Return Path Study Reveals Marketers’ Inbox Placement Rates Continuing to Decline

Latest quarterly report from the email intelligence company shows 70 percent of all collected “this is spam” reports stem from email marketing campaigns

NEW YORK – Nov. 27, 2012 – Return Path, the global leader in email intelligence, today announced the findings of its Email Intelligence Report, saying marketers account for a startling 70 percent of “this is spam” complaints and 60 percent of all spam traps hits. This is considerably higher than any other source, including botnets which surprisingly account for only three percent of complaints and only 11 percent of spam trap hits. Compared to the same time period last year, U.S. marketers’ inbox placement rates decreased roughly five percent and spotlights the larger trend of stagnant inbox placement rates over the past 10 years. To be distributed quarterly, the Email Intelligence Report identifies common issues email marketers face surrounding inbox placement, performance and reputation management.

“The high rate of marketers sending messages to spam traps underscores just how important it is for companies to keep target lists updated and put email marketing best practices into place,” said George Bilbrey, Return Path co-founder and president. “Oftentimes marketers may feel the return on investment is strong enough that a ‘large blast’ with some bounce backs isn’t a big deal, but what may seem like a nominal problem could in fact be a much larger issue if recipients begin associating their brand with spam and ultimately make decisions based on that perception.”

Globally, the study also found that the Europe has the best deliverability rates with 84 percent of all legitimate mail reaching the inbox, though this was down by five percent from Return Path’s previous report. Furthermore, the study found:

  • Latin America has the lowest inbox placement rates with roughly 69 percent, an 11 percent decline
  • Globally, email related to financial services has the greatest chance of “going missing” or being blocked whereas retail and gaming-oriented emails have the best chance of inbox placement

To better understand marketers’ inbox performance, Return Path recently added actual subscriber panel data from more than 2 million email users across different email providers to its solutions to enable marketers to get real-time feedback. The study findings are based on the inbox, blocking and filtering rates for more than 315,000 campaigns using data from both actual subscriber panel and seed list technology.

Return Path also discovered that, while consumers complain about their inbox busting at the seams, the majority of the anxiety and stress associated with inbox overload are emails they requested to receive at one time.

  • E-newsletters make up the greatest number of emails in consumer inboxes at 29 percent followed by replied messages at 21 percent; personal email messages are a distant third at nine percent
  • The majority, 70 percent, of “this is spam” complaints from recipients are actually legitimate newsletters, offers or notifications that people are no longer interested in receiving

“Email recipients are opening the floodgates to their own inboxes when they subscribe to a variety of newsletters and offers that they are initially very excited to receive. However, over time, as their interests change or the information becomes less useful, they begin to feel overwhelmed. Rather than using the formal process of unsubscribing, we suspect many use the ‘this is spam’ complaint button,” said Bilbrey. “While this makes it more difficult for marketers because a previously interested recipient may now be marking their information as spam, it is also important that marketers learn from these actions and consider changing their email marketing strategy to keep recipient enthusiasm high.”

The complete study, including infographics, can be downloaded here:


Return Path conducted this study by monitoring data from its Email Intelligence Suite for campaigns delivered from July 1 to September 30, 2012. This study tracks the inbox, blocking, and filtering rates for more than 315,000 campaigns that used the Inbox Monitor seed list system, as well as data from a subscriber panel. For each campaign, Return Path recorded whether the email was missing, received in the inbox, or filtered to the junk/spam folder (for those ISPs that use such a folder). For this report Return Path reviewed data from 241 ISPs in North America, Central and Latin America, Europe, Asia, Australia and the Asia Pacific territories. Percentages may not total 100 due to rounding.

About Return Path

Return Path is the worldwide leader in email intelligence. We analyze more data about email than anyone else in the world and use that data to power products that ensure that only emails people want and expect reach the inbox. Our industry-leading email intelligence solutions utilize the world’s most comprehensive set of data to maximize the performance and accountability of email, build trust across the entire email ecosystem and protect users from spam and other abuse. We help businesses build better relationships with their customers and improve their email ROI; and we help ISPs and other mailbox providers enhance network performance and drive customer retention.  Information about Return Path can be found at


Tami Forman
Return Path
+1 646 367 3905
[email protected]

Kristen Stippich
Weber Shandwick for Return Path
+1 212 445 8030
[email protected]

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