Inbox delivery is not an issue for major brands; how do you compare?

Looking at the largest online retailers email marketing metrics, we find that reported issues with inbox delivery and general difficulties in communicating with consumers do not really apply to most major brands. In fact, a large majority is delivering more than 90% of their emails into inboxes and many are even enjoying higher than 95% inbox delivery rate on average over the last three months. Furthermore, there are no apparent problems with open rates. Most of the well known brands we examined are enjoying double-digit open rates in the post-holiday season.

We picked 23 of Internet Retailer‘s top-25 companies (from the IR 500) and looked at 50 brands that these companies own to find the best overall inbox delivery and open rates over the last 90 days. with 99% inbox delivery, and Banana Republic and iTunes at 98%, were at the absolute top of the inbox delivery range. Kmart, HP, GAP, Netflix, Old Navy, Best Buy and Bath & Body Works all follow closely behind with delivery in the 97thpercentile.

The companies trailing the list, if you can even call it that, are Dell, LL Bean, Staples and with inbox delivery rates in the 83-88% range. All other companies and brands represented by the Internet Retailer list had over 90% inbox delivery.

Although inbox delivery is mission-critical for all internet retailers, it doesn’t guarantee response or interaction, which is why we also looked at how these same companies fair with open rates.

The most successful company by far in the open rate category is iTunes, with a solid 31.5% average open rate for the last three months. iTunes is the only company we observed to average over 30% open rates. Other strong contenders in this category are QVC with 23.8%, West Elm with 21.6%, Netflix with 21%, Williams-Sonoma with 20.2%, and their sister brands Pottery Barn Kids with 18.7% and Pottery Barn with 18.1%. Trailing these are with 16.9%, with 16%, Amazon with 15.3%, Piperlime with 14.9%, PBteen with 14.6%, and Best Buy with 14.1%. It’s noteworthy that Best Buy’s U.S. program is blown away by Best Buy’s Canadian emails which had an average of 21.6% open rate in the last 90 days.

The least successful program in terms of open rates are Dell’s Small and Medium Business email program which shows only 2.9% open rates across Gmail, Yahoo and AOL (keep in mind that most of the recipients for these Dell emails are likely to be on private corporate email servers which can skew these results), Zappos with 5.71%, and Target with 6.37% open rates.

So what does all this mean?

Fundamentally, monitoring your inbox delivery and reacting immediately to any changes is probably the single most profitable strategy for your ecommerce organization to undertake. Your email campaing stats displayed in your email campaign solution is of little help here.

eDataSource and other analytics and monitoring companies have noticed a downswing in general inbox delivery of promotional email, with Gmail probably being the most discriminating ISP negatively affecting inbox delivery.

However, what this study indicates is that we are not fighting a general decline of inbox delivery, but rather a situation where welcomed brands, in particular those that follow best practices and monitor their inbox delivery, are not affected to the same extent as the rest of the industry. Furthermore, marketers that have strong email management strategies in terms of cadence and segmentation management and emphasize relevance and value in their emails seem to be unaffected by this downswing.

This is great news for responsible and reputable marketers, who now can show even more significant ROI from good email program management procedures such as segmentation by geography, purchase history and/or web behavior, as well as relevant merchandising based on best sellers or click-stream behavior, and suppression of subscribers that have been inactive for a long period of time. Ultimately this should lead to less congested inboxes and increase the success of well planned email programs.

We will be following up on these stats in the coming weeks and months and plan to publish a monthly ranking of top ecommerce companies. Until then feel free to use the comments section for any questions.


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