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Email Marketers’ Welcome Messages Drive and Predict Subscriber Engagement: Return Path Study

Email Optimization Technology Refines Marketing Performance Analysis, Uncovers New Consumer Behavior Patterns

NEW YORK – February 24, 2015 – Data solutions provider Return Path today announced findings from its latest study of email marketers’ welcome campaigns, showing that these messages or series of messages strongly influence consumers’ engagement with future campaigns. The study also found stark contrasts between the behavior of consumers who ignored welcome messages and those that read them – especially for multi-part welcome series. Reading was highly predictive of consumers’ willingness to interact with a brand’s email marketing, providing a clear signal that senders can use to segment audiences and customize campaigns to increase engagement and revenue from their most receptive subscribers.

More Engagement, for Good and Bad

Compared to all messages received during a twelve-month period by a representative sample of approximately 2 million email users, those identified by their subject lines as welcome messages were far more likely to engage subscribers. Welcome messages were read 42 percent more often than others (34 percent read rate vs. all messages’ 24 percent rate rate.) But not all engagement is positive: subscribers were also two-and-a-half times more likely to complain about the welcome messages they received. (Spam complaints were lodged against 0.26 percent of welcome emails, far more frequently than the broad average of 0.10 percent.)

Subscribers who didn’t complain revealed much about their interest in senders’ future messages. Those that read at least one welcome message went on to read more than 40% of their messages from the sending brand during the following 180 days; those that didn’t read a welcome message went on to read only 10% of the brand’s email. The contrast is even greater for brands that send a series of welcome emails. People who read three messages in a welcome series usually became loyal subscribers, reading 69% of the brands’ email; people who read none continued to ignore the brand’s messages, reading only 5%.

“Welcoming people to an email program, confirming their interest, and setting expectations for future messaging is clearly a best practice for email marketers. These data should silence any debate about that, but they also point to a new way in which marketers can use welcome messages to optimize marketing performance,” said George Bilbrey, president of Return Path. “People that respond are signaling strong interest. They’re statistically more likely to be receptive to offers, especially soon after they read the welcome message. On the other hand people that ignore these messages or delete them without reading are likely to remain unengaged, essentially giving senders an opportunity to separate them from the rest of their audience and focus on activating them and finding other ways to earn their interest. By segmenting these groups, marketers can increase near-term revenue from high-value customers while exploring long-term tactics to increase revenue from others.”

The Return Path study also examines the influence of welcome messages’ contents, such as the inclusion of offers or incentives, on customers’ spending patterns across all included brands.

Introducing Return Path Labs

The technology that powers subject line-based analysis used for this report is available through a new program that Return Path unveiled today for its email marketing clients. Called Return Path Labs, the program provides access to a suite of tools created to harness aggregated, anonymized data from millions of real email account holders. Return Path Labs tools can analyze subject line contents from all senders in subscribers’ inboxes to detect engagement patterns, including read rates and complaints, to help marketers quickly identify high-performing creative. Other applications help to segment audiences by engagement levels and find ideal sending cadences for specific segments. Collectively the tools within Return Path Labs enable email optimization to help marketers deliver stronger performance and higher revenues from the email channel. Currently in beta, these tools are freely available to all Return Path clients through their existing user interface.

About Return Path

We analyze the world’s largest collection of email data to show marketers how to stay connected to their audiences, strengthen their customer engagement, and protect their brands from fraud. Our solutions help mailbox providers around the world deliver great user experiences and build trust in email by ensuring that wanted messages reach the inbox while spam and abuse don’t. Consumers use Return Path technology to manage their inboxes and make email work better for them. Find out more about Return Path at