CSA Developments 2018

Opening the CSA Summit 2019, Director of the Certified Senders Alliance, Julia Janssen-Holldiek, explained that the goal of the event, taking place for the 6th time, is to bring email industry together in a friendly atmosphere to make email better.  

She began by giving an overview of some of the trends and challenges for the email industry currently. The first trend she mentioned was the ever-growing volume of email messages. In 2018, 3.8 billion email users sent 280 billion emails daily worldwide. Forecasts are that by 2022, this number will have increased to 333 billion emails daily. As a result of these massive figures, relevance is becoming increasingly more important. A second trend occurring in the economy as a whole is the personalization of products and services. Thirdly, she mentioned the increasing importance of engagement. The challenge is to find a way for customers to get engaged in email.  

For marketing and email communication, personalization will result in increasing customer engagement, which is important for deep customer relationships and will result in a higher spend. Julia Janssen-Holldiek believes that this is possible in email by offering individual choices within standardized frameworks. Standards ease communication between senders and receivers and make email more productive.

The CSA’s work on email standards in 2018

Janssen-Holldiek explained that the motto of the 2019 CSA Summit, “Email Just For You”, represents the importance of this desired individuality, but also of quality standards. She presented the CSA’s work on email standards in 2018, under the banner of the CSA’s newly-expanded mission “We create and enable quality standards and promote new technologies for commercial emailing”, divided according to the alliance’s four strategic goals:

1. Establish quality standards

In 2018, the CSA criteria were updated – in particular, changes were made in the requirements for consent declarations in order to comply with the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which came into effect on 25 May. The Legal Notice was integrated as a full text. Being able to deactivate redirect links in order to prevent phishing attacks, and disallowing WHOIS privacy services were further changes to the CSA criteria.

2. Promote new technologies

The promotion of new technologies is a new addition to the CSA goals. It is seen as important because it is very important in a changing technical environment. The CSA provides recommendations for new technologies which are not (yet) part of the criteria, but which support best practices. When the technologies mature, they can then be integrated into the criteria. The RFC 8058: 1-Click Unsubscribe procedure therefore gained support from the CSA in 2018, as did the Form-Sub header, designed to prevent mail bomb attacks.

The alliance also began a pilot project for a domain whitelist, for which the structure and prerequisites were defined. A further activity in the area of new technologies was a meeting of the eco Competence Groups Email and Blockchain to look into some initial approaches to applications that combine email and blockchain, one of which, Doichain, was also presented at the CSA Summit 2019.

3. Ensure compliance with quality standards

The fundamental goal of the CSA is to protect certified senders, and to offer a quality promise for receiving partners. One new activity to support quality standards is the generation of daily spamtrap reports, sent out to certified senders, using data gained from a range of different sources. Julia Janssen-Holldiek provided a graphic example of the general downward trend of spamtrap hits for an individual Certified Sender from the point of certification until 6 months after certification. Feedback from certified senders has been that the reports are very helpful. The report includes a spamtrap hit score with a color coding: red = above the average for all certified senders, and is a clear indication that a sender should take action.

The CSA also provides a great deal of content in the form of free downloads to help senders deal with issues of quality control when they are talking to their customers. There is also a comprehensive list of FAQs available on the CSA website.

Janssen-Holldiek also presented the eco Complaints Office, which deals with complaints regarding illegal content on the Internet (not only email). She started with a few non-CSA related statistics on their work in the realm of combatting child sexual abuse material, and statistics from the previous year from the eco Complaints Office Annual Report 2018. She also presented a few CSA-related statistics, showing that reprimands for CSA senders decreased in 2018 – her inference is that senders implemented a range of best practices in order to prepare for the GDPR, raising the overall quality of their processes and mailings.

4. Enable quality standards

The overall aim of the CSA in this strategic goal is to provide added value for senders, which is achieved through a range of activities. In particular, the CSA wants to provide added value in deliverability, education, promotion, and access to a large network. On the one hand, there has been increased press activity on the European level, developing a broader European footprint in the media. The aim is not only to communicate to certified senders, but also to their customers – so that the customers are more aware of the quality standards of the CSA. Furthermore, CSA and eco members can also contribute article and interviews to www.dotmagazine.online, the eco Association English-language magazine. The CSA was also on location at several international conferences during the year, promoting the service.

Julia Janssen-Holldiek then brought Jordi van Rijn from Emailvendorselection.com on stage to present his platform for email service provision. As van Rijn explained, the best things in life come from annoyance and irritation, and so it was with the inception of Emailvendorselection.com. The idea came about as a result of his consultancy work helping brands to find the right email service provider for their needs. The platform is therefore a place for people to find information on the different ESPs, to support them in making a choice. The new version is already online, but more features will be implemented in 2020. It includes a range of services and content, and especially lists CSA-certified senders with their certification. There were 13,500 visitors to the CSA section alone last year. He sees it as a good place to get information to potential clients. He also offers the opportunity to create unique content onsite, and offers training in blogging and writing for those who would like support.

Partner network and new CSA senders

Other CSA partners, apart from eco – Association of the Internet Industry, which founded the CSA together with the German Direct Marketing Association (DDV), official partners also include the BVDW and DMVÖ, and, since 2018, the French public-private partnership Signal Spam, of which the CSA is now also a board member.

The CSA currently has 115 certified senders and over 50 mailbox providers and technology partners (e.g. spam-filter providers). In 2018, there were 310 requests for certification, up 24% from 2017. Of those 310, only 23 signed the offer, and and were really motivated to go through the process of certification – there are several reasons for this gap: some are not ready yet; some are not technically qualified, because they do not own the IP; and some are brands (which the CSA sends on to certified senders). Of those 23, only 10 made it through the certification process, as a result of quality issues. Janssen-Holldiek points out that this is not a bad result for the CSA, as the alliance is part of an association and is not commercially driven.

The message from these results is twofold, according to Julia Janssen-Holldiek: The CSA has raised the awareness of quality standards, which in itself already has an impact on the market; and secondly, the CSA quality standards were not negatively impacted by growth in interest in certification.