Email Deliverability Still Plagues Marketers

Linc Wonham
by Linc Wonham 20 Sep, 2011

Email certification and reputation monitoring company Return Path has announced the findings from its Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, which indicate that email deliverability still plagues commercial email senders worldwide with only 81 percent of all permissioned email making it to the inbox.


Globally, 1 out of every 5 emails is not delivered to the intended recipient, with 7 percent landing either in a spam or junk folder and 12 percent simply missing. While deliverability rates vary by each region, Return Path's research points to the following three key factors:


-    Senders continue to believe the "bounce rate myth" or whatever gets sent and doesn't bounce must be reaching the inbox. This isn't the case. Senders are only notified when their email is a hard bounce, not if it's been placed in a junk or spam folder. The rate that senders must understand is their inbox placement rate - the number of emails that actually arrive in the inbox.


-    Deliverability failures cost businesses money but these failures are masked by revenue generation from email campaigns. Assuming that a program that generates revenue or gets good response must be delivered to all the inboxes that matter is a mistake. There is significant lost revenue from email that does not get delivered to the inbox and senders need to take deliverability failures more seriously.


-    Many senders are still resistant to implementing the best practices that make email deliverability more likely and more consistent. Return Path research shows high percentages of top brands are missing basic best practices like welcome messages, efficient opt-out procedures and appropriate permission levels.


Key Regional Findings
North American deliverability is globally the highest with 86 percent of emails making it to the intended recipient. Canada has a high rate of email that goes missing at 12.2 percent, but only 2.56 percent is delivered to the spam or junk folder. The United States has a more equal balance of email that goes missing at 5.9 percent and email delivered to the junk or spam folder at 7.56 percent.


In Europe, for the first half of 2011, approximately 1 in 6 legitimate emails or 16.5 percent never reached the subscriber inbox. Additionally, more than 1 in 10 commercial emails or 10.4 percent is missing, blocked by ISPs before reaching their intended recipient. In comparison, Europe lags a full three percentage points at 83.5 percent behind North American deliverability rates of 86.5 percent.


In Central and Latin America, email delivery continues to be a major hurdle with 62 percent or the equivalent of only 6 out of every 10 emails making it to the inbox. Of the remaining 38 percent of emails, 21 percent is rejected at the ISP-level and 17 percent is put in the junk or spam folders. This is particularly problematic in Brazil. With a full 25 percent of all permissioned email being delivered to the spam or junk folders and 1 out of every 10 emails or 11 percent going missing, only 64 percent of all email gets delivered to Brazilian inboxes. In comparison to the global average of 81 percent, Brazil shows a clear need for improved deliverability.


With more than 1 in 5 emails or 78 percent never making it to the inbox across Asia Pacific, Australia posts a strong inbox placement rate of 89 percent - with only 6 percent going missing and 5 percent being sent to the junk or spam folders. The email delivery situation in China doesn't meet the benchmark for the rest of the APAC region with only 58 percent of permissioned email sent actually reaching the recipient. Largely, 39 percent of email is missing due to being blocked at the ISP level and only 3 percent is delivered to the spam or junk folders.


The report also looks at B2B issues and the impact that new filtering applications have on inbox placement:


B2B Concerns
Reaching business addresses continues to be difficult as inboxes are protected by systems like Postini, Symantec and MessageLabs. Only 80 percent of email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems. While this is a 5-percent improvement from 2009 when just 75.2 percent made it to the inbox, the multiple company-level filtering methods used for business addresses mean that deliverability is still a major concern.


Impact of New Inbox Technologies
In addition to conducting the Global Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path analyzed a panel sample of 30,000 Gmail mailboxes from July 1, 2011 through August 10, 2011. Eighty-one percent of Gmail mailboxes measured have priority inbox enabled, with the percentage of adoption steadily increasing during the analysis period. For all mail observed during that time, average inbox placement was 91 percent, with 9 percent marked as spam. Average placement of messages in the priority inbox out of those that went to the inbox was 17 percent.


From a best practice point of view, marketers with much focused segmentation, strict data hygiene and strong content strategy have not seen any dramatic shift in their campaign response due to these new inbox developments. By carving out message streams that are highly relevant to their subscriber base, they've developed a loyal following.


"What marketers don't know about their deliverability leaves their businesses vulnerable and decreases the amount of revenue they can generate from their email channel," says Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path. "Only 81 percent of global email reaches the inbox. We can move the needle significantly higher by understanding where email goes and why, and taking responsibility for where it lands. Having access to relevant deliverability data, taking deliverability failures seriously and continuing to implement best practices is crucial for marketers to improve their programs' effectiveness."