Email from Highly Reputable Senders is 23% More Likely to Reach its Intended Audience—and the Gap is Growing

May 24, 2018


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Email data solutions provider Return Path released its 2018 Sender Score Benchmark Report. Since 2012, this annual report has provided expert analysis and insights on how reputation impacts inbox placement for commercial email senders, using comprehensive data from Sender Score and Return Path’s Reputation Network.

The 2018 Sender Score Benchmark Report reveals that, while overall reputation scores are down slightly from 2017, highly reputable email marketers are far more likely to reach their intended audience than peers with lower reputation scores. Research shows that senders scoring 91-100 (the best possible reputation score) had 91% of their messages delivered. This figure drops to 68% for senders scoring 81-90, and 42% for senders scoring 71-80.

This deliverability gap has actually increased since last year’s report. In 2017, delivered rates for the top three reputation ranges were 92%, 72%, and 45%, respectively.

Spam complaints are an important factor in helping mailbox providers determine which messages are unwanted, and thus they factor heavily into filtering decisions. Not surprisingly, research shows a strong correlation between spam complaints and sender reputation. Senders scoring 91-100 had an average complaint rate of just 0.5%, while the complaint rate for senders scoring 81-90 jumped to 2.8%—nearly six times higher than the best senders.

Interestingly, the distribution of email volume has shifted dramatically over the past six years. Return Path’s first Sender Score Benchmark Report in 2012 found that 60% of all email was sent by the least reputable senders, while the best senders accounted for just 6% of total volume. Today, 36% of email comes from top senders, while email sent by the least reputable senders has dropped to just 25%. This shift is largely attributable to improved filtering technology and an increased focus on sender reputation at the mailbox provider level—all of which has made spammy email more difficult to deliver, and far less profitable.