Global deliverability has taken a nosedive compared to last year. In 2015, 21 percent of commercial email landed in the spam folder or went missing, rather than reaching its intended target, customers’ inboxes. Even more surprising, the steep drop from the United States. Though the US typically leads the pack, last year it placed above the global average IPR with 87 percent. This year it fell below this mark at 76 percent.
Many industries and sectors also struggled more to reach the inbox this year. The more notable verticals include insurance companies, which saw a seven percent drop in deliverability with 15 percent of messages failing to reach consumers, and financial services brands, which experienced 19 percent of their emails landing in the spam folder or going missing.
Why the steep drop? While each mailbox provider may have a different algorithm to determine whether or not it will allow emails into inboxes, the components of such are largely the same.
One group in particular stood out this year: subscriber engagement.
Engagement metrics revealed that many mailers failed to generate positive user interactions with their messages or—in some cases—actually triggered more negative interactions.
Here are some of the challenges that may be hindering the deliverability of your email:
1. Low positive engagement
This year, many brands struggled to generate subscriber action, as 26 percent of all email campaigns generated low read rates.
The read rate is the total number of messages read, out of those delivered—either to the inbox or the spam folder—and a strong indicator of subscribers valuing your content is the regularity at which they read your emails. While typically used by marketers as a measurement campaign success or failure, read rates also indicate whether customers value your overall program, which is similar to how mailbox providers use the metric.
2. High negative engagement
The other side of positive engagement is negative engagement, which plagued many brands last year. Out of all the campaigns that struggled to reach the inbox, 21 percent had high complaint rates.
Spam complaints have a significant impact on your program even if only a few users bother to register the complaint. Here’s why; if your program continuously receives an elevated number of complaints, mailbox providers will redirect future campaigns straight to the spam folder.
Positive and negative aren’t the only engagement signals you should be monitoring. If your content is generating no action from a user, you might be mailing to an inactive address.
We discovered that 19 percent of campaigns experiencing deliverability problems had low mailbox usage to blame. It’s important to keep track of your list quality and make sure your subscriber list is always current, to ensure you aren’t sending to inactive mailboxes or spam traps.
Going forward, what can you do to prevent this adverse effect on deliverability?
Now that we know the root causes of most delivery challenges, it’s time to come up with a plan of action. To recover your placement in the inbox and protect your program from various causes of declining performance, implement these tactics to position your program for success in 2016.
1. Monitor engagement
As discussed, poor engagement had a significant effect on brands’ ability to reach the inbox. To ensure that your messages reach your subscribers, you need to closely and constantly monitor your engagement metrics for your active lists. Be proactive and keep track of both positive and negative metrics including:
When you notice changes in engagement, make changes to your program accordingly, before the decrease in engagement results in a decrease in deliverability.
2. Test your program
Your email program should evolve and change throughout time. The only way to ensure that your program is fully optimized is to consistently test all aspects of it as often as possible. While one offer or set of creative may have performed well in the past, it won’t necessarily generate the same results forever. Constantly test out different designs as they pertain to copy, creative, and so forth. Also test for frequency, types of offers, and so on in your email program to determine if which of these methods will resonate with subscribers.
3. Launch campaigns to win users back
In addition to monitoring engagement within your active list and testing your strategy, reach out to inactive users to either win them back or say goodbye.
Marketers might think that users who don’t engage are better than ones who negatively engage, but this isn’t necessarily so. Accounts that don’t engage with your content may be inactive email addresses—or worse, spam traps.
Create and execute a win-back campaign, and send it to all inactive and low-engaging subscribers. Minimally, you will be able to clear inactive users from your lists. However, the ideal hope is that users will once again recognize the value of your email program, earning positive engagement and even potential revenue.
This article originally appeared on ClickZ.