Brands waste budget on 'lost' emails

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 23 September 2014

Brands are missing out on sales and wasting a big chunk of budgets as 11% of marketing emails never arrive in inboxes, according to an annual benchmark study.

Australia is better than most other countries in terms of marketing emails reaching their target audience, according to Return Path's annual study, but there is still 11% going missing. Of that, 4% goes to spam folders and 7% gets lost.

It's an improvement on last year's study which found only eight in 10 marketing emails reached their destination. The telco industry was by far the worst performing in Australia, with under half (45%) of emails reaching their intended target.

Matt Blumberg, Return Path global CEO told AdNews: “If you were sending 2 million catalogues through Australia Post and the postman set 220,000 of them on fire – that wouldn't be ok. It's not that there's more acceptance [that emails won't be delivered] but there is less transparency.

“It's the same in other [digital] channels. There's a large amount of fraud in digital display, you could get a report from your ad server that it delivered 2 million impressions but it's hard to know how much of that was real or bots,” he added.

Return Path can't put a dollar figure on how much of a brand's email marketing budgets goes to waste, but Blumberg said it is a “significant figure” that comes both from the “hard cost” of acquiring customers in the first place, as well as the “opportunity cost” of missed sales.

“Brands are paying from a few dollars to hundreds of dollars to acquire customers and to find that 11% of that is wasted [is significant]. There's also the opportunity cost of missed sales. We haven’t done a bottom up analysis but it's going to be a significant number.

“A back of napkin calculation shows if an e-commerce retailer has a list of 1 million customers, and gets on average 10 or 15 cents per email sent in revenue, and they send two emails a week, you start to get to a significant [dollar] figure pretty quickly.”

More than half of all email marketing messages globally are now read on mobile devices, with the figure for Australia at 45%, according to the report. Just 20% are read on a desktop webmail broswer.

Blumberg added that changes email providers have made to their platforms and the hundreds of email plugins that allow users to tailor the experience means marketers need to be thinking about the kind of communications they send on a “more granular" level and “pay attention to the data”.

Gmail's new promotions tab that sorts EDMs from regular email means that email inboxes have become “non-linear” and so brands should be wary of sending similar messages and promotions day after day.

“People will check the promo tab once a week, so seeing seven of the same email from a company at once isn't a good experience. A brand's reputation is a qualitative thing, and it's constantly changing based on their behaviour. Marketers who don't pay attention, do so at their peril. It's not one size fits all so marketers need to look at the data of who is opening emails and when. It's a big shift, but it's also an opportunity,' he said.

The survey examined more than 500 million marketing emails across nine countries.

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day. Need a job? Visit

Have something to say? Send us your comments using the form below or contact the writer at


Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at

Sign up to the AdNews newsletter, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter for breaking stories and campaigns throughout the day. Need a job? Visit

comments powered by Disqus