Retailers Battle Worldwide Declines in Email Deliverability

Posted by Tom Sather 

The deliverability landscape is changing, and it’s only getting harder to reach your subscribers’ inboxes. For years, marketers have optimized their strategies to create impactful campaigns that reach a large audience. Historically, their hard work developing sophisticated programs has resulted in an upward trend of inbox placement rates worldwide. However, for the first time in years, that trend is on the decline. Only four in five commercial messages make it to the inbox across the globe.

A recent Return Path study revealed that global inbox placement rate (IPR) dropped 4 percent year-over-year, settling at a 79 percent worldwide IPR. Messages that don’t make it to the inbox are either sent to spam or not delivered at all.

Deliverability took an even bigger hit in the US, which usually achieves high inbox placement rates. Dropping 11 percent over the past year, US senders saw nearly one in four messages sent to spam or go missing. Historically, poor sender reputation has been a major cause of spam filtering, but the decline across the globe suggests mailbox providers are looking at other, more individualized signals (e.g., subscriber engagement) to determine which messages to place in the inbox.

Maybe that’s why apparel, retail, food and beverage, and health and beauty brands increased their IPR in a time of global decline. Maintaining strong customer relationships is a critical component to their success, so their highly developed expertise at connecting with subscribers may be the reason why their messages made it into more inboxes this year. But even with an overall IPR of 90 percent, all of these retailers are still missing out on 10 percent of potential email performance.

As the volume of commercial email traffic soars and spam tactics evolve, getting past spam filters will become even more difficult. So, how can you combat the spam filter and secure your position in the inbox?

  • Build and maintain a strong sender reputation by developing email programs your subscribers care about. Monitor your reputation and engagement data to understand how mailbox providers view your campaigns. Keeping a close eye on metrics like read rates, deleted-without-reading rates, and complaint rates will help you immediately see and correct downward trends and catch small issues before they turn into big problems.
  • As signals from individual subscribers begin playing a bigger role in spam filtering, be sure you’re creating campaigns that are valuable to particular segments of your audience. Don’t overlook the structure of your program, either. You can analyze engagement data and conduct testing to understand the frequency, send times and cadence that your subscribers prefer.

This article originally appeared on Total Retail.

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About Tom Sather

Email data and deliverability expert Tom Sather has worked with top-tier brands to diagnose and solve inbox placement and sender reputation issues as a strategic consultant with Return Path. As the company’s senior director of research, Tom is a frequent speaker and writer on email marketing trends and technology. His most recent analysis of new inbox applications’ effects on consumer behavior was widely cited across leading business media outlets including the Financial Times, Ad Age, and Media Post.

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