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More Than 20% of Commercial, Permissioned Emails Are Not Delivered to Inboxes in the United States and Canada, According to New Return Path Study

MSN, Hotmail, and Gmail Are The Toughest U.S. Consumer Inboxes To Reach For Marketers

New York, NY – As the global recession grinds on, marketers increasingly turn to email marketing to engage consumers and drive sales. Yet, those efforts are being thwarted by continued email deliverability failures. In the United States and Canada more than 20% of email doesn’t reach the inboxes of intended subscribers.

Commercial, permissioned emails reached only 79.3% of inboxes in the United States and Canada during the first half of 2009 (January through June), according to the new Return Path Deliverability Benchmark Report. With the undelivered email, 3.3% is routed to a “junk” or “bulk” email folder and 17.4% is not delivered at all – with no hard bounce message or other notification of non-delivery. However, marketers don’t have to treat 79.3% delivery rates as an acceptable cost of doing business. Return Path has found that many marketers who identify and address deliverability issues can reach 99% deliverability rates.

“Many marketers aren’t even aware that one-fifth of their emails are never reaching the inbox,” said George Bilbrey, President, co-founder, Return Path. “In many cases, marketers are seeing “”delivered”” metrics that repeatedly show a 95% to 98% delivery rate. Unfortunately, many ESPs and marketers have developed the belief that whatever emails aren’t bouncing have successfully reached the inbox. That’s just not true, as these numbers show. Marketers need to examine their current deliverability stats, and remember that hard bounces aren’t the only emails that aren’t reaching your subscribers.”

The US deliverability rates, according to the new Return Path Deliverability Benchmark Report, are slightly better than Canada with an average of 82% inbox placement rate, while Canada’s inbox placement rates are lower with just 75% of commercial, permissioned emails reaching consumers’ inboxes.

Failure to Reach the Inbox Means Failure to Generate Revenue
Email marketing continues to perform as a powerful direct marketing tool. The Direct Marketing Association just projected that email marketing will generate an ROI of $43.52 in 2009, twice the return earned by search and other marketing channels.

The continued success of email marketing often disguises the lingering email deliverability issues highlighted by the Return Path Deliverability Benchmark Report. What many marketers may not realize is that their already good email performance could be even better if more of their emails were reaching consumers inboxes.

For example, if a company with a file size of 100,000 email records earns an average of $1 per email sent, they are missing out on an additional $20,000 from every email campaign with an inbox placement rate of 80%. It’s not uncommon for marketers to reach 99% deliverability if they invest the time and attention and are diligent and thorough about improving and maintaining their deliverability.

Different ISPs, Different Rules, Different Delivery Rates
Successful deliverability to consumers’ inboxes varies by ISP. Gmail, Google’s email service, is the most stringent US-based ISP for permissioned marketers to reach, according to the report. Twenty-three percent of emails that marketers sent to Gmail addresses did not reach the inbox.

The top five United States ISPs ranked in order of difficulty for marketers’ emails to reach users’ inboxes are Gmail, Hotmail, MSN, Comcast, and AOL.

Marketers face an even tougher time reaching Canadian inboxes. Primus.ca which uses Postini as part of its email filtering system, failed to deliver 53% of emails that marketers sent to Primus.ca users. The top five Canadian ISPs ranked in order of difficulty for marketers’ emails to reach consumers inboxes are Primus.ca, Shaw, Aliant, SaskTel, and Inter.net.

Marketers face an even tougher time reaching business email addresses that are often protected by additional layers of email monitoring including systems such as Postini, Symantec and MessageLabs. On average, 27.6% of commercial emails sent to business addresses don’t reach the inbox.

“Return Path has been at the forefront of championing email industry standards for marketers and ISPs. Standards help legitimate marketers successfully reach the consumers who have requested emails, and ISPs can further distinguish permissioned email from spam,” Bilbrey said. “However, as ISPs continue their daily battle to keep consumers’ inboxes protected from the onslaught of spam, legitimate commercial emails that consumer want to receive aren’t being delivered. It’s imperative that marketers dig into their deliverability stats to truly see how many of their emails are successfully reaching the inbox.”

To compile the Return Path Deliverability Benchmark Report, Return Path exhaustively studied extensive data from more than 500,000 email campaigns conducted from January to June 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 45 ISPs in the United States and Canada for this report.

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 senderscore.org. Information about Return Path can be found at returnpath.com

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