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Return to Sender: Inbox Placement Rates Plunge

Posted on 3.19.2012

Worldwide inbox placement rates declined sharply in the second half of 2011, according to the latest Global Email Deliverability Benchmark report from Return Path.

Historically, inbox placement rates (IPR) have remained steady at around 80 percent with one in five emails being delivered to a spam folder or blocked. For the first time in three years, Return Path saw a major decline of 6 percent that brought inbox placement rates to a record low of 76.5 percent globally in the second half of 2011, compared to 81 percent in the first half.

Reasons for the decline
According to the study, reasons for the significant decline in IPR include ISPs raising the bar on reputation metrics, making it harder than ever for marketers to get into the inbox. ISPs are using metrics that are generally unavailable to marketers through traditional deployment platforms and leveraging new data to determine spam from not-spam.

These metrics include engagement data, subscriber panel complaint data, and trusted subscriber data making deliverability extremely challenging for marketers not using data monitoring tools. Marketing metrics are also sliding in the wrong direction whether due to slashed marketing budgets, new staffing or reliance on third-party ESPs for reputation monitoring.

A third major reason for declining IPR is that consumers are overloaded, especially during the busy holiday period. Many consumers enthusiastically sign up for new emails, whether to access special deals, get interesting content or as part of a purchase process. When the emails arrive in the inbox the amount appears overwhelming, with consumers using the “report junk” button to unsubscribe from excess emails to cope with the avalanche.

“The findings from our report show the effects of a perfect storm,” says Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path. “Clients are having difficulty in getting their emails delivered, ISPs are tightening requirements on reputation metrics and the number of companies using email to market continues to increase. We see both higher overall email volume and an influx of relatively unsophisticated senders – resulting in decreased inbox placement rates.”

Inbox technologies see a dip
In addition to conducting the Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path analyzed a panel sample of over 40,000 Gmail mailboxes and over 110 million messages from July 1 to December 31, 2011. Ninety-three percent of all Gmail subscribers now have priority inbox enabled, up 15 percent from Return Path’s previous study, but Gmail inbox placement rates declined to 79 percent with 21 percent of mail being delivered to the spam folder.

Out of the 79 percent of mail delivered to the inbox, only 8 percent was marked priority, a 54-percent decline compared to Return Path’s previous study.

Overcoming deliverability challenges
While the second half of 2011 proved to be challenging across several industries, marketers taking proactive steps to improve deliverability have major opportunities to increase their revenue through the email channel.

“When marketers focus on improving their program’s deliverability, they do,” adds Blumberg. “One-hundred percent deliverability is attainable. Opportunity is there for all smart marketers to beat their competitors by monitoring their reputation, understanding deliverability data and staying ahead of the deliverability curve.”

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