Almost 20% of Commercial, Permissioned Emails Never Reached U.S. & Canadian Consumer Inboxes in the Second Half of 2009, According to New Return Path Email Deliverability Benchmark Report

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Inbox Placement Rates Higher in Europe with 15% of Permissioned Emails Failing To Reach Consumer Inboxes


BellSouth Tops the List As One Of The Toughest U.S. Consumer Inboxes To Reach For Commercial Email Senders followed closely by Gmail, MSN, Hotmail and Yahoo!

New York, NY – As commercial email senders increasingly turn to email marketing to help drive sales and attract new customers, problems remain in ensuring that requested emails successfully reach consumer inboxes. In the second half of 2009, 19.9% of commercial, permissioned emails never reached consumers inboxes in the United States and Canada, a slight improvement from January – June 2009 when 20.7% of commercial, permmissioned emails failed to reach consumers inboxes, according to the new Return Path Email Deliverability Benchmark Report. European inbox placement rates fared slightly better with 15% of requested, permissioned emails never reaching consumer inboxes.

Permissioned email reached only 80.1% of consumer inboxes in the United States and Canada during the second half of 2009 (July through December), a .8% increase from the 79.3% inbox placement rate recorded in the first half of 2009. In the United States and Canada, 3.5% of those emails were delivered to a “junk” or “bulk” email folder and 16.3% were missing or not delivered at all – with no hard bounce message or other notification of non-delivery. In Europe, 85.5% of emails reached consumers inboxes, 3.6% of emails were delivered to a “junk” or “bulk” folder, and 11% of emails were missing or not delivered at all. In the Asia Pacific region, inbox placement of permissioned emails was higher in the second half of 2009 with 86.9% of emails reaching the inbox. 10.7% of emails were missing or not delivered and 2.5% of emails were delivered to a “junk” or “bulk” folder.

“We spent a lot of time in 2009 discussing how inbox placement rates affect ROI, and we’re going to continue talking about this issue in 2010. Many senders believe that their email campaigns are achieving a 95% to 98% delivery rate. However, as our latest Email Deliverability Benchmark Report clearly illustrates, senders still do not have the correct data to accurately determine true ROI,” said George Bilbrey, President and Co-founder, Return Path. “If senders and ESPs count only their hard bounces as emails that failed to reach consumers, they’re not getting an accurate metric as to how many emails actually made it into subscriber inboxes. Ultimately, only emails that reach a subscriber’s inbox can be opened, clicked and converted into a loyal and active customer. Remember, sent minus bounce does not equal delivered. “

Business Inbox Reach Improved Slightly. Inbox Placement Rates Vary by ISP

As discussed, inbox placement remains an issue for reaching consumers inboxes. Yet, senders have even more difficulty in reaching business addresses which are typically protected by more vigilant email systems than consumer inboxes. During the second half of 2009, only 75.2% of emails reached business inboxes, but that’s a 3% improvement over the first half of 2009 when just 72.4% of emails reached business inboxes.

ISPs vary in how many permissioned emails successfully reach consumer inboxes. BellSouth and Gmail, Google’s email service, were the most stringent US-based ISPs for permissioned marketers to reach 21% of emails that senders mailed to Gmail addresses did not reach the inbox compared to 23% in the first half of 2009. BellSouth had a notable increase in non-delivery rates. BellSouth increased their non-delivered rates to the inbox from just 14% in the first half of 2009 to 22% in the July to December time period.

The top five ISPs for senders to reach consumer inboxes in the United States ranked in order of difficulty were BellSouth, Gmail, MSN, Hotmail, and Yahoo!.

The top five ISPs for senders to reach consumer inboxes in Canada were Primus.ca, Shaw, SaskTel, MTS, and Bell. Primus.ca which uses Postini as part of its email filtering system, failed to deliver 55% of emails that marketers sent to Primus.ca users which represents a 2% increase from the first half of 2009.

The top five ISPs for senders to reach consumer inboxes in the United Kingdom ranked in order of difficulty are Demon, BT Internet, AOL, Orange, and Yahoo!

The top five ISPs for senders to reach consumer inboxes in France ranked in order of difficulty are SFR, AOL, LaPoste, Yahoo!, and Orange.

Finally, the top five ISPs for senders to reach consumer inboxes in Germany ranked in order of difficulty are Web.de, AOL, Yahoo!, Freenet, and GMX.

“The reason non-delivered rates vary is because each ISP has their own criteria for inbox placement. Therefore, senders must arm themselves with the right data to make smart decisions about their email campaigns in order to maximize revenue and minimize loss,” says Bilbrey. In 2010, senders must be vigilant about knowing their actual inbox placement rates vs. the traditional delivery metric that simply subtracts hard bounces from the number of emails deployed. Then, they need to take the next step and gain access to tools that will let them monitor those rates on a regular basis so they can proactively prevent delivery and rending failures in the future. The data and tools are readily available, even if they use an ESP or MTA provider; they just have to ask for it.”

To compile the Return Path Email Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path studied delivery, blocking and filtering rates from more than 600,000 email campaigns conducted from July to December 2009 that used the Mailbox Monitor seed list system. Return Path recorded whether the emails were missing, received in the inbox or filtered to the junk/spam folders (for those ISPs that use such a folder). Return Path studied data from 131 ISPs in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Asia Pacific territories.

Download the study now.

About Return Path
Founded in 1999, Return Path helps commercial email senders get more email delivered to the inbox. Our tools and services give senders the insight and resources to diagnose and prevent email deliverability and rendering failures by improving and maintaining their email sending reputations. Our Professional Services division then helps our client improve ROI and response by creating consistent and compelling subscriber experiences across the email customer lifecycle. Return Path runs the internet’s most widely used third-party whitelist, the Return Path Certification Program. Return Path also invented the Sender Score, an email reputation measure based on data contributed by ISPs and other receivers of large volume email into the Return Path Reputation Network. We offer free access to our Sender Score to any sender, receiver or consumer of email at our reputation portal: www.senderscore.org. Information about Return Path can be found at www.returnpath.net.


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