3 Things We Learned About Email in 2015
With the flurry resolutions that accompany the New Year, enhancing your email strategy in 2016 might be one of them. Planning ahead starts with looking back, and a look at some of the trends we saw in 2015 shows that, generally, things are getting tougher for marketers. From decreasing deliverability to increasing mailbox clutter, creating an effective email strategy will be even more difficult in the New Year and overcoming these challenges will be the key to success.
The Inbox is Getting Harder to Reach
Deliverability is declining. According to a Return Path study, global inbox placement rates (IPRs) dropped 5 percent in 2015, which means only 79 percent of messages from legitimate senders are delivered into subscribers’ inboxes. The U.S. was hit particularly hard with a 13 percent drop in IPR, resulting in one in four messages sent to spam or altogether missing. However, in a time of global decline, senders in the apparel, retail and food sectors have stayed above the trend. Since maintaining customer relationships is critical to retailers’ success, they may have used their expertise at staying connected with subscribers to reach the inbox 90 percent of the time. With spam filters constantly evolving and commercial email volume continuing to soar, reaching the inbox will only be tougher in 2016.
Consumers Are Growing More Suspicious of Marketing Messages …
Once messages reach the inbox, getting them to stand out can be a daunting task. A carefully crafted subject line is your best chance at grabbing consumers’ attention, but today’s subscriber is more sophisticated than ever and wary of threadbare marketing tactics like clickbait subject lines. In fact, a Return Path study showed subject lines with gimmicky keywords associated with clickbait like “shocking,” “you won’t believe” and “the secret of” were the worst performing in the sample. The best-performing keywords conveyed a sense of urgency, such as “still time” or “last chance.” Appealing to known subscriber preferences, conveying real value and maintaining credibility appear to the best ways to stand out with your email subject line. Whether you’re sharing a benefit or offering a discount, testing rigorously for the most effective messaging is more critical than ever to reach your customers.
… Because Billions of Messages Are Suspicious
If consumers are growing wary of promotional email, the amount of suspicious mail out there isn’t helping. A Return Path study showed that at least 9 percent of messages attributed to prominent global brands during a six-month period were potentially fraudulent. Out of a sample of 234 billion messages, the true origin of more than 20 billion couldn't be authenticated. Suspicious message volume peaked at nearly 13 percent during the holiday season and remained elevated in the following months.
Phishing and spoofing attacks can cause irreparable damage to brand trust and customer relationships, and the growing amount of unauthenticated messages in the mail stream suggests that cyber criminals continue to find victims relatively easily by posing as trusted brands. Too often brands are the last to know about these attacks, and in some cases never learn the reason that loyal email subscribers stopped reading — and buying.
None of these three challenges is insurmountable. In fact top-performing email marketers — often led by prominent retail brands — are actively monitoring and managing these threats to their programs. The danger for the rest comes not merely from the potential harm that weak inbox placement, low engagement and fraud can cause, but from falling further behind the leading brands that consumers are learning to trust more. Sooner or later the also-ran programs simply won’t be able to catch up.
Tom Sather is the senior director of research at Return Path, an email marketing solution that helps to improve your deliverability and return on investment.