Almost Half Of All Email Sign-Ups Use An Inactive Address: Study

As with human relationships, the early days of email engagement are fraught with peril, judging by Lifecycle Benchmark, a study by Return Path on new subscriber engagement in the first year.

For starters, only 47% of new email subscribers use an active email address when signing up. The remainder provide an address that is inactive or rarely checked.

Thus, only 48% of new sign-ups interact with a message during the first month. And complaints hit the 4% level during that time, versus the overall average complaint rate of 0.17%.

The good news is that the average first-touch read rate is 39%, compared to an overall average of 22%. The average read rate over the first 30 days falls to 35%, but it remains steady at 32% over the first twelve months. 

The complaint rate falls to 2% in the first 30 days and 1% during the first year. The study attributes this low rate to the fact that the early complainants have been removed from the list.

The early churn rate is 34%, which rises to 61% for the bottom 10%.



The study also found that 56% of new subscribers remain on the email list after 12 months, resulting in a churn of 10%. And 31% of new subscribers continue to engage after 12 months. 

However, the early churn rate is 34%, which rises to 61% among the bottom-performing 10% of consumers. People who unsubscribe do so within the first 33 days. 

The average marketer continues emailing the person more than eight months after the subscriber disengages.

Return Path advises email marketers to: 

  • Proactively validate email addresses.
  • Learn about individual subscriber preferences and use this data to create relevant campaigns.
  • Set appropriate expectations during the early period about the frequency and content of emails.  

Return Path analyzed 1,387 brands across all verticals using the firm’s Consumer Network data for Microsoft, AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo subscribers.


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