DoubleClick: Industry List Quality Declining

A new study by DoubleClick calling online direct marketing practices into question is released, following on the heels of a list misappropriation scandal that raised concerns about security in the industry.

For one thing, list hygiene appears to be suffering. Bounce-backs — emails sent to abandoned, falsified or otherwise non-working addresses — have reached an all-time high of 12.6 percent, the New York-based marketing technology firm said. A year ago, about 7.7 percent of all emails were bounced back.

Among specific categories of mailers, B2B marketers tended to have the highest bounce-back rate, at 19 percent. Publishers targeting business audiences had the lowest bounce-back rate, at 8.6 percent.

Overall, the total average click-though rate topped 7.5 percent. Retail/catalog and B2B marketers both generated below-average click-throughs, at 6.1 percent and 5.2 percent, respectively. Last quarter, retail and catalogers saw click-through rates of greater than 9 percent.

“The data indicates that email volume continues to grow, and as a result, marketers need to do more testing to ensure that they have the most compelling offer,” said Genevieve Mallgrave, vice president and general manager of direct marketing at DoubleClick. “Additionally, marketers and publishers should continue to place emphasis on list hygiene to maintain their performance.”

The findings, which suggest that some marketers are lax in maintaining list quality, come shortly after a disclosure by email service provider SparkLIST, a division of Berkeley, Calif.-based Lyris Technologies, which said it might have fallen prey to an inside job that resulted in several clients’ lists being sold to spammers. Industry experts said the incident highlighted difficulties and shortcomings in another area of the business — maintaining internal and external security for clients’ lists.

Despite all of the issues facing the industry, the DoubleClick survey suggests there’s also a lot that marketers seem to be doing right.

Many marketing segments seem to have found compelling offers that generate improving open rates. Despite their high average bounce-back rate, B2B companies had the highest open rates, of more than 47 percent, DoubleClick said. Marketers in the travel sector also fared well in generating open rates, at 42.5 percent. Both segments topped the total average open-rate of 38 percent.

Mailings sent by sellers of consumer products and services received the highest average click-through rate, at 9.4 percent. Publishers targeting a consumer audience saw an average click-through rate of 9.1 percent, followed by travel, with 8.4 percent.

In spite of its low click-through rate, the retail and cataloger segment proved the best at driving sales, with an average of 0.3 percent making an immediate, average purchase of $101.55.

DoubleClick also noted that response rates generated by HTML email typically outperforms that of text, with a 10 percent click-through rate versus 7 percent. The travel, retail/catalog and business publisher segments showed the greatest benefit from HTML emails over text.

The study comes as part of DoubleClick’s second-quarter E-mail Marketing Trend Report, which gathers data from campaigns sent through its DARTmail system.

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