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New Changes in Microsoft Hotmail: What Every Marketer Should Know

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by: Robert Consoli (@IBMforMarketing)
16 June 2010

Microsoft has recently announced several changes and enhancements to its Hotmail Web-based email service. While some of the new enhancements appear to be part of Microsoft’s continuing effort to catch up to the tools offered by other Webmail services, some are truly unique and likely will significantly impact on the way marketers do business today. Below are some of the most significant changes to Hotmail that marketers need to be aware of:

Individual preference auto-learning
Expands on Hotmail’s engagement metrics by measuring and monitoring user interactions with a sender’s email. While Yahoo and others have adopted metrics to measure user engagement such as opens, clickthroughs, TINS (This is not Spam) clicks, email deletions and abuse complaints, Microsoft appears to be joining the crowd with its  new individual preference auto-learning feature.

False-positive reduction
For users who complain that wanted (legitimate) emails are getting blocked, this feature responds to user engagement metrics in the individual preference auto-learning feature to ensure that email lands in the correct location (inbox or junk folder).

Provides users with a virtual broom that lets them  easily “sweep” unwanted mail from the inbox into either folders or oblivion, leaving the inbox clean. An auto-sweep capability rids the inbox of email designated as unwanted. In a very important change, Sweep also offers an unsubscribe prompt for messages that the user frequently deletes unread. Users could accidentally sweep all of a marketer’s email to the deleted folder. And, because the default option is to sweep all future email, they may never receive another email from you. To minimize the chances of being inadvertently swept, always use a recognizable “From”  name and brand, relevant subject lines, and keep your subscribers engaged.

Trusted senders
Places safety logos next to recognized, legitimate senders  such as banks, which are commonly used for phishing scams. Gmail treats this issue similarly. What’s important for marketers to know about this feature is that it likely will use authentication as one of the metrics for determining which senders are safe senders. If you are not currently authenticating your emails and domains with an authentication protocol such as SPF, Sender ID, DomainKeys or DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Mail), now would be a good time to start.

Hotmail highlights
Enables users to see immediately upon login if they have new email from friends, social network updates, shipments, appointments and birthday reminders. Because this feature shows the top three messages in your inbox as soon as you log in, features like Send Time Optimization, which gives your email the best chance of arriving when users are likely to be in their inboxes, have never been more important

Junk mail descriptors
Tags junk mail so that users can learn why it landed there. This is a great addition. Now users whose wanted email messages keep getting filtered can understand why and take steps to keep it from happening in the future.

Single contact list
Brings all of a user’s online contacts—even those from services like Facebook, LinkedIn and MySpace—into one place, from which users can send email, and organize and manage contacts. By conveniently bringing contacts together into one list, this new feature also makes it easier for users to see whether a sender has been added to their address book.

One-click filters
Lets users filter their entire inbox to show only messages that are from contacts or social networks. Because this filter works by making sure users see only messages from designated wanted senders, it’s more important than ever to request that your “From” address be added to the address book. If you are not added to the address book, you won’t make it onto a user’s contact list, and your messages won’t be shown if the one-click filter is applied.

These new features and enhancements are part of a larger trend by email providers and software clients to make the inbox more manageable for users. If your messages are difficult to classify, or don’t clearly provide value or stand out to users, they will be increasingly harder to find in the inbox.

While marketers need to be aware of these changes, Microsoft’s biggest update comes around the newest implementation of its SmartScreen filtering technology. SmartScreen has been around for some time now, but the acknowledgement of its uses and capabilities can help marketers better understand how messages are filtered. I’ll share much more about this in my next post.

In the meantime, for more information on Hotmail’s new features, you can visit:
What’s new in Hotmail


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