Email deliverability is a bigger headache this year than it was in 2018, judging by The State of Email Marketing 2019, a study from Validity in partnership with research firm DemandMetric.
Of the companies polled, 37% cite deliverability as a challenge, versus 25% in last year’s survey — the single biggest increase on the trouble scale.
In line with this, 51% are now using email deliverability optimization as a tactic, compared to 36% in the prior year.
But of the companies changing their ESPs or IP, only 24% cite poor deliverability as a reason, down from 40% last year. Yet the study states that "the increase in the email deliverability challenge corresponds to an increase in making ESP, IP, or both changes in an effort to deal with the challenge."
Of course, the leading challenge overall remains competition for the inbox, although that has declined from 54% in 2019 to 45% this year. Second is staffing/resource constraints, which remains around 40%.
Another 31% are bedeviled by lack of tools to optimize or personalize and 24% are challenged by poor email performance.
Open rates are largely seen in the middle range, with 27% achieving rates of 11% to 15% (up from 23%) and 19% from 16% to 20% (up from 16%).
At the higher end, only 12% have seen open rates of 21% to 25%, a drop of 3% from 2019. And 12% are achieving over 25% — flat with last year.
For whatever reason, only 37% say their email marketing effectiveness is increasing, down from 44% in 2018. Another 43% say it’s holding steady, compared to 37% the last time around.
That may be bad news for ESPs.
Why do firms change ESPs or IPs? The top reason is technical limitations, although that has fallen from 50% to 32%. And 30% hope to get a fresh start, up from 23%. Another 26% are driven by cost, similar to last year.
Meanwhile, there has been a decline in the number of firms using email to build brand awareness — from 70% in 2018 to 64%. The leading goal, cited by 74%, is to communicate with customers, although that has fallen by two percentage points.
At the same time, 56% now use email to generate revenue, up from 52%. And there has been a decline in email prospecting — from 73% pursuing it last year to 63%.
Personalization is growing as a tactic, up to 72% from 68% last year. Email list management fell from 67% to 63% in the same period. Subject-line optimization grew modestly from 50% to 52%. But A/B testing took a quantum leap from 39% to 50%.
Overall, revenue seems slightly flat, with 54% reporting a modest revenue increase, 15% reporting a significant increase and 18% saying revenue is flat. In contrast, 13% report decreases, with 5% reporting significant ones.
But there seems to be a link between email effectiveness and revenue growth, with 42% of those reporting effective increases seeing a hike. However, the study notes, “It is an oversimplification to imply that investing to increase email marketing electiveness guarantees revenue growth.”
The firms surveyed 293 marketers, with 22% in B2C, 30%% in B2B and 40% in both.