Email Marketing

2015: The Year in Review

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On February 10, 2016, we held the latest installment of our popular annual review and predictions webinar series. I was joined this year by my colleague Guy Hanson, senior director of professional services at Return Path and Matt Hayes, CEO and co-founder at KickDynamic, as well as members of Return Path's international consulting team who provided their own market-specific insights.

Video in email…at last!
We were happy to note after three years of predicting the uptake of video streaming within email campaigns, that technology and willingness have finally aligned. 2015 saw a number of brands incorporating video into their emails to great effect. Barclays provided a particularly good example of this, using data-driven personalization to deliver customized videos to each recipient. As a result, they saw a 106% increase in open rates and a 1,100% rise in click-through rates.

Deliverability Is not getting any easier 
Marketers who thought the deliverability box was ticked a long time ago should think again! Deliverability and engagement go hand-in-hand with each affecting the other. Our 2015 Deliverability Benchmark Report outlined analysis of over 3.8 billion emails and showed that despite an increase in the number of emails being sent, there was a slight dip in successful delivery to the inbox across the board. Additionally, consumers read just a little more than 1/5th (22.4%) of the emails that they received. This shows that beyond reaching your subscribers inboxes, you need to send the right message at the right time to capture your subscribers attention.

Full marks for DMARC
One reason for the fall in deliverability is that fraud tactics have continued to evolve. This, in turn, forced inbox providers to adapt and tighten up their protocols for trapping spam. Phishing emails have a negative impact not only on their direct recipients but also on the senders’ deliverability scores. Filtering legitimate email can increase by 60% during a brand attack.

Microsoft’s addition of DMARC support last year and Google’s recent announcement that it will flag emails from non-verified senders are strong examples of the steps being made towards improving the relationship between brands, mailbox providers, and subscribers.

Engagement on the rise
Better authentication also means greater levels of subscriber trust. Increased engagement with legitimate emails was a wider trend across the past twelve months. Rather than experience fatigue at the sheer volume of email received, consumers engaged with more emails from retailers than previously. This topic is explored in our Frequency Matters report published last year.

Triggered emails
A trend picking up momentum in previous years really hit its stride in 2015—triggered emails remained an increasingly popular choice for marketers. This was due in no small part to their excellent response rates and the substantially higher ROI as a result. While the overall volume of triggered emails is still relatively small, the approach delivers much higher levels of engagement and value.

Argos used the technique to great effect, sending over 930,000 triggered messages in the past year and enjoying an average open rate of 43%, a click-through rate of 37%, and a conversion rate of 32%. And the ROI—an astounding 5,600%—does more than speak for itself.

The basics still matter
While triggered emails only make up a small percentage of total emails sent, the approach absolutely validates the established marketing mantra of the right message to the right person at the right time—and to the right device! Research such as the IAB’s study of the time people spend online has proven vital in helping practitioners understand when best to target consumers, and on which devices. It’s these kinds of insights that continue to inform and improve email marketers’ best practices.

Usage of email on mobile
In 2015, we saw mobile email  opens count for more than 50% of total opens—a new high water mark. Check out the Ultimate Mobile Email Stats Overview for more statistics. With so many mobile subscribers, it is necessary to send emails when recipients are most responsive. Tools similar to Return Path’s Send Time Optimization play a vital role in achieving this.

Personalised content
Contextual marketing means personalising content to your customer's context at the exact moment they engage with your brand via email. Context-based email saw significant uptake in 2015 with brands using recipient location, device (smartphone or tablet), and local weather information. In 2015, brands also utilised live-images, combined with context, to show the latest content at every open. This includes the latest products (swapping items if a product goes out of stock), live pricing, latest odds, live currency and much more. 

Brands will continue to use context in 2016 to personalize and automate email images and content, to build email faster, and increase engagement. Further information can be found at

What next?
Now we know the trends of 2016 and we’re all set to make the most of a new year that will present its own challenges and opportunities. Check back soon to find out more about what we’re predicting for the industry in 2016.