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One in seven marketing emails don’t reach the inbox

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More than one in seven legitimate marketing emails sent in Europe are not being delivered to consumer inboxes, a new study has revealed. In the second half of 2009, 15% of European permission-based commercial emails either went straight to recipients’ spam folders or weren’t delivered at all.

The findings come from Return Path’s Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, which measured inbox placement rates across North America and Europe. Return Path collected data on the success of more than half a million email campaigns between July and December 2009 to gain a comprehensive picture of true delivery rates.

The report also found that inbox placement rates varied significantly between internet service providers (ISPs). For ISPs in the UK , the proportion of messages successfully delivered to the inbox ranged from a high of 98.25% to barely 75% for the most marketer-unfriendly ISP.

The most difficult ISPs for marketers were Demon, BT, AOL, Orange and Yahoo! A quarter (24.7%) of marketing emails sent to Demon mailboxes went undelivered, while of those sent to BT clients, more than 21% failed to reach the inbox.

“Many email broadcast systems will report a message as delivered if it hasn’t bounced, and can often claim deliverability rates of 95% or more,” says Margaret Farmakis, Return Path’s senior director of response consulting. “Yet our research shows that true deliverability, where messages are successfully delivered to customer inboxes, is substantially lower.

“The email channel has proved resilient during the recession because it’s one of the most cost-effective methods of marketing,” continued Farmakis. “But email is only effective if it gets read. Given that 15% of all European commercial email goes undelivered, marketers must ensure that they get true delivery metrics, including the numbers of messages blocked or sent to the spam folder, not just the number that bounce. Only accurate metrics will enable marketers to know precisely how many messages are getting to customers’ inboxes, and will thus enable them to take immediate action to rectify any deliverability issues they might have.”

“Internet service providers work extremely hard to protect their customers from the scourge of spam emails,” said Farmakis. “The problem for marketers is that legitimate permission-based emails are often misidentified as spam by ISPs, and subsequently directed to the spam folder or vanish into the ether. Marketers must understand that they themselves have the most influence over their deliverability by following email best practice.”

“Although Europe outperformed North America — where almost 20% of permission-based email wasn’t delivered in the last six months of 2009 — these figures still represent an unacceptably high rate of missed opportunities and lost sales,” she concluded.

Readers can download the full report from Return Path’s website.

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