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Two In Five European Email Marketers Don’t Know If Their Messages Are Being Delivered

New Report Shows Marketers Are “Emailing In The Dark”

New research today reveals that two fifths of Europe’s email marketers don’t know if their email messages are being successfully delivered, and even those who are aware of delivery failures don’t have access to the detailed metrics they need to get their messages into the inbox and read.

The report – Emailing in the Dark: What European Email Marketers Don’t Understand about Deliverability – from Return Path, the global leader in email deliverability and reputation services, polled in-house marketing executives at organisations across Europe. Most marketers failed to appreciate that improving deliverability was in their own power, with 38 per cent saying that reaching the inbox was the sole responsibility of Email Service Providers (ESPs).

Emailing In The Dark
Two in Five Don’t Know If Emails Are Being Delivered
15 Per Cent Think “It Doesn’t Matter” If Messages Reach the Inbox

One of the most worrying results of the survey was the high percentage of European marketers who didn’t know whether their emails were being delivered. Almost two in five respondents thought that an email that is sent, or that doesn’t bounce, counts as being successfully delivered.

What’s more, a significant number of respondents were unaware of the impact of spam filters, with 15 per cent stating that it did not matter if emails reach the inbox or not.

Return Path’s VP for European Operations, Guy Shelton, urged marketers to demand true deliverability reports from their ESPs, and warned that those who trust unrealistically high metrics are living in a fool’s paradise. ‘Most email broadcasting systems say that a message is delivered if it doesn’t bounce. This is grossly misleading, and can give marketers the impression that they’re achieving a deliverability rate of 95 per cent or more,’ said Shelton. ‘Yet our research shows that one in five legitimate marketing emails are blocked. It doesn’t add up.

‘The problem is that ESPs are reporting messages as “delivered” merely if they’ve been passed to the Internet. If the message gets blocked by an Internet Service Provider (ISP), it is not recorded in this incorrect “delivered” statistic.

‘In reality, the proportion of messages getting into subscribers’ inboxes, read and acted upon is much lower than reported, leading to a wildly optimistic impression of a campaign’s effectiveness. Without accurate metrics, marketers are emailing in the dark. It’s therefore crucial for marketers to demand metrics from their ISP that show the percentage of email that goes to “inbox”, “junk/bulk” and “missing”. If you have false information on email deliverability it skews all your other metrics, such as click-through rates.’

Marketers Are Responsible For Improving Deliverability
The study also found an alarming knowledge gap, not just about the causes of deliverability failures, but also about who is responsible for getting emails into the inbox. Two out of five respondents said that it’s the sole responsibility of their ESP. In fact, while ESPs do have a small amount of influence, it is marketers themselves who control the major factors that affect deliverability.

In spite of the gloomy tenor of the report, Guy Shelton offered encouragement to European email marketers by showing them that improving reputation is only a matter of following a simple set of email best practice guidelines.

‘The good news is that marketers have the most powerful influence over their own deliverability,’ said Shelton. ‘First of all, they need to know if emails are getting delivered to subscribers’ inboxes. To do this, they must demand accurate and comprehensive deliverability metrics from their ISPs, including complaint rates, unknown user rates, spam trap hits, and server configuration – all of which affect deliverability rates. Deliverability is a shared responsibility, and email services providers can be a big help by providing timely, actionable campaign performance reports based on a seedlist system – where known “good” email addresses are included in subscriber databases, enabling them to monitor whether these addresses receive marketing emails.

‘Once they have a true picture of deliverability rates, they can concentrate on improving their reputation. A huge part of this is ensuring an excellent experience for subscribers. They’ve asked to receive marketing messages, so the onus is on marketers to give them messages which are relevant and targeted to individual customers, and which arrive at suitable intervals.

‘Finally, email marketers mustn’t forget to get the basics right, including rigorous list hygiene practices and ensuring that all legal obligations – such as obtaining permission and lawful data collection practices – are met. If Europe’s marketers take these simple steps, we’ll see much more encouraging results to future surveys.’


Methodology and Respondent Profile
This survey was taken online by 188 respondents from February 15th through March 31st, 2009. Respondents were most likely to be an online marketing manager (27%), or email marketing manager (17%) or director (14%). Only 8% were a production manager. Most respondents (51%) work in a company with fewer than 100 employees, and 13% work in companies with more than 1,000 employees. The vast majority of respondents (41%) have 1-3 dedicated email marketing employees, 25% have 3-5 dedicated email marketing employees and 22% have no full time email marketers.

Most use an email service provider (79%) or email broadcast software (13%), and only 8% have a home built solution. Respondents are slightly more likely to serve a B2B audience (44%) than B2C (35%), with 21% serving both types of audiences.

Nearly all respondents (97%) are in Europe or do email marketing in Europe, with 28% in the United Kingdom, 13% in Germany, 7% in Italy, 6% in France, 3% in both Ireland and Austria and 2% each in Belgium, Netherlands, Norway, and Sweden. The survey was available in English only.

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 responses 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 Information about Return Path can be found at