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Common Email Problems In Ecommerce – And How To Solve Them

Email issues are a common problem for online retailers. More times than we can count, clients have asked us for help with email deliverability issues (people not getting emails), email reliability issues (email doesn’t always work), email storage problems (not enough storage), email organization, etc.

Whether you have an ecommerce website or not, the following post might help you fix problems with your email system.

Please note that Spork is not an email service provider or consulting company. We just know about email because clients have asked us for help. If you need email help, we recommend contacting an IT support company like NeighborhoodIT.org.

Common Problem #1 – Your Customers Aren’t Getting Your Emails

Maybe your customers aren’t getting their order notifications. Maybe they aren’t getting the shipping and tracking notifications. Either way, the solution probably has something to do with your emails getting routed to your customer’s “spam” or “junk” filter.

Usually, email goes to the spam/junk filter because the sender (your email server) isn’t trusted. You can solve this problem by:

  1. Adding an SPF record to your domain, and/or
  2. Upgrading your email system

Adding An SPF Record To Your Domain

How SPF Works

SPF makes it possible for emails to be authenticated. A text record is added to the sender’s domain, and that record indicates which server(s) are allowed to send mail. Image via UnlockTheInbox.com.

SPF stands for “sender policy framework,” but basically it’s a return address label for all your outgoing email. By adding an SPF record to your domain, you’re telling all the email servers in the world where email is supposed to come from. Sometimes, adding an SPF record will solve your email delivery problems.

To add an SPF, check with your domain registrar. GoDaddy has a good tutorial for adding an SPF record here, and you can use this SPF wizard to generate the record you need. If all this SPF business is too much to think about, you can enlist one of the professional IT firms we mentioned above.

Upgrading Your Email System

If adding an SPF record doesn’t solve your deliverability problems, the issue might be your email system itself. For a variety of reasons, email servers can become associated with spam. When this association occurs, it’s very hard to fix. Often times, the only solution is to upgrade to a business-class email system. Our suggested email providers are Google Apps for Business and Zoho Mail. Google Apps for Business costs $5 per month per user, while Zoho is available for free (with some limitations).

Upgrading is easy enough – changing a domain’s MX records, and then reconfiguring your email client(s). If you aren’t sure about how to do this, contact one of the IT companies we mention above.

Common Problem #2 – Your Email Isn’t Reliable

Hosting your own email system is hard. It can often require the full-time effort of an in-house IT person, and if your company is using unconventional hardware or software, email can be problematic.

Likewise, if you’re using the email that comes with your website hosting, you may have issues with random outages, missed messages, etc.

Either way, the best solution is to upgrade to either Google Apps for Business or Zoho Mail. Google costs $5 per month per user, while Zoho is available for free up to 10 users. Google is the system we use here at Spork, but we’ve setup people with Zoho and it’s perfectly good.

Common Problem #3 – Your Email Account Isn’t Big Enough

Another issue we’ve seen a few times over the years is that our clients don’t have enough storage. This can be because email is used to send and receive a lot of images or documents, or because the email system you have is too small.

Either way, our solution is to upgrade to Google Apps for Business or Zoho Mail. Google will provide up to 10GB (or thereabouts) for the standard fee, and up to 100GB of email storage for an extra $5 per month per user. Zoho’s free system has 5GB of storage. For something between $0 and $10 per user per month, you can have an email account with 5 to 100GB of storage.

Common Problem #4 – Your Email Isn’t Branded

If you’re sending emails for your business from @gmail.com, @yahoo.com, etc., we advise you to stop doing that in the strongest possible terms.

First, sending business email from a personal account like this isn’t very professional. Consumers are forgiving if your business is small, but once you have some success you really want to start sending email from your domain name.

Email attachment virus

Email attachment viruses are common, difficult to detect, and can automatically spread to your entire contact list. Image via Mailguard.

Second, personal accounts like this aren’t very secure. If you use your personal email address for more than just work, you’re taking a chance that your business account (and all your customers) will be subject to a phishing attack. If your Aunt Ida accidentally sends you an infected attachment, and you open it, every one of your customers is going to get an infected attachment too. If you use a business class email system, the odds of this happening are lower.

Last but not least, a business-class email system usually includes organizational tools (shared docs, calendars, etc.) that every business finds useful at some point. We recommend Google Apps for Business or Zoho Mail. Zoho is available for free, while Google’s system costs $5 per user per month.

Common Problem #5 – Emails From Your Website Aren’t Going To Your Inbox

The last common problem on our list. A customer goes to your email, fills out a contact form (or similar), but the email goes to your ‘junk’ folder.

The issue is that your website hosting server is sending email, and it’s not really meant to do that. Website hosting servers are not whitelisted with the various email providers (meaning, GMail and Yahoo don’t know to trust them), and the website hosting companies don’t usually police the quality of email that’s being sent. As a result, a website server can quickly end up on a spam blacklist.

The solution? Send all your website emails with SMTP. SMTP allows your website hosting server to send emails via your regular email account. This way, you’re guaranteed to get the emails, and your customers are more likely to get them too.

Most self-hosted ecommerce platforms have an available SMTP plugin that can solve this problem. If you’re not using a self-hosted platform, you definitely want to talk to your ecommerce provider about your problem.

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