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Microsoft’s Focused Inbox

What is Microsoft’s Focused Inbox?

Focused Inbox is a feature included in Microsoft email products that allows users to separate important and less important email into two different tabs - Focused and Other. It uses machine learning and a user’s engagement actions to learn what email the user considers important. Email from senders with high engagement are considered Important and are placed in the Focused tab. Messages from senders deemed less important are placed in the Other tab.

Because Focused Inbox’s functionality is based on the user’s specific actions with a sender’s email, it places a great amount of importance for senders to:

  • Use confirmed opt-in or opt-in consent
  • Send relevant content that the recipient wants to receive
  • Have strong list hygiene practices in place to suppress non-responders

How does it affect deliverability?

The impact to deliverability is currently unknown. However, there is anecdotal evidence from some senders that there is a correlation with a decrease in engagement rates.

How many Microsoft users have this function turned on?

There is no industry data currently that reports usage statistics. All versions of Outlook that receive feature updates will soon become Focused Inbox capable (e.g., Office 365 versions of Office 2016 for Windows or Mac, Outlook on the web, the Outlook apps for iOS, Android, the Windows Phone, and Windows 10 Mail). Users will see Focused Inbox once their mailbox is enabled for it. If users are using an Office 365 email account in an enterprise, their email administrator might have disabled Focused Inbox. 

It is likely that Microsoft’s Focused Inbox is not enabled for every user.

What do you do if you see a decrease in Microsoft engagement metrics?

  • Apply to Return Path's Certification Whitelist. If accepted, you'll receive preferential treatment at Microsoft.
  • Monitor your performance in Inbox Monitor and Reputation Monitor to see if there are other factors related to deliverability that could be impacting engagement. Microsoft uses numerous data points in their filtering decisions and a decrease in engagement may be due to other factors.
  • Follow Microsoft’s Best Practice recommendations.
  • Use confirmed opt-in or opt-in consent methods.
  • Look at your sign up process and see if there is an opportunity to implement a preference center and to improve your disclosure about what email the subscriber will receive. Subscribers are more likely to engage with email they choose to receive.
  • Send out a survey asking subscribers what content is working and where you can improve.
  • Have a strategy in place to suppress non-responders. Look at your data to determine if there is a time when subscribers stop engaging with your email and send them a win-back campaign. If the non-responders don’t engage with the win-back campaign, add them to your suppression list.
  • Perform A/B or multivariate testing on different subject lines, content, and offers to determine how to improve engagement metrics.
  • Add an optional survey during your unsubscribe process asking why the subscriber is unsubscribing. This can help give you insights on where you can improve, whether it is related to the content or frequency of email you send.
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