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Out of sight, out of mind: Microsoft clears out low priority emails from Outlook inboxes with Clutter

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Last week, Microsoft finished rolling out the Clutter feature to all Office 365 users. As of June 30th, this feature might start moving your marketing emails from the Inbox to the Clutter folder, making it less likely for your subscribers to engage with them.

So what are we to do? We’ve put together a list of 9 questions you might have, and the answers to help you prepare.

1. What does the feature do?

Microsoft’s Clutter analyzes the behaviour of Office 365 users in relation to their emails, and moves ‘lower priority email’ into the Clutter folder.

2. How is this different from Junk?

Junk emails are sorted based on sender reputation, spammy words, the existence (or lack of) a text version accompanying the HTML email, etc. Clutter, on the other hand, looks at each user’s interaction with their emails, so it will de-clutter each inbox in a different way.

3. How does it work?

Microsoft explained that Clutter looks at reading habits, responses, conversations, the type of content users respond to, as well as how they are addressed. Based on this, it assesses whether an email is low or high priority.

Users can also ‘train’ their inboxes to recognise what is important by marking emails as Clutter, or moving them to the Clutter folder.

The good news is that users receive an email alert with new senders that get added to the Clutter folder, and a weekly summary of the activity performed by the feature. So if your emails are deemed as ‘low priority’, they won’t just disappear without your subscribers having any idea.

Clutter feature summary email

An example of the summary email from the Office blog

4. Who does it affect?

As Outlook is a very popular email client for businesses, B2B marketers are more likely to see the impact of this feature on their engagement rates.

5. What if a subscriber marks our emails as Clutter on their mobile, do we get a second chance in their desktop app?

No. Clutter works at server level, so if your email has been marked as clutter on any device using Office 365, it will affect all other devices using that account.

6. If our emails go to the Clutter folder, can we still get them out of there?

Apart from following email marketing best practice, there isn’t a lot you can do about the fate of your emails against the ‘Clutter’ feature.

However, remember that subscribers will still receive a weekly summary of the feature’s activity. New messages moved during that week will include a preview of their subject line, showing its crucial role once again.

7. Is there any way to report on this in our email service provider’s platform?

To assess whether Clutter is affecting your email metrics, look at how many Outlook subscribers were opening your emails before June 2015 when the feature was enabled by default. Monitor your Email Client report to see whether the Outlook opens decrease over time, and whether they eventually turn into bounces.

8. Will the ‘Clutter’ feature affect our deliverability?

One of the most important actions subscribers can take in any email clients is to mark your emails as spam, or move them from the Junk folder to their Inbox.

While we don’t have any information at the moment on the impact of the Clutter folder specifically on deliverability, it’s safe to assume that once your open and click rates will decrease, so will your chances of landing in the inbox.

9. How can we prevent our emails from being ‘Cluttered’?

While there is no sure way of preventing it, email basics are now more important than ever.

Have a clear, attention-grabbing subject line, and a ‘From name’ that your subscribers recognize. That way you’ll encourage interaction with your emails.

Sending relevant, segmented messages to subscribers who really benefit from them means their ‘Clutter’ feature will observe interest and interaction, and won’t deem them as ‘low priority’.

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