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Highly Reputable Email Senders See 20 Percent More Messages Delivered to the Inbox

New research from Return Path reveals the link between sender reputation and email marketing success.

NEW YORK, June 20, 2017 — Today marks the release of the annual Sender Score Benchmark Report from email solutions provider Return Path. Using data from Sender Score and Return Path’s Reputation Network, the new report analyzes a sample of more than 4 trillion email messages to investigate and measure the impact of reputation on inbox placement.

The Sender Score Benchmark Report reveals that highly reputable email marketers are far more likely to reach their intended audience on a consistent basis. For example, senders scoring 91-100 (the best possible reputation score) saw 92 percent of their messages delivered to the inbox. This figure drops to 72 percent for senders scoring 81-90, and 45 percent for senders scoring 71-80. For senders scoring 70 or below, only a small fraction of messages were actually delivered.

“If email doesn’t reach the inbox, brands lose the opportunity to connect with customers and ultimately make a sale—so every message counts. But hitting the inbox is harder than ever,” said Return Path President George Bilbrey. “That’s why monitoring your reputation and maintaining it at the highest level possible is critical to email marketing success.”

Spam complaints provide a strong indication to mailbox providers that messages are unwanted. As such, complaints factor heavily into mailbox providers’ filtering decisions. Not surprisingly, spam complaints also show a strong correlation to sender reputation. Senders scoring 91-100 had an average complaint rate of just 0.5 percent, according to Return Path’s report. By contrast, the complaint rate for senders scoring 81-90 was 3.2 percent, and for senders scoring 71-80 it was 4.0 percent—a full eight times higher than the best senders.

“Mailbox providers are constantly looking for ways to combat spam and improve the inbox experience for their users,” continued Bilbrey. “Reputation offers insight into a sender’s legitimacy, making it a key component in the filtering process.”

Return Path’s complete Sender Score Benchmark Report can be viewed here.

Return Path’s 2017 Sender Score Benchmark Report analyzed more than 4 trillion messages sent during 2016 from IP addresses whose Sender Score was calculated, and whose subscriber engagement and inbox placement data were available for analysis. In addition to Sender Score data, the report used data from Return Path’s Reputation Network to track inbox placement rates across mailbox providers, and data from the Return Path Consumer Network to identify Sender Score and inbox placement rates of more than 17,000 commercial senders. Data used for this report is aggregated and anonymized, and is not limited to Return Path clients. Sender Score is a free reputation calculation services and is available at

About Return Path
Return Path analyzes the world’s largest collection of email data to show businesses how to stay connected to their audiences and strengthen their customer engagement. Our data solutions help analysts understand consumer behavior and market trends. We 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 doesn’t. To find out more about Return Path solutions, visit us at or request a demo.