New Research from Return Path Shows Strong Correlation Between Subscriber Engagement and Spam Placement

email deliverability

Second annual report reveals industry benchmarks for key metrics that impact email deliverability

Email deliverability is an extremely important aspect of email marketing and a major factor in subscriber retention. A high rate of spam placement is a real campaign killer for email marketers. Global spam placement rate went from 17% in 2014 to 12% in 2015.

But the latest study of over 5 billion emails sent in 2016, showed a slight increase in the spam rate which was calculated at 13%. Overall read, reply and forward rates have also improved, according to the study, released by email solutions provider Return Path.

Return Path which acquired email deliverability startup Email Copilot last Novemeber, has released its second annual email engagement benchmark report, revealing the gap between the strong performer and bad ones. The Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability study looks at sector-specific email marketing metrics like read rate, reply rate, forward rate, and complaint rate – a good measure of how much people engage with the email they receive. The study found a strong link between engagement and deliverability – industries which outperform the average in these metrics, see less spam rates.

“More than ever before, subscriber engagement is critical to getting your email delivered to the inbox. Major mailbox providers like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo are constantly looking for ways to improve their customer experience, and they are increasingly reliant on engagement signals to filter out unwanted messages,” said Return Path President George Bilbrey. “Yet many marketers don’t track these metrics, and may not even be aware that they’re available.”

Report findings were taken from analysis of more than 5 billion commercial emails received in 2016. The analysis broke down email stats by industry sector, setting benchmarks for marketers to compare their own subscriber engagement against industry peers.

The findings from the study shed light on some interesting email deliverability metrics for email marketers to consider:

  • Although overall spam placement increased slightly year over year (13% in 2016 vs 12% in 2015), positive engagement metrics like read rate, reply rate, and forward rate also saw significant improvement.
  • Industries with the lowest spam rate (banking/finance, distribution & manufacturing, travel, and utilities) also exceeded nearly every benchmark for subscriber engagement.
  • The amount of email delivered to the spam folder ranged from just 6% (banking/finance and distribution & manufacturing) to 24% (automotive). Automotive also had the worst spam placement of 2015 (28%).
  • Overall read rate increased by 8% year over year, and every industry saw an increase in read rate compared with 2015. Industries with the highest read rate were distribution & manufacturing (58%) and utilities (57%). By comparison, the best read rate of 2015 was 47% (utilities).
  • Subscribers took a more active role this year in separating wanted mail from unwanted mail. The overall “deleted without reading” rate rose from 9% in 2015 to 13% in 2016, while the “this is not spam” rate (which measures how often a subscriber retrieves a message from the spam folder and marks it as “not junk” jumped from just 0.03% in 2015 to 1.04% in 2016.

Eamil Deliverability Rates by Quarter

“Optimizing consumer engagement can certainly improve deliverability, but these metrics also provide valuable data about the effectiveness of your email campaigns. And Return Path is uniquely positioned to help marketers uncover these important insights,” continued Bilbrey. “Unlike other deliverability solutions, Return Path’s consumer panel of more than 2.5 million active consumer inboxes offers an unprecedented look at how real people interact with real email messages.”

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