1 in 4 Commercial Emails Did Not Reach Inbox in H2 ’11

March 21, 2012

returnpath-global-commercial-email-deliverability-h2-2011-mar12.jpgGlobally, only 76.5% of commercial emails reached their intended inbox in the second half of 2011, down from 81% in H1 2011, details ReturnPath in a March 2012 study. The remaining roughly 1 in 4 emails that did not reach the inbox wound up either in a spam/junk folder (8.7%) or were blocked by ISP-level filtering (15.1%). Regionally, Europe had the highest rate of commercial emails reaching the inbox (85%), followed by North America (79%), Central and Latin America (72%), and Asia-Pacific (67%).

B2B Deliverability Fares Better

returnpath-b2b-email-deliverability-h2-2011-mar.jpgCommercial emails targeted to B2B recipients had better global success rates than overall commercial emails. 86% reached the intended inbox, up from 80% in H1. Although the proportion winding up in a spam/junk folder increased from 8% to 12%, the proportion blocked by ISP-level filtering declined dramatically, from 12% to 2%.

ReturnPath analysis indicates that B2B emails suffer from having to pass multiple filters and that executives typically do not check for false positives.

US Inbox Rates Decline

North America saw a large fall in deliverability in H2, with inbox placement rates falling from 86.5% to 79.3%. US success rates dropped from 86.5% to 80.78%, with a corresponding 30% increase in spam folder delivery (to 9.9%) and 57% increase in blocked or missing emails (to 9.4%).

US SMBs certainly seemed to notice an increase in spam: according to survey results released in March 2012 by GFI Software, 52% of US SMBs say that the volume of spam their organization receives has increased over the past year, compared to just 16% who say that it has decreased.

Retail Emails Fare Poorly

Breaking down the data by popular industry types, ReturnPath found that the gaming and retail verticals fared comparatively worse than financial services, banking, and daily deal sites. In fact, just 77% of retail emails found their way into inboxes, while only 59% of gaming company emails did so. Although retailers suffered more from missing or blocked emails than spam folder deliveries (16% vs. 4%), the opposite was true for gaming companies, with a massive 38% of their emails ending up in spam folders.

German Spam Filters Still Active

Looking more closely at the commercial email success rates in Europe, the study finds Germany had the highest spam rate, at 13.7%, while Spain had the lowest inbox rate, at 78.8%. By contrast, Italy had a 90% success rate and 4.4% spam rate, while France had a similar 91.1% success rate and 5.7% spam rate. The UK had a middling 83% success rate and 7% spam rate.

Central and Latin America Improves Most

Inbox placement rates in Central and Latin America improved 16% from 62% to 72%. Despite this improvement, success rates in Brazil, the largest market, remained relatively flat, at 64.5% in H2, compared to 64% in H1.

China Sees Awful Inbox Rate

Meanwhile, the Asia Pacific region saw a dramatic drop in deliverability rate, from 78% in H1 to 66.5% in H2. Australia actually moderately improved its success rate, from 89% to 90.6%, although this was more than offset by China’s performance. In fact, only 19.6% of emails ever reached the inbox in China, with the remaining 4 in 5 being missing or blocked by ISPs.

Other Findings:

  • Gmail Priority Inbox adoption rose 15% to 93% of all subscribers. Even so, inbox rates dropped to 79%, with the remaining 21% delivered to spam folders. And of the 79% that were successful, just 8% were marked priority.
  • ReturnPath noticed a big spike in the overall complaint rate across senders beginning in mid-summer and again in October when many email campaigns increased their volume for Black Friday promotional reasons.

About the Data: Return Path reviewed data from over 1.1 million messages, 142 ISPs and 34 countries in North America, Central and Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the Asia Pacific territories from July through December of 2011.

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