of 2013

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    We’re approaching the end of the year. Where should you go if you want to meet us by the end of 2013? This post gives you this info but it also answers the question: which cool tech events should you attend in Europe? 

    November

    Nov 13-15 | Devoxx (Antwerp) #Attending
    "The Java Community Conference" 
    ☛ Meet with Orlando and Shubham.

    Nov 14-15 | XPDays Germany (Karlsruhe) #Attending
    "The Conference For Programmers From The Extreme" 
    ☛ Meet with Simon.

    Nov 22-23 | Sainté Mobile Days (Saint Étienne) #Attending
    "The Most Mobile Event in France" 
    ☛ Meet with Shubham.

    Nov 25-26 | Internet Days (Stockholm) #Attending
    "People Who Shape The Internet Will Meet" 
    ☛ Meet with Simon.

    Nov 30 | Hack The Bank (Paris) #Attending
    "A Great Financial Technology Hackathon By Open Bank Project" 
    ☛ Meet with Shubham.


    December

    Dec 2 | Dot JS (Paris) #Attending
    "The Largest JavaScript Conference in Europe" 
    ☛ Meet with Shubham.

    Dec 4-5 | API Days (Paris) #Speaking
    "The Premier Conference On APIs, Cloud, Big Data in Paris" 
    ☛ Meet with ElieOrlando and Shubham.

    Dec 9-11 | Build Stuff (Vilnius) #Attending
    "For And By People Who Actually Build Stuff" 
    ☛ Meet with Simon.

    Dec 10-12 | SymfonyCon 2013 (Warsaw) #Attending
    "Share Your Experience With The Symfony Framework" 
    ☛ Meet with Shubham and Orlando.

    Dec 10-12 | LeWeb (Paris) #Attending
    "Where Revolutionaries Gather To Plot The Future" 
    ☛ Meet with Quentin, Stephen and Florian.

  7. Solving Big Startup Problems With Email: The Square Case

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    Maybe you didn’t get the news? Oh, I’m sure you did. The creator of Twitter has just launched a service to send money by sending an email.  At Mailjet, we are very excited each time somebody innovates with email. In fact, we believe that Square teaches us an excellent lesson :) Here’s why.

    Email drives innovation but is often neglected

    At  hackathons, developers often go straight to the sexy (and also excellent) Soundcloud and Instagram APIs. Most hackers don’t think an email API has a cool hack potential. But you can be very inventive with email. We try to change this perception.

    Actually, one of our Developer Evangelists recently won a hackathon in Berlin: his hack was an “authorize a payment by email” app. It’s called PayForMe and allows you to buy something without paying it directly. The transaction is effectively approved and executed by a third party, and the validation process is completed by email. Children or employees who want to buy something, but who don’t necessarily have access to a credit card would love this.

    Email is just waiting to be harnessed: the potential is huge.

    What’s really disruptive in this Square Cash story

    This new service is surprisingly intuitive: I send you an email, I cc cash@square.com and there you go. You will receive a confirmation to cash in the money.

    Did you notice? The best innovations always seem to come with the feeling that “how come it didn’t exist before”. Often, it actually did exist before. Square Cash might not be the first to offer a “send money by email” service. But they are different.

    Facebook was not the first social network and Google was not the first search engine. Concepts don’t really matter. The execution is not key either. What matters most is the user experience. From this perspective, it’s the first time ever that you can send money just by sending an email. Literally.

    WYDSIWYG: What you DON’T see is what you get

    The creator of Twitter innovates with email. Ironic? No, iconic.

    Look at Twitter’s concept: 140 characters. Look at Square’s hiring catchphrase: “come simplify the complex.” Simplification turns out to be Dorsey’s number one objective. He knows it’s the real challenge.

    That’s why he says things like: “it”s really complex to make something simple.” I bet he is a fan of Saint-Exupery, who once wrote “perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” Could be Dorsey’s motto.

    Bottom line is: Square is all about hiding the complexity of a financial transaction. The service’s core user community is composed of coffee shops and organic farms who crave for simplicity. It was therefore logical to use the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP…).

    The best thing about this choice? Well, it solves two massive startup problems at once.

    Bypass the change aversion problem

    A friend of mine launched a very cool payment app in France: you can send or receive money by scanning a QR code. The process is very fast, super easy and oversimplified. Still: the users need to change their habits. This is doable but as Dorsey knows “payments are very intimate.”

    Sending money is all about feeling secure. If the user can make a transaction from his everyday email client, the so called “new habit” becomes an obvious one. To ensure the experience is “intimate,” using the pre-existing UI was the best solution.

    Yes, I insist: Square Cash is a product that uses a pre-existing UI.

    Cherry on top: everybody knows how to send an email.  So their “getting started” section is probably one of the shortest ever. Coincidently, this approach allowed Square Cash to even remove the sign-up barrier!

    But this is “only” from the user point of view, these choices are also great for business.

    Solve the chicken and egg problem

    You probably know about network effects: if only one person in the world has a telephone, then telephone is useless because you can’t call anybody. If a few people have this kind of device, then the usefulness is limited. And so on. The more people have a telephone, the greater the value of this communication tool because at some point, you can call anyone.

    Network effects always come with the chicken-egg problem: how do you get your first users, knowing that your tool is almost useless at the beginning? Dorsey is aware of this challenge: he launched Twitter. He solved this paradox once, with a few good tactics and some… luck: a lot of the first Twitter users were actually opinion leaders: either celebrities or journalists. These people are key when you want to fill an empty room. Obviously, the same recipe couldn’t be used for payments.

    Before Square Cash, to send money to someone, you needed that person to install an app, create an account etc. Of course you needed to do the same on your side. The value of the existing solutions increased with the number of people having the app installed and configured. But the hockey-stick growth necessary for these products to really take off simply wasn’t there.

    Email solves this problem as it’s used by everyone. You can send money to anyone who has an email address. No need to wait for them to configure something. Square solved the chicken-egg problem with email.

    Sure, you need to enter your credit card details at some point. But you only do it one time and more importantly: it’s not the first thing you do. I repeat : to send money, you first send an email. Once you get the confirmation, you are already engaged and using the Square Cash product.

    Email: we just need to get it right

    There is always a strong ambivalence in how people perceive email. Jeff Atwood once described it as being “the cockroach of communication mediums: you just can’t kill it.” People love and hate email at the same time.

    This is not rational: email is a medium, it’s not the emails that you receive everyday. Just like TV is not “reality TV shows”.

    Plus, we’re no longer in 1999: anti-spam filters are now ultra-powerful. If you are using a decent service you don’t get overflooded by messages you don’t want. True, the strength of email comes with weaknesses: when something is easy to use, it’s easy to abuse.

    Abusers are either professional spammers or candid senders who don’t know about the rules. At Mailjet, we do a lot to spot the bad guys and educate the senders. We explain how to use email the right way, with the help of APIs and real time feedback loops.

    So yes, 40 year old email still drives innovation

    Once you understood email is a medium, you can leverage it to build great products. Square Cash is an awesome example. But there are some others.

    Look at the blogging platform Posthaven for example: “post by email done right" is key in their value proposition. You send an email to publish a blog post. Isn’t that a smooth way to do this? Your CMS is your email client. People are astonished when they see that email is a key element for their product. Then they think about it and realise how convenient and cool it actually is. Eventually, they wonder why nobody did it before (actually as stated previously, some services were probably doing it before, but they didn’t offer something as simple as this).

    Fun fact is we often face this kind of reaction, even with Mailjet: “who could have thought that delivering email could be the mission of a startup?” We get this a lot. Well, because of these aforementioned elements, now you understand: email drives a lot of powerful startup products. Maintaining an SMTP server often becomes a full time job (anti-spam filters have their downsides), so creating Mailjet made a lot of sense. 

    At Mailjet, we’re pretty sure this Square Cash thing is going to inspire all the hackers at the next hackathons we go to ;)

  8. 36 Hours of Code at FHACKTORY: My feedback As a Dev Evangelist

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    FHACKTORY was the first hackathon taking place in Lyon and Mailjet was sponsoring this awesome event. During this weekend 5 teams had 36 hours to code a project. Let’s try to understand the goal of fHACKtory. Who else than the co-founder, Adrien Joly could explain this?

    Mailjet - What is fHACKtory ?

    Adrien - fHACKtory is a new kind of hackathon we recently launched in Lyon. As you may know, hackathons are events during which developers, designers and business developers gather for 1 or 2 days to collaborate on a web/software project. Our goal is to attract the best hackers, and support them to create great hacks. Our ambition is to make it global so that hackers from all around the world can gather behind the same motto: 100% HACK, 0% BULLSHIT!

    Mailjet - How is it different from traditional hackathons?

    Adrien - Our experience made us realize a major problem in more and more hackathons : Usually, projects are ranked by a few judges (including developers, entrepreneurs, journalists and investors), based on a very short presentation (or pitch) of each project. The best team(s) win prizes (and visibility too). In order to increase their chances to win according to this criteria, participants were wasting too much time not hacking! Instead, they were thinking about business models, building beautiful (but fake) screens of their app, and building shiny powerpoint presentations… Powerpoint slides… what’s the point!?

    So we decided to ban powerpoint presentations and judges! ^^ But don’t get me wrong, we are not saying that biz guys are useless when building a product, we are just saying that hackers should be judged on the quality of their hack, and that’s it. At fHACKtory, we evaluate teams as follow: (i) 60%: Continuous evaluation (creativity, design thinking, risk taking, boldness…) throughout the week-end by “Advocates” (tech people who are willing to help teams create great apps); (ii) 30%: Beta test of the resulting hacks, after the 24 hours of coding; and (iii) 10%: Demo, evaluated by the audience (incl. the other participants).

    Mailjet - Why did you organize fHACKtory?

    Adrien - We attended many hackathons with the dream of creating awesome hacks, until the day we decided to organize our own. As AngelHack ambassadors for the Spring 2013 edition in Paris, we learnt a lot from this awesome experience, but we decided to go even further in the process by launching our own independent Hackathon. Being independent is the only way for us to apply our own vision (HACK, HACK, HACK!), without compromises and explanations to give to anyone.

    We are convinced that both competences (biz and tech) are mandatory for a business to succeed (Seb, one of the guy behind fHACKtory is a biz guy!), we just think that hackathons should not be about building startups… Startup Weekend already does a pretty good job at this! At fHACKtory, it’s all about hack!

    Mailjet - When is the next one ?

    Adrien - We are thinking of throwing two events: one in Paris and one in Lyon. The dates are not chosen yet but it’s probably going to happen during Spring. Stay tuned!

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    As a sponsor, Mailjet offered a silver plan for one year to the first three teams and a bronze plan during six months to all the participants. I was also an “advocate” and spend the weekend helping hackers, and assess their skills. It was also a great opportunity for Mailjet to spend time “one to one” with hackers.

    In conclusion, fHACKtory is not only a hackathon, it is a weekend during which you meet awesome people, have a lot of fun (#NerfGuns), learn a lot of things and Mailjet is just waiting for the next one.

    Photos par Camille Betinyani.

  9. Sharing My Tips And Experiences Attending Tech/startup Events Around London

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    My work, as a developer evangelist for Mailjet, started early on last September, back from a one month holiday, tanned, relaxed and happy I was ready to start my adventure! I am writing a summary of what I have experienced so far and a few tips for those who want to make it, out by the end of the month, still alive and kicking!

    It began, initially moderately, with only half a week of conferences and workshops and slowly, bit by bit, loads of things to do all the time, every single day! What did I learn from going to a lot of events and meeting tons of new people?

    #Point number one: Planning, be tidy or be late.

    As an evangelist your role is to represent your company at pretty much all the events that you can attend during a week of work. You should not struggle or you might be negatively impacting your brand’s image! Being on time means being reliable, this is important as your behaviour reflects the service provided by your company. You are the flag carrier of your team, if you ever played Capture the Flag, you know that your team-mates got your back but you’re leading the way by carrying a reputation flag forward for your whole business.
    So please take those extra 10 minutes to make sure and plan ahead travel routes, starting and ending times. Trust me and this will make a lot of sense to you if you’re running around all day: Try not to forget to include extra time to refresh, mentally and physically. Your goal should be to always look ready to take a bite out of the competition’s market!

    #Point number two: Make sure that you know what you are talking about and then a bit more

    Representing your brand is not simply walking around and handing business cards to events, you should be seen as a point of reference, you need to be known for being THE guy.
    It is crucial to know when to be wearing different hats: Marketing guy, Sales guy, Dev guy, UX designer guy. (Or girl).
    You are expected to be able to help people, online and offline AT LEAST with the things that are related to your company’s savoir-faire. Imagine showing up to a hackathon and the following happens: “Yeah..that one function that allows you to get that info…yeah..”.
    You are aiming to be as precise and concise as possible, having a clear flow and making sure you know what you’re talking about helps a lot; afterall you are representing your company to the outside world. When you face a challenge you should make sure that the subject is part of your domain of expertise, and that you have covered that area at least once previously. I am not just talking about technical details, features and api methods, because sometimes even the easy questions can put you in a difficult spot.
    “Our competitors uhmm yeah its like euhm these guy whose company name start with X; sorry I forgot hahah..” <- This is kind of awkward right?


    #Point number three: It’s not always about attending, but creating relationships.

    What is the point of being in a dozen different places if you are not able to make a positive impact for your brand? It is important to network, that however is not accomplished by walking around with a banner, or a branded tshirt; it just won’t cut it! Oh yeah, unless you got something flashy going on! (TRON neon suit recommended, by the way).
    A fairly simple trick is to know exactly what the agenda for an event will look like: This way you can prioritise certain activities over others. Personally I love workshops, I would take workshops over presentations 8 times out of 10. Why? Because they’re usually more practical and they engage more, they allow you to meet people over just listening (which usually means browsing on your smartphone, laptop or tablet).


    #BONUS point: Think fast - move faster

    It occurred a few times that I would arrive to a venue and, as I enter the main room, everyone is just sitting in a corner and staring at their iPad waiting for things to happen. That is when a person like you and myself should start being pro-active. Get to know people from the start, have a few ice-breakers ready. Here’s a few that always work:
    “Hey what’s the WiFI password here” (always works) to “Hello there, I am ABC and I do XYZ, is it your first time here at 123Conf?”
    React positively to people challenging you, if when you meet people say that they’re not interested in what you have to say because they are already with your competition, take the time to understand what is it that they think the competitors do better than you. A lot of times you will see people that say “Oh yes I heard of your company but we use Competitor1”. That’s where you can gather a lot of precious info to use at your advantage. “Don’t worry I am not here to sell you my product, however I am now curious in knowing what it is that you think we’ve missed out on, because clearly you have heard of our product so does that mean you have considered it at some point!”.
    Always have a business card ready to give out and make sure you take a business card, read it and ask question about what they do. A lot of times it works wonders to remind people about who you are what you do. “Oh wow, where did you get these printed they’re astonishingly well manufactured” or "What do you do in your day to day job?"

    In conclusion, there is a lot of work involved because the city is huge, there are way too many events that you could attend so make sure you schedule everything in your agenda, tablet, phone (and keep them in synch!) to allow a smooth ride. You are representing the face of your company, you are a on the field champion and you are carrying the reputation flag of your business. That means that when people look at you they will be interacting with your company, its vision and mission. Carry business cards and anything that might remind people of you, you are thriving to always make a positive impact! Always be prepared to answer questions, there will be a lot, both technical and business oriented. If you really don’t know the answer rather than making an answer up, say you’ll get back to them (exchange business cards!): It is better to be humble and get back with an answer at a later stage, than lying and make a fool out of yourself once the truth comes up! The truth always comes up sooner or later. (Suspense kicks in).
    Put a smile on your face and don’t overwhelm yourself with work, it will affect your personal life and performance, we are all humans after all.

    Header Photo by Betsy Weber used under CC License

  10. [STUDY] Email Personalization: How Good Is It For Your Deliverability?

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    A study recently came out that went almost completely unnoticed. Nevertheless, it raises a crucial point. The practice of personalizing email with names/places may be detrimental: decreased reading rates and inbox placement and increased spam complaints. Seems rather counter-intuitive, doesn’t it? Let’s try to figure out what’s going on here.

    The terms of the study: the evolution of email marketing over 5 years

    This study was conducted by Return Path, the world leader in the field of email intelligence. It involved more than 60 brands (Disney, Expedia, Nike, etc.) and was conducted in two stages, in 2008 and then in summer 2013. The initial aim was to compare the evolution of practices in email marketing.

    The most striking change between 2008 and 2013 regards the collection of customer data: in 2008, more than half of the brands asked for very extensive information, such as a complete mailing address. In 2013, a third of brands simply request an email address with a zip code, or maybe a just name. Marketers require less information than before.

    Among those that collect additional data, only 22% take advantage of it by personalizing messages with the name and/or location. Hence the question: what are we seeing here? Negligence or a clever tactic? To answer this question, Return Path compared the performances with or without personalization.

    Personalization may be bad for your emails

    Surprise: the more an email is customized with a name or place, the more frequently it lands in spam or the recipient marks it as spam, and the less they actually read the message. Catastrophic. Besides the time spent to manipulate custom fields, the marketer would also lose out on the final results.

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    (Source Return Path, The Email Subscriber Experience, 2008-2013)

    As you know, in the future, Mailjet will offer the possibility to personalize your emails with merge tags. We have no intention of overriding this feature: here’s why.

    1- A study is not an absolute truth

    This study focuses on tens of millions of emails and a lot of brands, but that does not mean it reflects an absolute truth. This kind of work helps to make decisions, but your particular situation may be different. Return Path also explains this quite well. On the other hand, you need to ask yourself the right questions: if you spend time and energy to send emails with custom name or location fields, did you make sure you’re gaining performance?

    2- There’s personalization, and then there’s personalization…

    If we attempt to explain these figures, it is quite easy to image the following psychological reaction: when a recipient sees his first or last name or residence, he might feel attacked. He forgets that he supplied this information and has a negative reaction. But we shouldn’t confuse personalization of names/places with “personalized content.”

    One thing we strongly recommend at Mailjet is always to send more and more relevant emails. Our interface and our API allow you to know exactly what links have been clicked. In consequence, our users can create segments based on their contacts’ areas of interest. From there, it is possible to send messages that better meet the needs of your recipients. Or even more simple: you can just personalize the subject and increase your opening rates in this way.

    Basic example: an online sporting goods shop might notice that one segment reacts to all things related to “cycling,” while another reacts to all things related to “skiing.” Very simply, it’s possible to send them the same newsletter except for the subject line, to better capture the attention of each segment: “Flash sale: discount skis” and “Flash sale: discount bikes.” The content of the email must obviously integrate both of these objects. This customization is as simple as it is powerful.

    Conclusion

    The key to success is really just to send messages that are legitimate and desired by the recipient. Personalization of the content seems to be what matters, so run your own tests! 

    P.S.

    This study also dealt with other practices: double opt-in, unsubscribes, etc. We recommend you give it a read; you can download it for free here.