Category Archives: Articles

Worst Time of Day for Email Delivery

As a young child, my big brother always got to choose what to watch on the TV. As a result, I watched a lot of sports growing up.

What got me was my brother typically watched the game, while reading his book. I would complain – “But you’re reading! How can you watch!” He always replied, “I’m watching too – I can do both!”

As I ended up actually watching the sporting event – if he missed a play or needed an update – I’d fill him in.

It’s only now, with my tablet in hand, that I too will divide my attentions. I regularly watch TV and go surfing on my tablet in the evenings!

Nielsen recently reported that in the U.S., 88% of tablet owners and 86% of smartphone owners said they use their mobile device while watching TV.

What’s the main activity of all these TV watchers on their mobile devices?

Checking email of course!

But that’s not necessarily good news for email marketers.

A Knotice mobile email study shows that email opens on smartphones and tablets rise in the evening hours. Starting at 7pm / 8pm the mobile device email opens increase and stay high through the night until about 6am the next morning.

Desktop usage and email desktop opens are highest during the daytime work hours and then mobile takes over on nights and weekends.

The most interesting finding of the Knotice study is that email open and click through rates are twice as high on desktops!

It seems watching TV while checking your email on a mobile device – causes a decrease in email response.

What’s more, Knotice reports that individuals only read your email once. They do not read your email on a mobile device and then view it again on a desktop. Your email has one chance to get the click through.

As an email marketer, these findings show how critical time of delivery can be for your message.

Delivering a message between 7pm at night to 4am in the morning is not going to get you the response you desire. You’re then in competition with the TV! Late night is the worst time of day for email delivery.

A 6am – 4pm delivery on the other hands gets your message into the inbox during prime desktop hours – the best time of day for your email to get opened and clicked!

Abbie Drew
DEMC Editor

Return Path Claims Most Marketers Lack “Email Intelligence”

Return Path today announced, in conjunction with The Relevancy Group, the release of a study on advancing email marketing performance through meaningful measurement. The study, which surveyed more than 300 senior marketing executives, pointed to an innate need for email intelligence, a unique combination of email data, analytics and insight, and found that email marketers lack the capabilities to compare campaign effectiveness against competitor benchmarks and to even understand their own performance after they hit send.

For email marketers, gaining a competitive advantage can be difficult, as the entire email ecosystem is regularly challenged by a lack of reliable data, intelligence and insight surrounding the delivery of email. According to the study, more than 40 percent of marketers do not have analytics in place to determine inbox placement rates for their email campaigns.

“There is a huge market need for email intelligence; marketers are missing a significant lift in revenue because they don’t have the proper analysis tools and competitive insights,” said David Daniels, CEO & co-founder of The Relevancy Group. “Knowledge truly is power, and having access to analytics tools that gauge email effectiveness enables companies to build deeper relationships with subscribers and, ultimately, drive greater sales.”

The survey also found:

Less than one-fourth of marketers (23 percent) analyze competitors’ email marketing campaign performance; although the research indicated that doing so increases overall revenue from a campaign by 25 percent or more.

Sixty-five percent of marketers surveyed stated that access to the right data is a challenge for their organizations and nearly a third stated that they do not know how to access data when it’s time to evaluate a campaign.

More than half of those surveyed (55 percent) are unable to perform any audience segmentation meaning that they blast the same message to every subscriber, and a third of marketers have no knowledge of their inbox placement rate.

The survey findings validate Return Path’s new email intelligence positioning which reflects its mission to help marketers evaluate and maximize performance and accountability of email campaigns while protecting users from spam and other abuse. The shift in approach builds on years of email experience, unique data and actionable insights. The rollout includes the launch of a new global website, a new brand identity, and advertising and marketing communications campaigns.

As part of this strategic evolution, Return Path today is launching a new suite of Email Intelligence products specifically designed for marketers to maximize the performance and accountability of email – incorporating access to data, analytics and actionable insights that drive optimal performance. The Email Intelligence Suite for Marketers includes Inbox Monitor, Inbox Insight and Email Brand Monitor – each of which uniquely addresses key challenges facing email marketers today seeking to drive maximum ROI from their email program.

“Today’s competitive email environment means that marketers must have more intelligence around how they design, execute and measure campaigns given email’s impact on brand reputation, sales and ongoing market impression,” said Matt Blumberg, CEO of Return Path. “We saw an opportunity and need to focus on email intelligence to help our clients address this growing challenge. Through an even greater emphasis on analytics, we will continue to help our clients improve inbox placement rates, protect their brands and crush their competition.”

Two of the new products, Inbox Monitor and Inbox Insight, give marketers access to data from a panel of nearly 2 million real email recipients to offer insight into inbox placement and competitive intelligence. Inbox Insight helps marketers outperform competitors by providing access to new email engagement data about their campaigns and those of competitors.

Inbox Monitor provides greater visibility into clients’ inbox placement rate (IPR) by incorporating actual subscriber panel data with advanced seed list technology to provide the most accurate view of senders’ ability to reach their customers’ inboxes, and enables marketers to address issues on an ISP-by-ISP basis.

Return Path also launched a new brand protection product Email Brand Monitor, that gives complete visibility into potential abuse of a brand’s domain. Email Brand Monitor helps marketers protect their brand equity and preserve customer trust in the email channel by providing a focused analysis of outbound email activity to combat fraudulent email and domain spoofing.


GMail’s Inbox Filters Dent Email Marketing

Google’s filters, which automatically hide promotional messages, are hurting email marketers.

When Google introduced a new filtering system for its email service Gmail last month, I suggested that it might cut people’s exposure to promotional emails (see “Marketers Must Hate Google’s New People-Focused Inbox”). Figures released today by email marketing company MailChimp today show that is already happening, depsite the feature likely being used by only a fraction of Gmail users.

Google’s new system automatically filters incoming emails into several different “tabs” of a person’s inbox. Anything that looks like a marketing email to Google’s algorithms ends up in the “Promotions” tab (where Google has also started to display a new form of ad).

Matthew Grove of MailChimp writes in his post that the rate at which Gmail users opened marketing emails sent via his company’s service was 13 percent or higher for a typical weekday before the new feature was introduced. A week after the feature debuted, open rates were under 12.5 percent.

Grove, who is writing for an audience of email marketers, concludes that Gmail’s new design is making marketing emails less effective but that the shift isn’t yet “dramatic.”

I’d add to that that there’s a good chance that shift will become more pronounced, since it is unlikely that every Gmail user has switched on the new filtering feature.

Emails filtered by the promotions tab targets are legitimate. People have done something to start receiving them, and are provided with ways to opt out. However, the challenges of dealing with the flood of such messages will likely drive Google’s new solution to be increasingly popular.

Meanwhile, Grove’s post signals that the marketing community is set to enter something of an arms race with Google, similar to that between the creators of spam email and the designers of spam filters:

“I’ve heard a lot of people asking how they can get out of the Promotions tab and into the Primary tab. There aren’t any good answers here, because Gmail is really good at what they do… we’re definitely testing the new inbox and trying to figure out how it works.”

Email Usage Report

I found these most interesting:

– Close to 70% of people will delete an email immediately if it doesnt display correctly.

– 21% of people will report mail as SPAM even though they know it isn’t!

Email Delivery Report for 2013

An Email Delivery Report for 2013: Yahoo, Gmail, Hotmail & AOL

EmailDirect is an email marketing solution provider (ESP) which serves hundreds of today’s top online marketers by providing all the functionality and expertise required to send and track effective email campaigns. The information contained herein has beencompiled from the experience of delivering millions of permission-based emails.

Sender Reputation as You’ve Known It
Sender Reputation is like a credit score for mailers. The driving metrics behind that score include: complaint rates, unknown user rates and the number of spam traps hit. Each of the major email providers calculate and track those metrics in order to make an automatic judgment on where your email should be delivered: the inbox, the junk folder or not at all.

Although, unlike a credit score, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL and Hotmail do not directly share the reputation data they collect. This requires mailers to generate and maintain good Sender Reputation with each of the major email providers.

Authentication, Domain Reputation & User Engagement Metrics Will Increasingly Affect Your Deliverability.
Authentication is the idea of proving your identity, as a mailer. While authentication standards such as DKIM and SPF work in different ways, the end goal is essentially the same: the receiving email server can verify that the domain used in the From Address is under the control of the sender. Simply put, authentication proves that you are authorized to send email from the domain and IP’s you are sending from.

DMARC is the latest in authentication which allows a sender to specify that their emails are protected by SPF and/or DKIM, and instructs the receiver which action to take if the specified authentication method isn’t present. For example, if a 3rd party sends a message to a Gmail user from, Gmail’s mail server will see that the sending domain has a DMARC record in place and that the record instructs Gmail to reject messages from that do not have SPF and DKIM records. In this example the Gmail user will not receive the message and our brand reputation is not compromised. To learn more about DMARC authentication click here:

While some form of authentication has become adopted by each of the major email providers, the idea of portable domain reputation has continued to take hold. When sending authenticated email, the reputation generated by mailers is no longer erased by simply changing IPs. With major email providers associating sender reputation to domains, new IPs no longer need the same warm-up period while new reputation is established. The reputation associated with a domain is transferred to the fresh IP addresses assisting in obtaining good reputation. While domain reputation represents the most significant relatively recent development to email deliverability, it is important to understand that domain reputation is not replacing IP-based reputation. It is merely another layer of reputation monitoring that major providers use to determine your deliverability.


Mailers must authenticate with DKIM to participate in the Yahoo Feedback Loop Program
(Operated by ReturnPath) and benefit from existing domain reputation. Yahoo! checks for SPF, DKIM and DMARC and if present will block mail accordingly. Yahoo denies using any third party spam filtering devices; SpamGuard is their proprietary spam filtering technology

. SpamGuard is known to learn “spammy” content through user complaints and lack of engagement. While Yahoo delivery is still heavily driven by IP reputation, domain reputation has increasingly become a determining factor.

•Yahoo continues to operate a mailer’s whitelist , although being on the whitelist does not guarantee delivery as whitelisted senders are still subject to the Yahoo! spamguard technology.

•As with IP-based reputation, Domain Reputation, Complaints, unknown user rates and spam trap hits will drive domain reputation.

•While Yahoo does not publicize a “safe” complaint rate to maintain, mailers with complaint rates under 0.5% (sent/complaints) have been found to be safe, as long as unknown user rates and spam trap hits are low and you earn sufficient positive user engagement.

•Solid reputation can be achieved within 4-6 weeks by sending at least 5,000 emails per day to Yahoo users.

•Similar to the other major email providers, Yahoo will block a mailer outright if messages being routed into the spam folder continue to be ignored by Yahoo users.

•Getting back into the inbox with Yahoo, after being routed to the junk folder, is possible through good reputation metrics, asking your subscribers to add you to their safe sender’s lists and by mailing desirable information that inspires your subscribers to open, read, print, save etc… your message.

•Yahoo publically states that they reference the block lists maintained at The Spamhaus Project and being listed with Spamhaus will result in a block at Yahoo!



AOL is continuing to adopt portable domain-based reputation model, though not as quickly as other ISP’s as IP reputation continues to make the biggest impact on a sender’s ability to deliver to the inbox. Mailers must authenticate with DKIM to benefit from existing domain reputation. AOL is quickly adopting user engagement metrics to determine where to deliver emails sent to individual users. In addition, user engagement metrics are expected to play a larger role in overall AOL filtering logic.

•AOL uses proprietary formulas based in part on user reliability and activity to calculate the overall viability of a complaint rate. Simply put, having more active users on a list will raise the acceptable complaint rate threshold.

•AOL currently maintains an IP-based whitelist. Mailers participating in the AOL Feed Back Loop program with good reputation metrics should qualify.

•AOL has announced that it now maintains an enhanced whitelist (EWL). This whitelist is comprised of the highest reputation IP’s seen by the AOL network. There is no application for this whitelist.

•AOL has been expected to announce a domain-based whitelist for white-hat mailers.

•AOL uses a proprietary custom-built spam filter. The spam filter is influenced by metrics such as complaints, unknown users, content, bounce processing, and spam traps.

•AOL references the block lists maintained at The Spamhaus Project.

•AOL has an acceptable complaint rate of below 0.30% over a 24hour period.

•Currently, a successful warm-up strategy for IP’s is: sending daily for 7 days with 5,000 messages or less, then increasing to 10,000 messages or less for another 7-14 days, depending on metrics. Future increases in volume will be based on the reputation established.

•After having messages routed to the junk mail folder or bounced, it is difficult to get back into the inbox. A form to request delisting from the AOL internal block list is available.

•Users whom add a mailer to their address book will receive all future messages into the inbox. Users whom mark an email as spam will see all future messages from that mailer routed to the junk folder. Link:


Gmail delivery has largely depended on domain reputation for years with no signs that is going to change. Authenticating with DKIM and SPF is highly recommended. Unlike the other major email providers, Gmail does not offer a feedback loop or whitelist program for mailers. Gmail does support the mailto option of list unsubscribe only available if the sender authenticates with SPF and DKIM. List unsubscribe will not be available to users with poor reputation or messages delivered to the spam folder.

•In relation to the other major email providers, Gmail is very aggressive in blocking bulk commercial email. Although not published, acceptable complaint rate thresholds are very low.

•Domains with no previous reputation are found to achieve good inbox delivery when authenticated with Domain Keys, DKIM and SPF.

•Poorly optimized creative content can cause junk mail delivery. Gmail employs an undisclosed internal filtering technology.

•Once your email is routed to the junk folder, it is very difficult to get back into the inbox. Requesting to be removed from the Gmail internal block list can take several months and longer.

•The most effective strategy to earning and maintaining inbox delivery at Gmail is to actively remove inactive subscribers.



Microsoft (Hotmail, Live & MSN) continues to release more reputation data than any other major provider through its Smart Network Data Services (SNDS) program. Hotmail has recently stopped using Sender ID for email authentication and switched to authenticating with SPF. Domain reputation is expected to have an increasing effect on delivery.

•Windows Live Hotmail Does not maintain/provide its own whitelist, but also uses Return Path Certified Whitelist. Application can be found here:

•While domain reputation can assist with delivery, IP reputation is still the dominant focus in Microsoft’s filtering logic.

•Microsoft employs the Symantec/Brightmail Probe Network and Smartscreen filtering technologies in conjunction with proprietary filtering technology for content-level filtering.

•Microsoft’s Smart Network Data Services (SNDS) program reports daily reputation data per IP including complaints and spam trap hits. The SNDS program also serves as Microsoft’s feedback

•Blocking by Windows Live Hotmail may be a result of being listed with Brightmail. Mitigating this block will require communication with Symantec not Windows Live Hotmail.

To Maintain Good Delivery in 2013 Marketers Must Understand Many Different Elements Affecting Email. There isn’t a magical answer when it comes to achieving consistent inbox delivery; instead it is a complex answer with lots of pieces. Each piece plays a role, but generally, no singular piece can determine whether an email goes junk or inbox.

Domain Reputation:
Domain reputation plays a large part in delivery because many large ISPs have systems in place to evaluate sending practices on a domain level, not just based on the IP reputation. If you‘re not following best practices, causing poor domain reputation, your mail can be deferred before it ever hits the inbox. To keep your domain reputation intact, list maintenance is crucial. Only send to opt-in subscribers and make sure that your bounces, complaints and removes are being cleaned out. Practice good list hygiene and remove inactive subscribers on a regular basis ensuring that you’re earning your highest potential engagement.

Unlike a domain, an IP address is not a part of your brand identity. An IP address is the source of your email. Sender practices directly affect the IP reputation. Complaints, bounces, etc. from any sender on an IP can damage the overall IP reputation.

Authentication is the idea of proving your identity, as a mailer. While authentication standards such as DKIM, and SPF work in different ways, the end goal is essentially the same: the receiving email server can verify that the domain used in the From Address is underthe control of the sender. Simply put, authentication proves that you are authorized to send email from the domain you are sending from. To learn more about Email Authentication, click here

Sender Reputation:
Sender Reputation is like a credit score for mailers. The driving metrics behind that score include: complaint rates, unknown user rates and the number of Spam Traps hit. Each of the major email providers calculate and track those metrics in order to make an automatic judgment on where your email should be delivered: the inbox, the junk folder or not at all. Although, unlike a credit score, Yahoo, Gmail, AOL and Hotmail do not directly share the reputation data they collect. This requires mailers to generate and maintain good Sender Reputation with each of the major email providers. Find out what your Sender Score is at

Feedback Loops:
Complaints, also known as FBLs (feedback loops), are derived from recipients clicking the SPAM button in their web-based email account. Most ISP’s (not all, in fact Gmail doesn’t share this information) report back to the sender when a recipient clicks this. Senders need to participate in FBL programs so these recipients can be permanently removed from the list.

Hard Bounces:
Hard bounces are emails that bounce back because the email address doesnot exist. Hard bounces should be permanently removed from a list the first time they occur. Continuing to send mail to users who don’t exist will dramatically harm Sender Reputation.

Soft Bounces:
Soft bounces are emails that bounce back because the email address is temporarily undeliverable. Common soft bounce reasons include the user’s mailbox being full and the email content being rejected due to server-side spam filtering technologies. Soft bounces should be removed from a list after several attempts. Failure to remove soft bounces from a list can lead to lower user engagement and reduced sender reputation.

Spam Traps:
Spam Traps are email addresses created to lure Spam. Often, they’re old addresses (once valid but long since abandoned) that after many years of inactivity are re-released into the world as a way to trap data harvesters, stealers, etc.

User Engagement:
Beyond sender reputation determined by the metrics previously discussed, user engagement can make or break a mailer’s inbox placement with individual users. For example, when a user marks a message as Spam, it is likely that all future messages from that sender will be delivered to the spam folder for that individual user, regardless of the message’s ability to hit the inbox otherwise. Implementation and use of user engagement metrics differs between each of the major email providers. The stronger the engaged action the more impact it will have on your program. Encourage your subscribers to add you to their address book, interest them to open, read and click links within your content. Each of these actions will go a long way in earning great reputation.

Active Users:
Another newer trend in email delivery is metrics based on “active users”, which are categorized based on their activity level within that ISP. For example, I have a Gmail account I use for all my personal mail. I’m active in it all day long; marking some mail as Spam, others as not Spam, Opening, Clicking, Unsubscribing, etc. I have a Hotmail account that I use when I purchase from a company I don’t wish to hear from again and then I have other accounts at AOL, Yahoo, etc. that I use only for monitoring my clients mail. In this scenario, I’m only an active user in Gmail. ISPs that are adopting the Active User model are now gauging metrics based on how many “active users” you delivered to, not the total users. Let’s say you sent 100,000 emails to AOL, of which 1,401 hard bounced (0.1% Unknown rate) and 380 complained (0.04% Complaint Rate).

Those aren’t bad numbers however, if out of the 100,000 AOL has only 20,000 of those recipients classified as an “Active User”, your metrics (now a 0.7% hard bounce and 0.2% complaint rate) just got a lot more suspect!

The actual content of your email (both copy and images) can affect your delivery. You can’t just send anything and expect it to hit the inbox. Optimized content will lack “spammy” phrases, be clear of Spam Triggers such as unmasked links and excessive punctuation, and will have an even text-to-image ratio (just to name a few).

Coding for email is much different than coding for the web. Many people think they can just pull the source code from a website and plop it into an email. Wrong! There are certain tags that are optimal for email. For example, p tags aren’t recognized by Outlook, so you must use a br tag to create a space. Beyond rendering problems, using the wrong code, coupled with other triggers, can activate Spam Filters across the board.

Text Version:
Spam Filters can be triggered when only HTML is sent. Always make a text version in addition to an HTML version of your creative. The plain-text version should have about the same content as the HTML version. Also, be careful with triggers in your Text version. Last week a client was including advertisements for a partner in their email newsletter. Unfortunately their partners URL was blacklisted, which left un-masked in a text version would have negatively affected their inbox delivery. Catching these things before mail is deployed will save you time and money!

Consistency is necessary for any kind of marketing, but it is even more important when it comes to email marketing because it can improve delivery. Sending on a regular basis can improve your Sender Reputation. If you send good mail regularly, that will be noticed by ISPs, and will in turn improve your reputation, increasing inbox delivery. Also, marketers who mail consistently tend to have less bounces, removes and complaints, the metrics that reputation is based from. If you only mail every 6 months, chances are some of the email accounts in your database have been cancelled or your subscribers have forgotten about you.

Subject line:
Sometimes whether or not your email will go junk or inbox can come down to the subject line. It is not that the subject line itself is the main factor in delivery, but it can be the determiner. Let’s say you have a lot of triggers words in your content, but your subject line reads more like a newsletter, you may hit inbox. However, if your subject line reads “HUGE SALE
TODAY!!” the combination of content and the subject line may be enough to land the email in the Spam Folder. Because of this, testing the subject line for inbox delivery is crucial. Stay away from any spam-like words or phrases, all caps and excessive punctuation.

These come in various forms and from numerous organizations, but they are essentially a reference list of “bad” senders that are known to send Spam. ISPs will check a sender against certain blacklists and if a sender is on one, they are flagged as Spam. Obviously , it is important to keep yourself off of blacklists because it can put a damper on your delivery.

Lists compiled of “good” senders. Being on a whitelist can allow your email to automatically bypass one or more Spam filters that an ISP uses. There isn’t a global whitelist and in fact, many email services have their own whitelist. Because whitelists aren’t universal, it doesn’t guarantee delivery across the board. If you work with an ESP, you should find out what ISP’s offer whitelisting, and whether your IP/Domain has been registered with the whitelist. Email delivery is like a puzzle with many pieces. There is not a single piece that is the most important, which means you have to take into account all of the above factors. It may seem a bit overwhelming, but if you are a consistent sender with good sending practices and quality data, you shouldn’t have a problem regularly reaching the inbox.

About EmailDirect
When changes in deliverability happen, it pays to have a partner paying close attention. provides a full service email marketing solution for medium to large scale mailers. Beyond providing all the technology needed to send and track effective email campaigns, mailDirect also dedicates knowledgeable email marketing consultants to every customer in order to achieve maximum inbox deliverability.

Discover why top online marketers choose EmailDirect as the best value among leading full service email marketing solution providers. For more information or to schedule a no-hassle consultation, visit

Marketers’ Inbox Placement Rates Continuing to Decline

The latest quarterly report from the email intelligence company shows 70 percent of all collected “this is spam” reports stem from email marketing campaigns

NEW YORK – Nov. 27, 2012 – Return Path, the global leader in email intelligence, today announced the findings of its Email Intelligence Report, saying marketers account for a startling 70 percent of “this is spam” complaints and 60 percent of all spam traps hits. This is considerably higher than any other source, including botnets which surprisingly account for only three percent of complaints and only 11 percent of spam trap hits. Compared to the same time period last year, U.S. marketers’ inbox placement rates decreased roughly five percent and spotlights the larger trend of stagnant inbox placement rates over the past 10 years. To be distributed quarterly, the Email Intelligence Report identifies common issues email marketers face surrounding inbox placement, performance and reputation management.

“The high rate of marketers sending messages to spam traps underscores just how important it is for companies to keep target lists updated and put email marketing best practices into place,” said George Bilbrey, Return Path co-founder and president. “Oftentimes marketers may feel the return on investment is strong enough that a ‘large blast’ with some bounce backs isn’t a big deal, but what may seem like a nominal problem could in fact be a much larger issue if recipients begin associating their brand with spam and ultimately make decisions based on that perception.”

Globally, the study also found that the Europe has the best deliverability rates with 84 percent of all legitimate mail reaching the inbox, though this was down by five percent from Return Path’s previous report. Furthermore, the study found:

-Latin America has the lowest inbox placement rates with roughly 69 percent, an 11 percent decline
-Globally, email related to financial services has the greatest chance of “going missing” or being blocked whereas retail and gaming-oriented emails have the best chance of inbox placement

To better understand marketers’ inbox performance, Return Path recently added actual subscriber panel data from more than 2 million email users across different email providers to its solutions to enable marketers to get real-time feedback. The study findings are based on the inbox, blocking and filtering rates for more than 315,000 campaigns using data from both actual subscriber panel and seed list technology.

Return Path also discovered that, while consumers complain about their inbox busting at the seams, the majority of the anxiety and stress associated with inbox overload are emails they requested to receive at one time.

– E-newsletters make up the greatest number of emails in consumer inboxes at 29 percent followed by replied messages at 21 percent; personal email messages are a distant third at nine percent
– The majority, 70 percent, of “this is spam” complaints from recipients are actually legitimate newsletters, offers or notifications that people are no longer interested in receiving

“Email recipients are opening the floodgates to their own inboxes when they subscribe to a variety of newsletters and offers that they are initially very excited to receive. However, over time, as their interests change or the information becomes less useful, they begin to feel overwhelmed. Rather than using the formal process of unsubscribing, we suspect many use the ‘this is spam’ complaint button,” said Bilbrey. “While this makes it more difficult for marketers because a previously interested recipient may now be marking their information as spam, it is also important that marketers learn from these actions and consider changing their email marketing strategy to keep recipient enthusiasm high.”

The complete study, including infographics, can be downloaded here:


Return Path conducted this study by monitoring data from its Email Intelligence Suite for campaigns delivered from July 1 to September 30, 2012. This study tracks the inbox, blocking, and filtering rates for more than 315,000 campaigns that used the Inbox Monitor seed list system, as well as data from a subscriber panel. For each campaign, Return Path recorded whether the email was missing, received in the inbox, or filtered to the junk/spam folder (for those ISPs that use such a folder). For this report Return Path reviewed data from 241 ISPs in North America, Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Asia Pacific territories. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.


Experts say e-mail marketing won’t die soon

E-mail marketing is far from dead, but marketers will have to adjust to social media, a range of mobile devices, prioritized inboxes and new security concerns, said Anita Absey, SVP of global sales and services at Return Path, on February 10.

Absey told the Direct Marketing Club of New York’s February luncheon that e-mail “is not dead, and is not going anywhere” as a marketing medium.

“Facebook’s inbox will not kill e-mail,” she said. “But it will be an interesting place to converse with people.”

Absey’s presentation to the DMCNY came days after comScore released statistics showing that Web-based e-mail use dropped 59% in December 2010, compared with the year before. ComScore also said in its “2010 US Digital Year in Review” that consumers adopted social networking at high rates throughout 2010.

Absey said marketers will have to adjust their strategies to use Facebook e-mail and added that video should be used “for a very compelling reason.” She added that e-mail security concerns, such as phishing and spam, will continue to be a nuisance for marketers in the near future.

Absey also said the creation of additional e-mail filtering systems, such as Google’s Priority Inbox, is a potential game-changer for marketers because they can no longer assume recently sent messages will be near the top of the inbox.

“What we’ve been doing for the past 15 years, where the last one sent is on the top, that doesn’t work anymore,” she said.

Most (and Least) Effective Keywords in Email

Emails with the word “alert” in their subject lines have a 38.1% higher than average open rate and 61.8% higher click rate, according to a recent study by British marketing firm Adestra.

The keywords “free delivery” (+50.7% higher open rate, +135.4% click rate) and “bulletin” (+15.8%, +12.7%) also performed very well in the email campaigns analyzed.

On the other hand, “report” (-23.7% average lower open rate, -54.8% click rate), “learn” (-35.5%, -60.8%), and “book” (-4.6%, -25.4%) had a negative effect. “Newsletter” showed a marginal effect on open rates (+0.7%), but had an adverse effect on click rates (-18.7%.)

As for date-related keywords, “daily” (+27.8%, +100.3%) and “weekly” (+27.1%, +50.6%) performed strongly, but “monthly” (-26.6%, -37.0%) had a negative effect.

Below, additional email subject line keyword performance broken out by B2B, B2C and commerce. For complete results and analysis check out the full study, The 2013 Adestra Subject Line Analysis Report, which was based on a review of over 2 billion global emails.

B2B Emails

The words “alert” and “breaking” in the email subject lines of B2B emails performed well.
B2B customers seem to have become desensitized to words such as “reports,” “forecasts,” and “intelligence.”

B2C Emails

“Review,” “update,” and “special” all did well in the subject lines of B2C emails, as did “video.”
The use of question marks in B2C subject lines had a negative effect.

Retail and Commerce Email

“Free delivery” (+35.9% higher than average open rate, +81.3% higher click rate) performed very well in retail and commerce email subject lines.
Consumers love a “sale” (+10.7%, +26.7%) and specific offers such as percent off, (+6.1%, +17.7%).
Generic offers such as “save” (-4.4%, -27.4%) and calls to action such as “buy” (-19.3%, -59.1%) had a negative effect.
“Cheap” (-67.2%, -71.6%) and “free” (-23.7%, -34.8%) also resulted in lower than average performance.

About the research: The study was based on an analysis of a random sample of over 90,000 email campaigns, each with a list size of at least 5,000 subscribers, for a total of over 2 billion emails.

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Email Crushes Social Networks for Selling Stuff Online

In 2013, no company can expect to be taken seriously if it’s not on Facebook or Twitter. An endless stream (no pun intended) of advice from marketing consultants warns businesses that they need to “get” social or risk becoming like companies a century ago that didn’t think they needed telephones.

Despite the hype that inevitably clings to the newfangled, however, it’s relatively antique tech that appears to be far more important for selling stuff online.

A new report from marketing data outfit Custora found that over the past four years, online retailers have quadrupled the rate of customers acquired through e-mail to nearly 7 percent.

Facebook over that same period barely registers as a way to make a sale, and the tiny percentage of people who do connect and buy over Facebook has stayed flat. Twitter, meanwhile, doesn’t register at all.

By far the most popular way to get customers was “organic search,” according to the report, followed by “cost per click” ads (in both cases, read: Google).

Custora came up with its figures by analyzing data from 72 million customers shopping on 86 different retailer sites. They tracked where customers were clicking from (e-mail, Twitter, Google, etc.) and what and how much they bought, not just on that visit but for the next two years.

Over those two years, Custora found that customers who came to retailers from search were more than 50 percent more valuable than average. In other words, they were more likely to shop more and spend more. E-mail customers were nearly 11 percent more valuable than average. Facebook customers were just about average. Twitter customers, meanwhile, were 23 percent less valuable than average during the two years following that first click.

“I wouldn’t necessarily say Twitter is inherently a bad way to do (online marketing), but we haven’t seen a lot of good Twitter strategies right now,” says Aaron Goodman, Custora’s lead data scientist. He says Twitter marketing campaigns right now tend to rely on the chancy likelihood that someone will run across a deal when they dip into their feed. Even if they do see it, within seconds it disappears.

E-mail, on the other hand, has a certain unfair advantage in that shoppers getting the e-mails have already given up their addresses to a site, suggesting they already have some prior relationship with that retailer. Still, despite the avalanche of spam we all get, it’s easy to see how the staying power and greater potential for personalization of a medium without a 140-character limit gives e-mail distinct advantages.

Custora’s findings don’t bode especially well for social media business models, especially Twitter. Of course, ads on Facebook and Twitter don’t have to lead to immediate clicks to have an impact. They still have the potential to raise ambient awareness. Yet Custora found that Google’s ads, by contrast, do lead not only to clicks but to purchases—the holy grail of “conversion.”

To be fair, Google had a roughly 10-year head start to turn search into sales. It’s hard to imagine that in a decade that social media won’t be a more important channel for selling stuff. Already its “product cards” provide a very direct way for Twitter to act as a storefront.

Businesses probably shouldn’t abandon social just yet. But if they had to pick, that old-timey mailing list may trump tweets for a long time to come.

EMAIL – How to Get More People to Open Your Emails?

A new bench marking report on email marketing, which analyzes emails from more than 800 associations, outlines some of the metrics associations can use to measure and increase email success.

What’s the best time of day to send an email? How many links should you include? How long should the subject line be?

These were all questions examined in the “2013 Association Email Marketing Benchmark Report” by Informz, which analyzed more than 1 billion emails sent by more than 800 associations in an effort to provide associations with metrics to gauge their email marketing success.

One of the stand-out, yet unsurprising, findings this year is the importance of mobile. For the first time, mobile email readership surpassed desktop readership.

Adding credence to the mobile imperative, the study also noted that mobile readers tend to interact differently with email than those who read it from their desktops.

For example, mobile users click 20 percent less than desktop readers—most likely because emails that are not designed specifically for mobile are less reader friendly.

The study also found:

The more links the better. Similar to years past, the more links an email has, the higher the clickthrough rates (more than 70 links had the highest clickthrough percentage). The study also noted the importance of tone, language, and calls to action. For example, multiple calls to action in one email can confuse readers and cause them to not click on any links.

Focus your lists. The fewer number of recipients on your email list, the better the open rates. Content going to a select group of people is usually more targeted and in depth and thus carries greater value for readers. Emails that went out to 50 or fewer recipients had the highest open rates.

Keep your subject lines short. Emails with less than 10 words in the subject line had the best open rates.

“A good subject line will engage the reader by piquing their interest,” Sheri Jacobs, CAE, president and chief strategist of Avenue M Group, wrote in an ASAE Marketing Insights article. Jacobs recommended including a headline from within the email into the subject line.

Worry less about day-of-the-week delivery. Similar to last year, day of the week had little impact on open rates, but unlike previous years, Informz included an analysis of weekend delivery in 2012. The study found that while email delivered on a Saturday had the highest open rates, it also had the lowest clickthrough rates.

Another way to get more people to read your emails is to ask them what they want. When interviewed for Associations Now last year, Ron McGrath, chief technology officer at HighRoad Solution, recommended implementing a communication preference center where members can change or customize their email preferences.

“What better way to know what people want than to let them tell you,” McGrath said.

Whether you’re allowing your audience to tell you or you’re using a trial-and-error method to calculate what your audience wants, testing is what will ultimately determine the success of this type of marketing.

“One of the things that sets email marketing apart from other messaging mediums or marketing mediums is the ability to test and isolate systematically what works and what doesn’t work with your audience,” McGrath said. “At the end of the day, nothing is going to replace, or be better, than you testing against your own audience, because every audience is different.”