Microsoft is beta testing some new features for Outlook.com that are meant to help brands and businesses grow their presence and promotion capabilities.The Microsoft Business Profile experience will offer customers the ability to become a verified business with Microsoft. A blue check mark will flag Outlook.com emails from verified businesses.
Business brands will also be able to customize their business profiles for Outlook.com “and other Microsoft products for the future,” according to the business.microsoft.com site. Later in 2019, Microsoft will give businesses and brands a way to “get more prominent placement for your email, coupons and promotions before customers even open your email.”
Microsoft officials announced plans for this new Outlook.com feature on October 2.
Interested consumer-facing businesses who want to join the beta test can sign up and request a spot, which they may receive sometime “over the next few months.” During the beta period, customers will be able to claim and verify ownership of their business profile; customize and manage the content appearing in their profiles (including logos, photos, email address, phone number, etc.). And they’ll be able to have their business profiles appear in Outlook.com when customers see their emails.
The beta is free and open to U.S.-based businesses and brands only. Microsoft has not disclosed how much this feature will cost brands and/or when it will exit beta.
Microsoft is pitching this program to consumers as ultimately helping them “identify legitimate businesses in your inbox.” The service will help them see which newsletters they’ve signed up for and unsubscribe with a single click. The service also will help users more easily find promotions in their inbox.
Microsoft says these features will begin rolling out to Outlook.com users in the U.S. “in the coming months.”
I asked Microsoft is this feature is meant to replace the Microsoft Listings app which they company is in the midst of phasing out. Microsoft Listings is an app for publishing business information, which Microsoft described as an “online web presence management tool. A spokesperson said no, and said the functionality of these two are different.
I’m also curious if LinkedIn will figure into the contact card/profile piece of this new Outlook.com experience. There’s no mention of LinkedIn in Microsoft’s blog post or Business Profile website.