Overload puts email at risk

Electronic direct mail has time, technology and trends on its side so why is it that consumers are increasingly rejecting the channel?

Russell Parsons

A study by email marketing consultants Return Path found that deliverability rates fell to 83% in the second-half of 2011. Mail delivered to a user’s SPAM folder increased to 7%, the study found, while missing or blocked email reached 10% of all mail sent.

So, to put in another way, almost 20% of all emails being sent are never received, while one in ten went missing.

The inefficiencies are not confined to the UK either. Global deliverability rates fell to 76.5% in the period, falling below 80% for the first time in several years.

Return Path of course, as deliverability consultants, have some vested interest in presenting statistics as difficulties. Cynicism aside and accepting the robustness of the study’s methodology (1.1 million campaigns were studied worldwide over the six months to 31 December), it does demonstrate the growing problems and the challenge for acceptance email marketers face.

One problem, Return Path argues, stems from internet service providers (ISPs) employing what it terms “reputation metrics” – engagement level and trusted subscriber data, for example – that are unavailable to many marketers and mean that emails are being rejected before seen by consumers.

It is not such technological minutiae, all of which can be overcome, which could derail the plans of marketers, however. The biggest threat comes from overloading previously receptive customers.

Too many companies are sending too many emails.

A customer agreeing to receive further information does not offer brands an excuse to overload consumers with an avalanche of messages. At best, messages will be deleted without being read, at worst the sender will be labeled as a spammer, marked as one and have zero opportunity to get their message across by email.

In turn, an email labeled as SPAM will further reduce delivery rates and offer companies a reason to look at other marketing channels for communications after concluding email is inefficient and rubs consumers up the wrong way.

Email is an efficient, cost effective way of sending marketing messages. Companies should be wary of allowing the opportunities it presents become a threat.

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