Privacy laws helping Australian email marketing, but more than one in 10 still going astray

ReturnPathLogoAustralia is matched only by Germany in the successful delivery of marketing emails but more than one in 10 are still failing to reach their intended target, new research claims, with the tight privacy laws credited for the high figure.

A study conducted by consumer intelligence company Return Path found 89 per cent of marketing emails distributed in Australia arrived in the inbox of recipients, with the remainder ending up in spam or simply “going missing”.

The findings were revealed as Return Path claimed emails remained the most efficient and effective form of electronic marketing, with each dollar spent on it returning more than $40.

However, there are sizeable disparities between industries in Australia with telcos propping up the table with only 45 per cent of emails arriving successfully, while publications delivered only 53 per cent.


The best performing industries were food and rink (97), distribution and social (96), Automotive and events (93) and manufacturing (92).

Theo Noel, Return Path regional director Australia & New Zealand, said Australia’s tight privacy laws were among the reasons for the high success rate.

“In the US there is an opt-out policy but in Australia consumers must opt in,” he said. Return Path chief executive Matt Blumberg added: “It is also a smaller market. For example there are only two major airlines, Qantas and Virgin Australia, whereas in the US there’s about 1o so there is less clutter here.”

The study, which sampled 492 million commercial emails sent with permission to consumers around the world between May 2013 and April 2014, found that last November for the first time globally, more than half of all commercial emails were read on mobile devices. Australia was just behind the global trend with 45 per cent.

Blumberg admitted email marketing is “old and not viewed as sexy” but said it remained vital in a marketer’s armoury and was getting “better and better each year”. But he said there remained room for improvement and accused retailers of “not paying attention to data signals”.

“They absolutely have to understand how people are engaging,” he said, adding that it was counter-productive to send “promotion after promotion” as many marketers continue to do.

But Blumberg insisted email marketing was here to stay despite its unfashionable image in a world of social media.”When something new comes along people say email will be dead, but it remains the most effective and efficient method for targeted messaging,” he said. “And mobile has actually fuelled the growth of email because the first thing people do when they switch on their mobile is to check their email.”

He said said the techniques used by marketers, together with tools and analytics, are making email marketing “more sophisticated”.

Noel said in the report that graymail – emails which do not fit the definition of spam but which the recipient did not directly subscribe to – is a growing problem.

“Reputation filtering keeps most genuine spam out of the inbox, meaning that email providers are relying more on engagement filtering to tackle the growing issue of graymail, which has become the biggest nuisance to email subscribers today,” he said.

Meanwhile, the report noted while the overall performance in Australia was strong, delivery rates fell away during holiday periods to 84 per cent in November and 83 per cent in December, as marketers increased their volume of emails and sent alerts to inactive accounts.

“For Australian marketers, reputation issues prevented business from reaching their customers at arguably the most important time of year,” it said

“Australian senders, on average, were sending to one spamtrap, but saw that increase to 5 in December. Whether marketers were sending to more old, inactive addresses or just sending more frequently to spam traps, Australian businesses saw major inbox failure as a result.”

Return Path said Australia was the only market where complaints increased in relation to the increase in volume as consumers “grew tired of the ever increasingly volumes of email in the 2013 holiday season”.

“[They] let businesses know by marking their emails as spam or junk. Going into December, complaint rates on promotional emails increased from .4% to .6%,” the firm said.

Steve Jones


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing.