To Measure Email Programs

Today’s marketers need to create an engaging email program, not only to entice subscribers to read their emails, and hopefully convert, but because a lack of read emails could lead to decreased deliverability. Simply adhering to common standards is not enough to land your messages in the inbox.

According to a recent study by Return Path, using global consumer data consisting of over 17,000 commercial senders, 2 million consumer panelists, and over 5.5 billion commercial email messages sent to Microsoft, Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL users between January 1, 2017, and December 31, 2017, consumer data can uncover behavior based factors and thresholds that influence inbox placement at large mailbox providers.

Consumer data is Information captured from monitored email accounts, controlled by real subscribers to sample user initiated and engagement based filtering decisions by mailbox providers. Key indicators, gained from email analysis, to get the most from your eMail program are summarized as follows:

  • Messages read:  A positive indicator that subscribers want to receive messages from a particular sender
  • Messages forwarded:  A positive indicator that a message is desired, and likely personal in nature
  • Messages replied to:  A positive indicator that the recipient desired the message and that others may want it, too
  • Messages marked as “not spam:” Subscribers marking messages in the spam folder as “not spam” is a very strong signal to mailbox providers that email should have been delivered to the inbox
  • Messages marked as spam:  A negative signal that email is spam and does not belong in the inbox
  • Messages deleted before reading:  A negative indicator that your message wasn’t relevant or desired

The relative importance of each measurement is shown in the following list.

Spam Placement Rate

The spam placement rate is calculated as the number of emails delivered to the spam folder out of total emails sent, showing the percentage of your emails that were identified as unsolicited bulk email, or spam, by the receiving email provider’s spam filtering system.

  • Significance: Spam placement rate is valuable in understanding how mailbox providers and their spam filters classify your emails. A low spam placement rate signals that you’re a trusted sender, and your emails are desired. A sudden increase in spam placement could indicate an issue with a specific campaign, or your entire email program. High spam placement will also impact your other engagement metrics, as few subscribers interact with the messages that land in their spam folder.

Read Rate

The read rate is calculated as the number of emails that are marked as “read” out of all emails sent. Read rate is similar to open rate, but it is far more accurate because it accounts for all emails viewed, regardless of image rendering.

  • Significance:Read rate allows you to distinguish successful campaigns that grab subscribers’ interest, from the failed campaigns that are ignored. Read rate also has an effect on your deliverability, as poor engagement impacts how mailbox providers deliver your email. If your read rates are consistently low, mailbox providers will begin to view your email as unwanted and start delivering your messages to the spam folder.

Observations: Overall, the average read rate in 2017 was 21.5%.

  • Earning the highest read rate for the second consecutive year was the distribution & manufacturing sector (57.7%). Insurance companies followed in distant second place with a read rate of 39%. Business & marketing and education/nonpro t/government marketers struggled to engage subscribers in 2017, with read rates of 15.5 and 15.0%, respectively.

Year Over Year Change:

  • The overall average read rate declined by 0.7% percentage points in 2017. Most industries saw a decrease in read rate, with the service and office supplies industries having the largest decreases. The insurance, automotive, and telecommunications industries were the only sectors to see an increase in read rate.

Deleted Before Reading Rate

  • Another term for this would be the “ignore rate.” As the name indicates, the deleted before reading rate measures how often a recipient deletes email without reading it, calculated as the total number of unread emails deleted out of total emails sent.

Factor: An unread email sent to the trash may signal a disinterested subscriber.

  • A high deleted before reading rate is a sign of a failed campaign. But a consistently high deleted without reading rate can be an indication of permission issues or a lack of satisfaction with your overall email marketing program.


  • From a mailbox provider’s perspective, the read rate is an important metric indicating how desirable subscribers find your messages which can impact your inbox deliverability. A high deleted before reading rate, therefore, indicates disinterest in your messages, and can result in future emails being filtered to the spam folder.

Observations: In 2017, the average deleted before reading rate for all industries was 11.9%.

  • To go along with its high read rate, the distribution & manufacturing sector saw the lowest deleted before reading rate of any industry studied (5.9%). Social & dating companies, which had one of the lowest read rates, saw the second lowest deleted before reading rate (9.0%). The household & home improvement, office supplies, pets, and flowers & gifts industries remained the most actively ignored industries for the second consecutive year, each with deleted without reading rates between 14 and 15%.

Year Over Year Change: Subscribers ignored messages at a slightly lower rate n 2017 with a decrease of 0.6% percentage points in overall deleted before reading rate.

  • The majority of industries saw a decline in deleted without reading, with the pet industry achieving the largest decrease at 2.1% percentage points. Telecommunications, business & marketing, social & dating, and technology/so ware/internet were the only industries with a higher delete before reading rate in 2017 than the previous year.

Complaint Rate

  • The complaint rate is the rate at which subscribers report your messages as spam. It is calculated as the number of “report spam/junk” complaints out of emails sent.

Year Over Year Change: Total complaints declined this year, from 0.19% in 2016 to 0.17% in 2017.

  • However, like the 2017 complaint rate averages, the year over year changes varied significantly by industry. The health & beauty and toys/hobbies/crafts saw the greatest decrease in complaints. In addition to its high average complaint rate, the office supplies industry also saw the largest year over year increase in complaints—0.76% in 2017 vs 0.38% in 2016.

Key Takeaways

According to the report, this year’s engagement metrics reflect a mixed bag for marketers. Spam placement continues to rise, but this is somewhat offset by the fact that consumers are more likely than ever to “rescue” wanted mail from the spam folder. Subscribers are reading email at a slightly lower rate than last year, but mail that is “deleted before reading” is also slightly less common than a year ago.

Overall, concludes the report, marketers still have work to do to ensure that subscribers are engaging with their email program, as this is a critical factor in getting messages delivered to the inbox. The fact is, mailbox providers care about engagement— and marketers should, too.

For additional information please visit here.



Next story loading loading..