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Marketers are ‘e-mailing in the dark’

Marketers are ‘e-mailing in the dark’

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.

That’s according to new findings in a new report entitled, ‘ Emailing in the Dark: What European Email Marketers Don't Understand about Deliverability from Return Path, the email deliverability and reputation services company.

It was found most in-house marketing executives polled at organisations across Europe 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).

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,” he said.

“'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.”

Shelton added, “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.”

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, 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. First of all, they need to know if emails are getting delivered to subscribers' inboxes,” he said.

“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.”

Shelton added. “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.”

Shelton concluded, “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."

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