Why subscriber engagement is vital for email deliverability

Return Path's fourth annual report reveals industry benchmarks for key metrics that impact deliverability.

mail delivery

Data solutions provider Return Path has published its latest email engagement benchmark report.

The Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability provides sector-specific results for email marketing metrics, such as read rate, reply rate, forward rate and complaint rate.

Collectively, these metrics provide critical insights about subscriber engagement, which plays a significant role in determining whether email reaches the inbox. According to this report, industries that consistently outperformed the average in these metrics also saw less email delivered to spam.

Spam filtering

Tom Sather, senior director of research at Return Path, said: “For several years now, major mailbox providers like Microsoft, Google, and Yahoo have been placing an increased focus on subscriber engagement as part of the spam filtering process.

“This study demonstrates that keeping subscribers actively engaged with your email programme is a major factor in email deliverability. But at the same time, we know that fewer than one-third of marketers are tracking critical engagement metrics like read rate, forward rate, and complaints.”

Among the key findings from this report:

Reversing the upward trend of the past two years, overall spam placement decreased by five percentage points (9% in 2018 compared to 14% in 2017).

Overall, subscribers took a more active role in managing their inboxes in 2018 compared to 2017. Read rate increased slightly from 22% to 24%, spam complaints more than doubled from 0.17% to 0.39%, and the “deleted without reading” rate jumped from 12% to 16%.

Industries with the lowest spam placement rate (banking & finance, distribution & manufacturing, and insurance) also outperformed nearly every benchmark for subscriber engagement. Brands in these sectors tend to have account-based relationships with their subscribers, which provides some explanation for the stronger engagement.

The amount of email relegated to the spam folder varied significantly by industry, from just 4% for senders in distribution & manufacturing to 19% for those in the education/nonprofit/government sector. These two verticals also claimed the top and bottom spots, respectively, in 2017.

Report findings are drawn from more than 6.9 billion commercial emails received in 2018. The report’s analysis is broken down by industry sector, allowing marketers to compare their own subscriber engagement metrics against industry peers and identify opportunities for improvement – ultimately leading to better deliverability and marketing ROI.

Return Path conducted this study using global consumer data consisting of more than 17,000 commercial senders, 2 million consumer panellists, and 6.9 billion commercial email messages sent to Microsoft, Gmail, Yahoo, and AOL users between January 1, 2018, and December 31, 2018.

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