Top 3 Challenges for Email Marketers in 2018 and How We Helped Resolve Them

In my last blog post, I talked about how Return Path and deliverability are often misunderstood.

Deliverability, which encompasses so many separate yet intertwined factors, is a huge topic and one that is often overlooked or undervalued by marketing departments. That is, until one day something goes awry. Email revenue plummets like a meteor and no one knows why.

Marketing teams are left feeling frustrated because they’re unable to market effectively to their customer base and, unfortunately, these sudden, unforeseen or unexplained issues often trigger marketers to change their Email Service Provider (ESP) that may have provided excellent service over a number of years. There is no one party at fault, but it all comes back to a poor understanding of the term ‘deliverability’ as a whole and how it might, one day, be a big problem for you or your business.

To that end, I’d like to highlight three of the biggest problems email marketers have faced in 2018 and how Return Path has turned these problems on their head.

Changing Email Service Providers
Companies regularly change email platforms due to a sudden drop in performance or lack of trust, however, the main reason is simply down to choice. There are more marketing clouds & ESP’s than there has ever been, and businesses across all sectors are changing suppliers much more frequently.

One aspect this isn’t often talked about, however, is the process of changing ESP, of migrating your email traffic to a new sending platform and ’warming up’ IP addresses. This process is difficult and a crucial area many companies are getting wrong. Recently a global travel company invested heavily in a big, expensive marketing cloud and the IP address warm-up was a disaster, resulting in multi-million pound revenue losses. So why is this happening?

Overwhelmingly a lack of visibility and understanding of the process are the two reasons these projects go wrong. In my first blog, I included a diagram of the ‘Path to the Inbox’ which details many of the key metrics you need to monitor throughout an ESP Migration. IP address reputation, in particular, is hugely important and difficult to build when you start deploying emails from new IP addresses. This makes the need for a tailored IP address warm-up process absolutely critical—especially for high volume or multi-brand email senders. If you are changing your ESP in the next 6-12 months then please do so carefully—it is better to do it right than to rush it. You may also find our case studies with Boozt and Westpac of interest.

Central View
A surprising amount of businesses have a mixture of ESP’s, agencies and internal systems all deploying different types of traffic such as marketing, service, or regulatory emails. Every email type (this may also be split by brand or business unit in larger organizations) has a separate team or ‘owner’ managing their particular email program. All of this email traffic is important (regardless of whether it is ‘owned’ by marketing or IT) and so is having a ‘central view’ to understand where your gaps are and what to focus on in the short, medium, and long-term.

This visibility across multiple ESP’s and message types is particularly valuable for senior managers and those responsible for the digital customer journey(s) to help improve the overall customer experience. Much like with the ESP migration example above, which is particularly relevant this year, having visibility of these ‘unseen’ or ‘unknown’ metrics is especially valuable during periods of change for your email program such as consolidating multiple ESP’s (centralizing your email program), increasing sending volumes, or higher levels of automation.

GDPR and Subscriber Experience
Whilst GDPR has been a force for good in the world of email marketing, re-enforcing many of the widely held ‘best-practices’ that good senders already had in place, it has increased the need for marketers to do more with less.

Lots of companies had their databases ravaged by the changes required under GDPR—forcing them to clean up their act and delete millions of un-permissioned email addresses that were previously a fantastic source of revenue.

This has led to an increased focus on subscriber experience. If we can’t send as many emails as before, how can we improve the customer experience to drive higher engagement (more opens, clicks, and conversions) to drive higher returns? This is an area Return Path has helped companies with for a number of years, however, we have made a couple of recent breakthroughs that you may find interesting.

Firstly, I would implore you to download our Lifecycle Benchmark Report which highlights some really interesting finds. Following this report, we have just released a new project focusing on lifecycle analysis that is already proving very popular.

Secondly, we recently launched a new AI-powered solution called Dynamic Optimization available to Salesforce customers to drive increased engagement. This solution leverages Return Path’s machine learning capabilities alongside ESP data to improve your inbox placement by constantly ‘re-ordering’ your subscribers based on engagement and reducing your compliant/unsubscribe rates by limiting the frequency of emails you send to your less engaged subscribers.

2018 has been an incredibly challenging year for email marketers due to new legislation (GDPR), political uncertainty, and a rapidly evolving consumer landscape. What do you think will be the biggest hurdles to overcome in 2019 and more importantly, are you ready?

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