1 in 6 Commercial Emails Fail to Reach the Inbox. Which Industries Fare Best?

September 22, 2014

ReturnPath-Global-Inbox-Placement-Rate-by-Industry-Sept2014Some 17% of permissioned emails from legitimate senders around the world failed to reach the inbox during the year-long period from May 2013 to April 2014, with 11% classified as missing and 6% ending up in spam folders, details Return Path in its “Inbox Placement Benchmark Report 2014” [download page]. The overall 87% inbox placement rate hides some wide discrepancies in performance, though, as industries reliant on customer relationships were most likely to be successful.

Topping the charts were:

  • Health and beauty (96% inbox placement rate);
  • Insurance (92%);
  • Apparel (91%);
  • Automotive (91%); and
  • Food and Beverage (91%).

Retail (90%) and business services (87%) also saw strong rates, while software and internet (43%) was by far the worst performer.

The analysts note that top-performers – such as retail and insurance – are typically dependent on strong customer relationships either for direct sales or for transactional updates. As with the global average though, each industry’s averages masked a wide variety in performance, as some top global brands surpassed inbox placement rates of 95%.

Interestingly, the report also reveals that inbox placement rates were highest for Gmail, but with a caveat: only when emails were routed to the Promotions tab. Indeed, those campaigns that attempted to bypass the Promotions tab and deliver instead to the Primary tab experienced a much higher degree of routing to the spam folder. The analysis indicates that marketers should abandon that approach, as read rates for the Promotions tab have neared 20% this year, suggesting that the Promotions tab acts as “the equivalent of a shopping folder, where consumers actively searched for content they wanted.”

Some top-performing industries in terms of inbox placement rate also enjoyed high read rates in the Promotions tab. While travel, recreation and leisure had the highest rate, of 35%, insurance (30%), automotive (28%), health and beauty (22%) and food and beverage (20%) saw solid read rates.

Meanwhile, inbox placement rates differed by sender origin: senders in Australia (89%), Germany (89%), the US (87%) and the UK (87%) enjoyed the highest rates, while those in Brazil (60%) and Spain (76%) were among the lowest. European marketers had more difficulties with missing emails, while those in North America saw a greater share end up in spam folders.

Finally, the study demonstrates that inbox placement rates stayed remarkably steady throughout the year-long period of analysis, ranging from 82-85%. The report’s authors posit that rates did not dip during the holiday period due to:

  • The increasing volume of messages diluting the complaint rate and other influences on inbox placement rates;
  • The growing share of emails read on iPhones and iPads reducing complaints (as the devices’ native client does not have a spam complaint feedback loop;
  • Consumers were more welcoming of emails during the holiday period, particularly with the influx of promotional emails.

About the Data: Return Path conducted its study using a representative sample of more than 492 million commercial email messages sent with permission to consumers around the world between May 2013 and April 2014. Global and regional statistics are based on performance across more than 150 mailbox providers in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia- Pacific regions; country- and industry-specific statistics are based on a subset of senders whose location and industry classifications are identifiable.

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