Email Marketing

Email Through the Eyes of Consumers: New Findings from the 2023 Consumer Email Tracker Report

minute read

Post Image

The Data and Marketing Association (DMA) has released the 2023 edition of the Consumer Email Tracker report. As Vice Chair of the DMA’s email council, I play an active role preparing this report, so I may be biased, but it really is one of my favorite pieces of research.

Why? Because it considers email marketing effectiveness through the eyes that matter most—the subscribers who receive your carefully crafted messages.  

How they engage with their emails and what they do next, are critical to program’s success—but the answers aren’t always what you might think!  

Here are some key findings, plus some unexpected learnings that challenge established email practices. 

Subscriber value is increasing 

Consumers were asked what percentage of marketing emails received are considered useful. In 2021, just 15 percent were in agreement that their emails were useful. Now, this figure stands at 32 percent. 

A key reason why is brands’ ongoing shift away from simply using email to send promotions. While promotions are still important, consumers equally value relevance, choice, and useful information in emails that are clear, concise, and well laid out. 

Marketers who recognize this are being rewarded with greater consumer attention.  

Average email dwell time is now 11 seconds, much higher than the 1.7 seconds reported for digital ad impressions, and also above the 7.5 seconds a TV ad typically receives!     

A shift to clicks 

Click-through activity has also increased significantly, according to this year’s research. In 2021, 24 percent of consumers responded to interesting emails by clicking through. This number has almost doubled to 40 percent in 2023. 

While providing great validation of email’s effectiveness, subscriber responses can also take many other forms. Going to a sender’s website directly, visiting a physical store, and simply saving emails for later consideration are just some of the popular alternatives.  

These are all positive actions, and email effectiveness as measured by clicks can probably be doubled when they are also considered. 

MPP = More productive promotions 

Apple’s introduction of Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) in 2021 depreciated the open rate metric used by many senders to measure engagement, which caused widespread unease amongst marketing teams.  

MPP has had some unintended consequences.Validity’s 2023 Deliverability Benchmark report shows inbox placement rates at Apple-hosted accounts (like have fallen sharply as recency management became less accurate.  

However, the results outlined above suggest MPP also has upsides: 

  • Many marketers are now sourcing more zero-party data (data provided directly from subscribers), which more accurately describes their needs and interests. This higher-quality data means greater relevance in marketing communications, explaining why subscribers now find their emails more useful. 
  • They have also responded to MPP by emphasizing clicks as a more reliable measure of engagement. They have identified more opportunities to deploy clickable opportunities in their emails, and they have optimized them to increase usage. 

Both tactics have driven organic increases in subscriber engagement, and these senders are benefitting from improved program performance. 

Unexpected learnings 

The insights mentioned above are incredibly important for senders operating in a difficult financial climate. But the report’s most surprising findings are still ahead.

People forget signing up for email programs!

One-third of consumers (34 percent) say they often wonder how brands obtained their email address. This directly impacts list churn, because two major reasons for unsubscribing are “don’t remember signing up” (36 percent), and “don’t recognize sender” (31 percent).

Many of these subscribers did sign up and provide consent—but have forgotten doing so! Email marketers should address this disparity by clearly setting expectations at point of sign-up, providing subscribers choices by via email preference centers, and including reminders in email footers about how email addresses were acquired. 

People do check their junk folders!

Most senders assume that subscribers never check their spam folders. Surprisingly, three-quarters (77 percent) of consumers check their spam/junk folders at least once a week. This is both good and bad news for senders—it means consumers’ relationships with brands are strong enough to make them look for missing emails. But it also means there must be plenty of emails they really want that aren’t getting delivered to their inboxes (15 percent according to our benchmark report).

Senders need their emails to stand out in spam (by using consistent “friendly froms,” strong branding, and subject line personalization). They should also encourage subscribers to use their “Not spam” buttons to move these emails to their inboxes. 

Subject lines aren’t important!

Well, they are—but for getting emails opened one factor is even more important.

Sixty-one percent of consumers say recognition of the sending brand is their top criterion for opening emails (followed by 57 percent for subject lines). Seeing a brand logo they recognize is another key factor (39 percent). This highlights why senders should implement BIMI (Brand Indicators for Message Identification), using their DMARC record to display an approved logo next to the email in subscribers’ inboxes.

It’s now even more important because mailbox providers like Yahoo and Gmail are displaying a verified checkmark next to BIMI-approved senders, with consumers quickly recognizing this as an indicator of trustworthy senders. 

What’s next? 

If you’d like to hear more great findings and insights from the Consumer Email Tracker, tune in to Validity’s Email After Hours podcast.  

Danielle Gallant and I are joined by Komal Helyer (DMA Email Council Chair) and Ian Gibbs (DMA Director of Insight and Planning). We had a great conversation about the many unexpected ways consumers engage with email marketing, which—by the way—they still consider far-and-away their preferred marketing channel. 

 It’s a great listen—download on Apple Podcasts or Spotify today!