Microsoft and Litmus want to Make Email Great Again.

Actually, that may be overstating the case: Redmond, Wash.-based Microsoft and Litmus, a Cambridge, Mass.-based email marketing provider, just want to make sending and receiving email a better experience.

At The Email Design Conference (TEDC) in Boston today, Litmus announced it was partnering with Microsoft, the provider of Outlook email. About 550 people are attending the conference at the Westin Boston Waterfront Hotel.

Litmus CEO and co-founder Paul Farnell called the partnership "a very big deal."

“It’s something to make email better for the millions of marketers working on these campaigns but also the hundreds of millions of people who use Microsoft email products and reading these emails. They should have a much better experience,” he said.

Last October, Spectrum Equity gave Litmus $49 million to build its web-based email creation, testing and analytics platform.

Microsoft Outlook

paul farnell litmus

Litmus developers and designers will work with Microsoft’s Outlook product team to help it prioritize email rendering bugs in Outlook, identify issues faster and announce improvements and fixes to the community.

Litmus officials said it's the first time a major email client is working with the email marketing community and email designers. New Microsoft email clients will be available for testing in Litmus.

“It’s very much our view that email subscribers are your most valuable customers and email marketing is the best-performing channel to reach those folks,” Farnell told CMSWire in an interview this week. “These subscribers on your list are your prime audience. They’ve actively raised their hands and said they want to hear from your company. People want to hear more from brands through email than any other channel.”

Learning Opportunities

In Litmus' own email client market share report for July, the Apple iPhone sits on top at 33.58 percent. Gmail is second at 16.31 percent, and Outlook (6.69 percent) and (4.22 percent) are sixth and seventh, respectively.

Real-World Email Examples

Caitlin Hart, program manager at Microsoft, said collecting feedback from IT and end users has always been a priority for Microsoft, specifically the Outlook team. In recent years, she added, Microsoft has enhanced the systems it uses to make this communication easier, including its Insiders programs for Office and Windows and the Feedback hub in Windows 10.

“Outlook uses Microsoft Word as a way for email senders to create rich, beautiful experiences in email,” Hart said. “Word is the de-facto authoring experience in the world, with over 1.3 billion people using Office. While its strength is in the authoring experience it does have its shortcomings when it comes to rendering HTML emails. We’re actively looking to improve its HTML and CSS support.”

Litmus, she said, has an “amazing user base of passionate email marketers and developers.” They can provide Microsoft with “real world examples of rendering bugs and errors.”

“This will allow us,” Hart said, “to better identify and prioritize rendering issues to work on improving rendering in Outlook."

The partnership gives Microsoft access to “email experts in the trenches” rather than just consumers of email, Farnell said.

“Our shared goal is to have beautiful emails,” Farnell said. “We get to help the email community by sending better emails and fixing bugs and quirks email developers otherwise had to work around.”