What is BIMI? How will it Affect Email Authentication and Deliverability?

 In Developer, Email Infrastructure

Brand Indicators for Message Identification aka BIMI is one of the spanking new technology that is an important part of the email makeover 2.0.

Till now, brands used to send a promotional email and if it lands in user inbox, the logo prevalent in Gmail and Yahoo would display the first character of the brand name. Thus, due to the absence of any visual indicator, there wasn’t a 100% surety for the user that the email they are engaged with is authentic and genuine.

For the last decade, we have seen the best practice for senders to authenticate their emails using SPF and DKIM. Now several senders are also enabling DMARC to solidify their email security.

Today, there is an incentive to enable all three and get your company logo visible near your sender's name.

Welcome BIMI!

Let’s face it, checking the email headers for authentication is not what you will expect a subscriber to do on a regular basis. This kind of domain expertise is not exposed in the open for people to know. Thus people still fall prey to internet scams and email phishing and spoofing attempts.

An email user at an average skims through every email devoting 5-10 seconds to know the brand offer and decide if they wish to open the email and click. Thus, clearly the attention span on emails is less and thus a user will expect the mailbox providers to have authentication checks on the emails being sent to them.

Thus due to the demands of the growing email users, a group was formed to develop a visual brand indicator and add an additional layer of security to email inboxes. Thus, BIMI was created.

In this post, we shall dive into BIMI and what it is all about. We shall cover the following topics:

  • What is BIMI?
  • What is it all about?
  • What is required before we decide to use it?
  • Does it ensure high deliverability?
  • Why do marketers need to care about it?
  • Why should a mailbox provider care about BIMI?
  • Why should a mailbox provider care about BIMI?
  • The key benefits of enabling BIMI for an email sender
  • Implementation steps to BIMI for an email sender
  • The other benefits of BIMI outside email

So let’s get into it...

What is BIMI?

BIMI is a technique of brand identification and email authentication. Using this method a brand can display its logo in the subscriber inbox and it also establishes the fact that the email is authentic without requiring any internal checks.

BIMI provides an additional layer of email security and authentication by enabling the inbox to display brand logos besides the email. It also has security for preventing any scammers to use the same logo for their own misuse.

It can be compared to an identity card for a brand to enter your inbox.

For Example: At an airport, there is a basic passport check that happens at the entrance. Thus comparing this analogy, BIMI is a passport for a brand to be recognized for who they are. Also that the email that has been delivered from them in your inbox is authentically their own and no deception is possible.

What is new about this method is, this is the first time that a user can see for themselves that the email is authentic without batting an eyelid.

BIMI decided to cut short the confusion of checking email headers and found a way to authenticate the brands visually with a glance at the user’s inbox.

If you follow the authentication checks and add your brand image or logo to the sender plus if it is visible in the inbox of the user along with your sender name, then it will be easier for the brand to be trusted by the users. Not to mention, they will start identifying with the logo and brand image.

More on that later in the post….

What’s more, BIMI will also improve email deliverability by making your brand more recognized with the users by going through all the authentication checks. Thus, marketers won’t have to worry about email authentication and its impacts on deliverability by enabling this method.

When a subscriber will see a mail with the logo of their favorite e-commerce store, they won’t have to double-check if the email is from who it says it is. This will build brand affinity and relationship with the users. It also provides the brand with additional image-building exercise and gets to the user’s inbox.

So this is a win-win situation for both!

Good. Now let us get to know it a bit better...

Getting to know BIMI

BIMI is developed by the AuthIndicators Working Group (bimigroup.org), a vendor-neutral committee of companies working to create a trustworthy inbox experience for all email users worldwide through increasing the use of authentication to reduce email spoofing/phishing and other email scams.

BIMI is a relatively new technology and is currently adopted by Yahoo!. Gmail had announced support for BIMI in 2020. With the ability to get inside subscriber inbox with recognizable logos, marketers are obviously buzzing about it and wish to implement it.

This will also boost email security as the mails will get authenticated and thus a user will be sure to receive emails from their favorite senders with visual indicators. BIMI is said to be a launchpad for email makeover 2.0 and is predicted to upgrade email as a channel.

What are the prerequisites for BIMI to work?

BIMI will have a  TXT record, which needs to be added to your DNS records.

The location of the image file is also stored and it must be an SVG file. These two things are difficult to duplicate hence BIMI is said to be a safe method to protect brand image and authenticity.

Enabling BIMI does not instantly show your logo in the mailbox, as it will only apply your logo when your brand’s domain and IP reputation has been built, which generally takes time.

If you are a brand, you need the following pre-requisites to enable BIMI:

  • The domain or sub-domains are registered with DNS authority
  • The emails are SPF, DKIM, and DMARC compliant.
  • The brand sending domain has good deliverability.

Your brand’s sender domain needs to have a good domain as well as the IP reputation. To build a good domain reputation, we recommend following an effective warmup process where you steadily increment the volume on an everyday basis, and with good engagement and delivery, build a high reputation with mailbox providers.

Your mailing list should also contain active and engaged users who open your emails and provide a high open-rate. This engagement metric combined with the volumes you send out matters to build a high reputation for your sender domain and IP with mailbox providers.

Keep a track of your reputation with Google Postmaster for Gmail and sender score for Yahoo IPs.

High reputation in these departments will ensure high deliverability which will, in turn, provide confidence to mailbox providers to enable BIMI.

Fig: BIMI will display brand logos in your mailbox client.

It is also expected that your brand logo has a digital certificate like a Verified Mark Certificate (VMC) which ties together your brand company, logo, and domain in the digital world. So that if any miscreant tries to use your company’s logo in their emails, you will be able to track them down and pursue legal action.

Does BIMI ensure high deliverability?

The answer is a resounding no! Just enabling BIMI will not ensure your high deliverability.

BIMI will add a new layer of email security where your emails will be SPF, DKIM, and DMARC compliant, hence it may increase the possibility of your emails going to inbox. But it can never guarantee that the mails which are BIMI enabled will always land in your inbox folder.

There are multiple reasons for this:

  1. Enabling BIMI ensures that a user can see your brand logo inside the email but what if the user is not engaged with your brand? They can easily filter your email into spam by reporting it. So, that makes mailing to a highly engaged healthy list a priority.
  2. BIMI is currently adopted only by Yahoo! Mail.  Hence others like Gmail who yet have to adopt it will have their own spam filters to process your emails. Your emails may or may not bypass the filters and get into the inbox, hence following good practices with your promotional emails becomes all the more important.

Thus, even if you have a high IP and domain reputation, your emails might still land in spam in Gmail as the email deliverability will depend on multiple factors. Currently, the Gmail spam filters have evolved and updated their algorithms, hence testing your emails before sending them is necessary to ensure high deliverability.

   A Quote by Jeanne Jennings, Founder, and Chief Strategist, Email Optimization Shop (blog and free email newsletter) and General Manager, Only Influencers, a community of email marketing professionals-

BIMI is one of the few new email features that appeals to both email marketers and email deliverability professionals. Having your brand logo prominently featured in the inbox before the email is opened grabs the reader's attention, helps with recognition and verifies that the email is legitimate.

Why should an email marketer care about BIMI?

BIMI is a part of the upgrade that email 2.0 is currently going through. It is a new method and it will be here to stay. Soon other mailbox providers will start adopting BIMI as part of their email client.

Gmail – one of the biggest mailbox providers in the world recently announced its BIMI pilot program with the intention of providing full support in the next 6-7 months.Though the adoption looks a bit slow as Gmail already has Google Annotations as part of their features. Gmail annotations won’t be able to provide the logo and email security that BIMI will. The other mailbox providers should catch up on this technology soon enough.

Thus as the BIMI stock is rising, your brand can get a head start by being one of the first to adopt this method and start gaining more visibility with your users.

Trust and engagement are the two cornerstones of any successful marketing venture. BIMI helps you as a brand to get the trust of the users and ultimately by getting visibility in the user inbox, get extra promotion.

Thus, BIMI will help you in your visibility as well as being security compliant with major mailbox providers.

  • Despite the benefits of enabling authentication protocols like DMARC, many large organizations have not yet adopted them. This leaves their emails open to spoofing and phishing attacks.
  •  According to Gmail, 70% of daily phishing attacks that are observed by them are new. This shows the sophistication of the new logo and email attacks that occur.
  • It becomes increasingly necessary for an email sender to have complete authority over their domain and their brand logo.

Why should a mailbox provider care about BIMI?

  • Increased adoption of BIMI will mean less risk to mailbox users.
  • With the logo presence, it will alleviate the user experience inside the inbox.
  • It will remove the tedious task of logo management as global certification standards will be applied to a brand who wishes their logo to be displayed.
  •  Mailbox providers will have a global certified authority to trust on brand logos.

The key benefits of enabling BIMI for an email sender

  • Big brands need their logos to be displayed prominently so as to ensure the security to their customers. If you as an email sender need to enable BIMI, then it requires logo certification to be done. BIMI removes human errors attached in displaying the wrong logo.
  • Your brand’s logo needs VMC (Verified mark certificate) in order to enable the BIMI standard. You can gain complete control of your domain and your branding once you get it certified. So, brand security is a key benefit.
  • Once certified, any third party will not be able to use your brand logo for misuse. This further ensures protection to an email sender from attacks.
  • BIMI works in such a way that your email security is complete before your email even hits the recipient mailbox.

Implementation steps to BIMI for an email sender

  • Pass all the authentication protocols (SPF, DKIM, and DMARC).
  • Get a certificate that validates the ownership of your logo. (VMC)
  •  Register it as an official logo mark and pair it with your sending domains.
  •  In the recent BIMI update by Gmail, 2 VMC authorities have been announced – Digicert, and Trust Data certificate.
  •  Get a BIMI TXT record added to your DNS records.
  • Stick to good sending practices and avoid any anti-abuse triggers for the mailbox providers. 

BIMI implementation is supposed to be fast. It is designed to be activated within 24-48 hrs of application.

Other benefits of BIMI outside email

The use of BIMI might have other uses outside email as well. It could be used for any of the following:

  • Social media branding
  • Business Whatsapp account
  • Chatbots etc.

Thus, a brand marketer can use their certified logo in multiple ways for their brand positioning activities.

BIMI is a simple standard where an authenticated email can display their brand logo inside the user’s inbox.

Enabling BIMI will drive good engagement which in-turn could result in improved email deliverability. We know that engagement from your users on your emails is monitored by mailbox providers. The more engagement you receive, the more improved your deliverability is.

Your sending practices will still matter to the mailbox providers to allow your emails into the inbox. But the bad stuff like spam complaints, fluctuations in reputation will matter less if you are in the positive cycle of engagement.

Thus, enabling BIMI will not necessarily guarantee good inboxing, but instead, it will start a fortuitous cycle of positive engagement and improved domain hygiene, which could only indicate good things to follow with MSPs.

Get started now!

BIMI is a method that is new to the email industry but will soon become mandatory for brands to display their logos to get visibility and increase engagement. It also provides a layer of security to your emails which in turn fuels trust and a relationship with your customers.

The jury is still out in terms of how many mailbox providers start adopting it, but due to the positive results it will provide to marketers, it is expected to grow in usage in the email industry.

Now, you can get a headstart over other brands by implementing the above steps for BIMI and use them with Verizon (Yahoo, AOL) accounts.

Get the necessary pre-requisites in place now. So, that when the Gmail BIMI program goes live, you have done the work to enable it. You as an email sender can then reap the benefits of displaying your brand identity to the biggest email consumer platform in the world.

For any more information on BIMI visit: https://bimigroup.org/

What do you think about BIMI? Can it be useful for your email marketing activities?

Please leave your feedback in the comments section and let us know.

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