Delivered Email Metric May Not Be Accurate

I saw this  research article today(Center for Media Research) and found it relevant in this time and age when measuring results is extremely critical.  Close to one fifth of your emails do do reach its destination. Some go to the SPAM folder and what is worst,  others are never delivered to a in box, they are filtered by your ISP. Who is your provider?

According to a new study from Return Path, monitoring 500,000 campaigns from its Mailbox Monitor service from January to June 2009, the average inbox placement rate for permissioned, commercial email in the US and Canada was 79.3%. Of the nearly 21% of email that is not delivered to the inbox just 3.3% is sent to a “junk” or “bulk” email folder and 17.4% is not delivered at all. Consumer Email (January through June, 2009)

Consumer Email (January through June, 2009)

Result                   % of Mail Sent

Delivered              79.3%

Missing                 17.4%

Junk/Bulk             3.3%

Source: Return Path, July 2009

The US is actually doing slightly better than Canada, with inbox placement rates averaging 82%. Canadian ISPs have the higher thresholds for delivery with just 75% of their email, on average, being delivered to the inbox.

The report also found that reaching business addresses, which are protected by systems like Postini, Symantec and MessageLabs, is even more difficult than top consumer email providers. On average, only 72.4% of commercial email is delivered to the inbox through these enterprise systems. These systems are more likely to deliver messages to a junk folder as compared to consumer ISPs that are more likely to block email altogether.

Rates of inbox placement vary quite a bit across Internet Service Providers. Not surprising, says the report, because inbox placement is based on a unique recipe of sender reputation and other factors. Understanding deliverability at this granular level is important for marketers who want to optimize their email marketing efforts.

Non-delivery Rates by ISP (US, 1st 6 Months, 2009)

ISP                         % Mail Not Delivered
Cox                         8%
USA.net                   11%
Road Runner            12%
BellSouth                 14%
Netzero                   14%
Yahoo!                    15%
AOL                        16%
Comcast                  17%
MSN                        20%
Hotmail                   20%
Gmail                      23%

Source: Return Path, July 2009

Marketers are generally given reports that show a “delivered” metric that tends to be about 95% to 98%, says the report. But in most cases this metric is actually the bounce rate, the number of messages sent through the pipe and subtracting the number that return a hard bounce. Top-tier marketers very clean lists, in conjunction with the system, cleans out hard bounces, usually before the next send. In addition, since Email generates a lot of revenue, deliverability failures can be masked by the revenue generated by every campaign.

Research done by the Return Path Professional Services team in the last 18 months shows high percentages of top brands missing basic best practices like welcome messages, efficient opt-out procedures and appropriate permission levels.

The report concludes with some considerations for improvement in deliverability:

·      The prevalent opinion is that whatever gets sent and doesn’t bounce must be reaching the inbox. Gaining access to relevant deliverability data is crucial for marketers to be able to make accurate decisions about their program’s effectiveness

·      Consumer research consistently shows that people do not check their bulk or junk folders for marketing messages. And even if they do, much of the non-delivered mail isn’t there, it’s completely missing

·      Assuming that a program that generates revenue or gets good response must be delivered to all the inboxes that matter is a mistake

·      Most of the major drivers of poor deliverability rates are the direct result of marketing practices, not technical ones. These include complaints when email is unexpected or undervalued by the recipient, and spam traps, which are most often found on lists that are old or have been built with poorly sourced data.

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About Ivan Cevallos

Blogger, entrepreneur, strategist, and digital producer. View all posts by Ivan Cevallos

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