20% of emails sent by Australian brands do not reach the intended inbox, with 2% being sent to spam and the other 18% going missing or being blocked.

This problem gets even worse if the intended reader is a Dodo or Optus subscriber, as only 57% of legitimate email were delivered to these inboxes in 2012.

In contrast, 92% of marketing emails reach their target inbox in New Zealand, with only 8% going missing. 

These findings comes from a new report, released by international email intelligence firm Return Path, which looks at the email marketing performance of brands in Australia and New Zealand. 

Most notably, the report highlights a huge problem for Australian brands who rely heavily on email communication.

The problem with spam

Regional director at Return Path, Theo Noel, said reaching the inbox is a major challenge for marketers in Australia as mailbox providers continue to take extreme measures to stop spam and phishing from reaching their users.

Matt Blumberg, CEO at Return Path, agrees, saying that it is a problem that has been ignored for years now.

Because email is relatively inexpensive, people haven’t focused on the problem for a long time. But with one in five emails ‘going dark’ there is a huge opportunity cost to that.

It’s a waste of the customer acquisition expense, waste of email technology expense and customer service expense. So it is a significant challenge for marketers.

Return Path suggests that the reason so many brands are being sent to spam is due to too frequent emailing and a low sender reputation.

According to the report, the number of emails sent from an IP address that get marked as spam and the percentage of emails sent from an IP address to non-existent addresses significantly affects the delivery of the intended email. 

In fact, Return Path found that sender reputation caused delivery issues 83% of the time.  

Highest engagement ratings

Not all marketing emails are treated the same by consumers, and the report looks at which sector has the highest read rate per industry.

Utilities and media emails tops this list, which Blumberg says is to be expected. 

When you look at utilities you see it has a huge read rate and almost nothing deleted without reading. When you get a bill or a news email you read it. 

People sign up to get news and they gets news delivered. The product matches expectations. The problem is with say real estate or daily deals in that someone was looking for a house or a special once but got on a list somewhere and now they’re not in the market but are still getting three things a week.

The education sector fared the worst in terms of engagement ratings, with a huge 81% of emails being delivered to spam and only 4% of emails getting read.

Mobile strategy

57% of Australians check their emails on their mobiles, with 77% preferring to do so one a desktop.

There has been a 300% growth in mobile email usage since October 2010, and Blumberg says that all marketers should be implementing a mobile email strategy this year. 

Mobile is emerging as a key medium in the evolution of email in terms of how consumers interact and engage with this channel.

We’re just at the beginning of the mobile phenomenon, and marketers will need to be keenly aware of the impact this will have on the email channel in the longer term. 

In Australia, iPhone’s account for 49% of the mobile devices used to check emails. Android accounts for 25% and Blackbersary 3%. These differing platforms can be a challenge for marketers, but Simon O’Day, Vice President Asia Pacific at Responsys, believes catering to all is the key to success

All the signs show that email open rates on mobile devices will continue to increase this year and it’s no longer enough for marketers to adopt a ‘one-size fits all’ approach to their m-commerce strategy. 

There’s an ever increasing range of smartphones and tablets on the market and mobile emails need to be developed to adjust to different screen resolutions and operating systems. By putting in place a few simple measures to make mobile messages easy to engage with, marketers can ensure their emails are not only opened, but read, absorbed and actioned by consumers too.

How to capture mobile clicks in 2013

Responsys recently produced a Mobile Email Guide that ties in perfectly with the above Return Path report, and suggests five ways marketers can attempt to engage consumers with their mobile messages. 

1. Make emails easier to click. The human finger requires more space to click accurately than a mouse does, and to accommodate for this marketers must allow adequate room for clicking. This can be done by creating larger buttons and links or even letting whole sections be clickable. 

2. Keep them simple. Mobile emails need to be clear, simple and uncluttered. Instead of being copy heavy, Responsys suggests that marketers rely on graphics to help explain content. 

3. Make it easy to scroll. Separating messages into clear sections and using short but engaging copy will make it easy for reader to scroll through content. It is also important to organise layouts to encourage rapid scanning. 

4. Understand operating systems and devices. Marketers need to ensure they are familiar with the devices of their audiences as not all emails are created equal. Something that looks clean and aesthetic on an Android device could look entirely different on an iPhone.  

5. Reduce load time with responsive design. Having an email full of images does look great, but it also increases the time for an email to open and if for some reason those images don’t load then the email has been a waste. Responsys suggests that marketers consider hiding some images within the email or even inserting a link saying ‘view images’ to give the reader the choice. 

[Image credit: jayfreshuk]