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New Email Subscribers are More Likely to Read Commercial Email, but Also More Likely to Complain

New research from Return Path provides insight into subscriber behavior during the first year after joining an email program.

NEW YORK, November 13, 2018 — Subscriber engagement is critical to any email program, and while brands often analyze how subscribers interact with an individual campaign, it can be difficult to evaluate the subscriber relationship at a higher level. To help marketers understand how subscribers engage with an email program over time, Return Path today released their first Lifecycle Benchmark report. This new research examines new subscribers’ interactions with an email program during the first year of their relationship with a brand, and provides actionable advice to help marketers in their efforts to acquire, onboard, engage, and retain subscribers.

Following are a few of the report’s key insights:

  • Less than half of new email subscribers use an active email address. On average, just 47 percent of new subscribers use an active email address for commercial email signups. Conversely, more than half of subscribers sign up for email using an address that is inactive or rarely checked. High quality email addresses are obviously more desirable, as messages sent to these inboxes are more likely to be read and acted on. To help improve the quality of email signups, marketers need to be more active about verifying the validity of the email addresses they add to their list—an email validation service can help with this.
  • Read rate for new subscribers is well above average. The first email subscribers receive from a brand has an average read rate of 39 percent—well above the overall average read rate of 22 percent. Read rate takes a slight dip to 35 percent during the first 30 days of the subscriber relationship, and drops again to 32 percent during the first 12 months—both still above the standard for read rate. Marketers can ensure ongoing engagement by taking advantage of the many opportunities to learn about individual subscriber preferences, and then using this information to build more targeted, relevant email campaigns.
  • New subscribers are far more likely to submit spam complaints. Complaints are very common in the beginning of the subscriber relationship, with an average complaint rate of 4 percent on the initial message—compared to an overall average complaint rate of just 0.17 percent. This elevated complaint rate continues through both the first 30 days and the first 12 months (2 percent and 1 percent, respectively). Marketers can reduce the likelihood of spam complaints during this critical period by setting appropriate expectations about the frequency and content of their emails, and showcasing the value of being a subscriber.

Return Path customers can now take advantage of Lifecycle Insight reports, which provide visibility into their own subscribers’ experience with their brand at various stages in the subscriber lifecycle. These reports also allow Return Path customers to compare their performance against other senders in their industry using benchmark data.

Additional data and tips for acquiring, onboarding, engaging, and retaining new subscribers can be found in the new Lifecycle Benchmark report, available for download here.

This study analyzed 1,387 brands across all verticals using Return Path’s Consumer Network data for Microsoft, AOL, Gmail, and Yahoo subscribers for the two year period between July 1, 2016, and June 30, 2018. This analysis maps the lifecycle from the initial email received from the brand through the first 12 months of subscription.

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. 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.