Email deliverability is on the decline: report

Email deliverability is a critical part of email marketing strategy, but email marketers have seen deliverability rates decline according to a new report.

Return Path’s 2016 Deliverability Benchmark Report, which is based on seed addresses at over 140 global and regional email providers, found that globally, one in five emails never makes it to its intended recipient, and that “deliverability…experienced a slight but steady decline quarter over quarter.”

In the second quarter, the average inbox placement rate was 79% in the second quarter, down from 81% in the same quarter a year ago and 82% in the third quarter of 2015.

Deliverability declines were most pronounced in the United States, where the inbox placement rate Return Path observed dropped to 69% in the second quarter, down from 80% in the third quarter of last year.

Over the past year, the average inbox placement rate for the US stands at 73%, which lags Australia (90%), Canada (89%), Britain (88%), France (84%), Germany (80%) and Brazil (79%).


The difficulties faced by email marketers in the US could be due in part to the competitive nature of the American market, but that’s little consolation for them given the high costs of lower-than-desirable deliverability.

As Return Path points out, “With deliverability declining, marketers are missing out on building valuable relationships and achieving the highest possible ROI.”

So what can email marketers do? Return Path suggests that email marketers:

  • Ensure they have a solid understanding of email deliverability. As Laura, owner of email deliverability consultancy Word to the Wise, has noted, “Brands need to start getting into the mindset that deliverability problems are predictable. There is a cycle. We need to move beyond deliverability as an unexpected emergency and start thinking of it as something that can be planned for.”
  • Focus on reputation. Maintaining a good reputation is an important part of making sure that emails don’t get caught in spam filters.
  • Maintain quality lists. According to Return Path, “Every spam trap, unknown user, and inactive account on your list can damage your reputation, your deliverability, and potentially can land you on a blacklist.” As such, keeping bad addresses off of subscriber rolls is a must.
  • Recognize the growing importance of engagement. In an effort to improve user experience, a growing number of email providers, including popular webmail providers like Gmail and Microsoft, are tracking recipient engagement and incorporating engagement signals into their spam filters, so it’s increasingly important for email marketers to craft emails that deliver positive engagement.

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