Christmas Rush: Email Volume, Read Rates Rose During Holiday 2017

Email marketers flooded inboxes with email during the 2017 holiday season.

Volume was 78% above average on Thanksgiving Day, reaching a peak of 122% above the norm six days later on November 29, according to Have Yourself A Merry Email Christmas, a report by Return Path.  

With that increase came an increase in spam complaints. They hit a rate of 0.9% toward the end of December, compared to an average of 0.17% in 2017.

On the positive side, inbox placement for the holiday period ranged between 90.4% and 92.0%, compared with the yearly average of 86.5%. 

The second-highest volume occurred on November 26, three days after Thanksgiving and one day before Cyber Monday — 106% over average.  

Despite the increased volume of email in the inbox, subscribers were active during the holiday season.

The read rate hit an average of 24%, usually varying between 21% and 25%, compared to 21.5% for the year. It dipped to 23% on Black Friday and to 21% during that weekend, but jumped back to 23% on Cyber Monday. However, it declined to 22% on Christmas Day, only to jump back up three days later.



Return Path found that 52% accessed email via mobile, 15% by desktop and 34% by webmail.

The highest inbox placement rate on Black Friday and Cyber Monday — 95% — was achieved by the kids & babies and general merchandise sectors.

General merchandise also saw the highest read rates on both days — 26% on Black Friday and 28% on Cyber Monday. Computers & electronics achieved a read rate of 26% on both days,

The sporting goods industry had the lowest inbox placement rate on Black Friday — 87% -- but that improved to 89% on Cyber Monday.

Nonprofit mailers achieved an inbox placement rate of 80%, vs. 76% for the rest of the year. But the read rate was 15%, compared to 16% for the overall year.

For the 2018 season, Return Path advises email marketers to:

  • Get a head start on the holidays 
  • Check your list
  • Send one final greeting to estranged subscribers
  • Monitor your performance
  • Pay attention to what your subscribers’ activity is telling you
  • Test to find out what works
  • Make your messages stand out
  • Check on the competition 
  • Stay off the ‘Naughty list’ 
  • Earn your spot on the “nice list”
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