1/3 Of Emails Spam Or Not Relevant

According to a new Return Path analysis, US marketers have a struggle on their hands this year when it comes to email deliverability. Fewer than 70% of emails sent by US marketers have been delivered to the inbox, well below last year’s success rate and trailing the global average.

Over the 5-quarter period spanning from Q2 2015 through Q2 2016, 73% of US marketers’ commercial emails reached the inbox. But limiting the analysis to this year shows that just 68% were delivered to the inbox in Q1, with Q2 not faring much better (69%).

US Commercial eMail Deliverability Rates


Inbox Placement


Missing the Mark

Q2 2015












Q1 2016








Source: Return Path, August 2016

By comparison, marketers globally averaged a 79% deliverability rate over that same 5-month period. While deliverability rates are also down on a global basis this year, the 76-77% average during the first two quarters is above the US average by a considerable margin.

The US deliverability rate is the lowest of the 8 countries highlighted in the report, with Australia (90%) leading the pack, says the report. The overall 5-quarter deliverability average across the 8 countries highlighted, sorted in descending order of success, are:

  • Australia: 90%
  • Canada: 89%
  • UK: 88%
  • France: 84%
  • Spain: 82%
  • Germany: 80%
  • Brazil: 79%
  • US: 73%

In 2016, email turns 45 and shows no signs of slowing down, says the report. In fact, it’s one of the most widely used and trusted channels for people to communicate today. But the dark side of email is spam. While today’s spam filters do a good job of keeping junk out of inboxes, many organizations also get caught in the crossfire of the war on spam when their emails end up in the spam folder. If subscribers don’t see emails, then they can’t open, click, and convert.

While the importance of reaching customers’ inboxes is undeniable, the reality is that many messages are missing the mark. This year, on average, one in five messages failed to reach the inbox. Global deliverability also experienced a slight but steady decline quarter over quarter, with 24% of messages missing the inbox in the last quarter studied. With deliverability declining, marketers are missing out on achieving the highest possible ROI, says the report. This year’s annual benchmark report looks at how email is delivered and how to measure inbox placement, followed by global and regional benchmarks broken out by quarter. Getting to the inbox entails more than hitting the send button, says the report. Some of the challenges each message encounters on its journey:

Primary Mobile Challenge for Premium Publishers (% of 300 US premium publishers)


% of Respondents Saying “Primary”

Ad blockers


Quality of consumer experience


Quality of content/creative


App installations


Measurement deficits


Platform and service costs


Off platform monetization


Off network traffic/audience


Lagging advertising spend


Inadequate revenue/ROI


Source: AOL Platforms, August 2016

Emails that are able to make past both gateway and spam filters are delivered to the inbox. Emails that are deemed malicious or untrustworthy are often blocked at the gateway, never reaching the inbox or the spam folder. For messages that make it past the gateway, spam filters look at the reputation of the sender, subscriber engagement, and content to decide if it should be placed in the inbox or the spam folder.

Getting into the inbox is essential for a successful email program and achieving the highest possible ROI, however this year’s metrics show there is much room for improvement. Marketers looking to boost their own deliverability need to focus on these major elements in their email program.

Key points of focus for an eMail program, according to the report:

  • Building and maintaining reputation…If you send email, you have a sender reputation, a rating that helps mailbox providers and spam filters determine whether your emails are trustworthy, safe, and wanted. Looking up your sending reputation, or Sender Score, is free at
  • Acquiring and maintaining quality subscriber data…An unclean list has severe consequences on your deliverability. Every spam trap, unknown user, and inactive account on your list can damage your reputation, your deliverability, and potentially can land you on a blacklist. Consider investing in a list validation service to ensure each address you add will maintain the quality of your list
  • Generating subscriber engagement…Mailbox providers like Microsoft, Yahoo, AOL, and Gmail, are focusing more and more on subscriber engagement in their filtering decision process. Marketers who frequently generate high positive engagement from their subscribers are more likely to reach the inbox, while marketers that generate low or negative engagement from their subscribers find their emails landing in the spam folder
  • Defining seed data:…Information captured from high volumes of monitored email accounts (seeds) controlled by senders to sample mailbox providers’ placement decisions irrespective of user-initiated or engagement-based filtering. For new programs with little or no history of subscriber interaction, seeds can provide an accurate assessment of inbox placement
  • Defining Consumer Network data:…Information captured from monitored email accounts controlled by real subscribers to sample user-initiated and engagement based filtering decisions by mailbox providers. Uncover behavior-based factors and thresholds that influence inbox placement at large mailbox providers, and can’t be identified by non-interactive seeds

Return Path conducted this study using a representative sample of more than 2.5 billion promotional email messages sent to consumers around the world between April 2015 and June 2016. Global and regional statistics are based on performance across more than 140 mailbox providers in North America, South America, Europe, and Asia-Pacific regions.

For more information from ReturnPath please visit here.


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