It’s easy to believe that deliverability failures must be happening to someone else. But what you don’t know about your deliverability leaves your business vulnerable and decreases the amount of revenue you could be generating from the email channel.

Return Path, a provider in email deliverability solutions, reviewed data from 131 ISPs in the United States, Canada, Europe, and the Asia Pacific territories from July through December of 2009. What the data shows is that email deliverability still plagues commercial email senders worldwide. In fact, the report reveals that non-delivery rates were as high as 20% across the globe. Asia Pacific showed the best results here, painting a rosy picture as it outperformed both Europe and North America posting an impressive 86.9% inbox placement rate with just 3% of email sent to the bulk folder and 10.7% missing. However, Asia Pacific marketers should not be lulled into a false sense of security here and should understand why email deliverability is still a crisis for commercial email senders.

According to ReturnPath, the three reasons for this are:

  • The Bounce Rate Myth: Senders are generally given reports month after month that show a “delivered” metric that tends to be about 95% to 98%. But in most cases this metric is actually the bounce rate. The system is reporting the number of messages sent through the pipe and subtracting the number that return a hard bounce. Top-tier marketers keep very clean lists and the system itself is set up to clean out those hard bounces quickly (usually before the next send). What senders really need to understand are their inbox placement rate (IPR)- the number of emails that actually arrive in the inbox.
  • Revenue Masks a Lot of Sins: Email generates a lot of revenue. So, while deliverability failures cost businesses money, this can be masked by the revenue generated by every campaign that goes out the door.
  • Change is Hard: Many senders are still resistant to implementing the best practices that make email deliverability more likely and more consistent. There are still many marketers who implement programs with high frequency, low value and lack of segmentation. Research done by the Return Path Professional Services team in the last 18 months shows high percentages of top brands missing basic best practices like welcome messages, efficient opt-out procedures and appropriate permission levels.


How to improve email deliverability:

1. Get the data you need. Know where your email goes and why. Don’t believe the bounce myth – that whatever gets sent and doesn’t bounce must be reaching the inbox. Gaining access to relevant deliverability data is crucial for marketers to be able to make accurate decisions about their program’s effectiveness.

2. Take deliverability failures seriously. Deliverability failures cost businesses a lot of money. There is significant lost revenue from email that does not get delivered to the inbox. Consumer research consistently shows that people do not check their bulk or junk folders for marketing messages. And even if they do, most of the non-delivered mail isn’t there – it’s completely missing. Remember that email that consumers don’t have access to will not generate a response.

3. Don’t use revenue or response as a proxy for deliverability. Assuming that a program that generates revenue or gets good response must be delivered to all the inboxes that matter is a mistake. Think about how much money you may be leaving on the table if a significant chunk of your list isn’t seeing the messages you send.

4. Don’t accept deliverability failures as inevitable or unfixable. There are companies who are able to maintain consistently high deliverability rates across all ISPs. Remember: 80% is the average. So while that means there are companies at 60% it also means that there are companies at 100%.

5. Take responsibility for where your email lands. While your IT team or email service provider can be important partners, you are responsible for the deliverability of your email. Most of the major drivers of poor inbox placement rates are the direct result of marketing practices, not technical ones. These include complaints, which spike when email is unexpected or undervalued by the recipient and spam traps, which are most often found on lists that are old or have been built with poorly sourced data.

Make sure you are a smart marketer and prevent email delivery problems and low inbox placement rates from negatively impacting your email marketing success.