The 2021 Email Deliverability Guide for eCommerce Businesses

Email can be a big part of your eCommerce success. It might be already.

But it can be an even bigger part if you get more emails opened and clicked. To achieve that, you’d have to follow the latest email deliverability practices. They’re really simple, plus they can make your email marketing better.

“How can they? What can I do? And what the heck is email deliverability?”

We’ll address all these questions and much more in this in-depth guide.

(Feel free to skip ahead here) 

  1. What Is Email Deliverability?
  2. What Is the Average Email Deliverability Rate?
  3. Factors That Impact Email Deliverability
  4. How to Improve Email Deliverability?

 What Is Email Deliverability?

Email deliverability is a sender’s ability to deliver emails to recipients’ inboxes. It’s an indicator that shows how reputable an email sender is in terms of the quality of their email list, email sending frequency, and other factors.

Email marketing campaigns rely on email deliverability to achieve their goals. A good sender’s reputation equals higher deliverability, leading to better email marketing results. That’s why businesses try to choose the best email service providers, email frequencies, and IP addresses – to keep their reputation profiles positive.

Email deliverability defines how many emails can reach subscribers’ inboxes (which is called the deliverability rate, or the placement rate). The rate is expressed in percentages.

 What Is the Average Email Deliverability Rate?

Although the goal of every business is to reach a 100% deliverability rate, achieving this percentage is almost always impossible. There are multiple reasons for such outcomes, and they often don’t relate to the senders themselves but rather to email service providers, recipient engagement rate, etc.

Studies suggest that the global average email deliverability rate (also referred to as inbox placement rate) ranges between 80% and 99%. 

The 2020 Email Delivery Benchmark Study, for example, found it to be 83% in 2019. 

Here are the performance indicators for the entire year:

mail Delivery Benchmarks

[Source: The 2020 Email Delivery Benchmark Study]

  1. A little over 80% of emails get delivered to recipients’ inboxes. This means that having a deliverability rate of around 90% – which is possible with reputable email marketing apps – places you in the top performers category.
  2. Around 7% of all emails end up in spam folders, so recipients may not open them. This indicator also relies on recipients’ choices; if people mark emails as spam, then the deliverability might suffer.
  3. The missing rate is defined as the percentage of email messages that definitely didn’t reach inboxes. The most common reasons for missing emails are the slow email acceptance and delivery speed of mailbox providers.

Speaking of reasons why emails don’t get delivered, let’s now take a closer look at the most common factors that define deliverability.

 Factors That Impact Email Deliverability

After you hit send in your email marketing app, messages go through numerous checks to define their journey. If, for some reason, an email is considered untrustworthy, spammy, or malicious, it’s very likely to be blocked at the gateway.

Four main factors define if a message is placed in the inbox: 

  1. Content 
  2. IP address
  3. Recipient behavior
  4. Domain 

Let’s take a closer look at each. 

1. Email Content

This factor includes subject lines, visuals, text, and other email components. It can trigger a spam filter and prevent a message from being delivered, so it’s important to follow the best practices of creating email marketing content.

Let’s take subject lines as an example. 

A subject line is a single line of text that recipients see in their inbox after the sender name. It’s an essential deliverability factor, considering that almost 34% of email subscribers open messages solely because of the subject lines [SuperOffice].

email open stats

[Source: SuperOffice]

If a subject line is brief, informative, and straightforward, it increases the chance of the email being delivered to an inbox. That’s why choosing which words to include in subject lines is so important to win trust of both spam filters and recipients.

On the other hand, deceptive, unclear, or manipulative subject lines are a sure-fire way to land in a spam folder. Even using keywords that indicate spam like “Act now,” “Buy now,” or “Congratulations!” might trigger spam filters.

Similar rules apply to the rest of email content. 

Email senders should use clear and informative text, images, etc., and offer real value to their recipients. And don’t forget your email signature, which should be designed to convert your recipients into real leads

Beginner Tip: The copy, tone, and structure of your emails will differ depending on the purpose of the email. It won’t be the same for referral emails and for welcome emails that you send to your new customers.

2. IP Address

Every email is sent from an IP address. 

Simply explained, an IP address is a numerical identification of the sender’s internet server, which also has an effect on the reputation. Internet service providers (ISPs) use IP address reputation to decide the trustworthiness of a sender.

Many factors go into defining a sender’s trustworthiness. 

For example, ISPs can look into the history of spam complaints and bounce rates to define if a sender follows the best email marketing practices. A large number of complaints would definitely undermine an IP address’s reputation, lowering a sender’s reputation.

The list of other factors includes: 

  • The volume of sent emails
  • The frequency per week or month
  • The percentage of undeliverable messages

A high percentage of poorly made, undeliverable messages, for example, could be a cause of deliverability issues.

Most businesses use two types of IP addresses to send emails: shared and dedicated. 

A shared IP address means that a business shares it with other companies, while a dedicated one equals a unique address for one sender. Dedicated IP addresses provide better reputation management options since your reputation isn’t affected by the actions of other companies on the same server.

3. Behavior of Recipients

The way email recipients interact with emails is a strong indicator of a sender’s trustworthiness. If, for example, a high percentage of messages is flagged as spam, the sender’s reputation will suffer big-time. 

That’s why following the best practices of email marketing is so important to maximize opens and clicks. 

For example, writing engaging, personalized subject lines can increase the open rate by almost 20%, according to the abovementioned SuperOffice research.

Then, there’s email content. 

If it doesn’t live up to the recipients’ expectations, there’s a good chance they will stop opening messages from the same mailer after some time. This is one of the reasons why content personalization and value to readers have become a deciding factor in growing and maintaining sender reputation.

4. Sender Domain

Just like the IP address, the sending domain has a similar effect on a sender’s reputation. 

The best deliverability is associated with domains that are dedicated to specific types of emails. For example, non-promotional email campaign examples like order delivery confirmation should be sent from a separate domain from the one used for marketing campaigns.

But the most important thing affecting the reputation of a domain is email quality.

If the sender operating the domain has a good reputation and lacks spam-related and other complaints, there’s a good chance that email campaign deliverability will be above the average 83%.

 How to Improve Email Deliverability?

Email deliverability is a metric you can check and improve to ensure the success of your email marketing. 

Here are some tips to keep in mind to maximize the number of emails that get delivered.

1. Segment Your Email List

Email content relevance plays a deciding role in getting messages opened and read. If a recipient isn’t interested after reading a subject line, chances are they will ignore the message. 

That’s when the sender’s reputation can really suffer.

But you can reduce this negative effect with segmentation. It’s a process of dividing your email subscriber list into smaller groups based on their interests, buying history, or other shared characteristics. In other words, segmentation is a way to make emails more relevant for specific recipients.

Segmenting email subscribers is easy. 

Shopify email marketing apps, for example, have quick segmentation features that allow you to divide lists into groups within several seconds. Apps for other eCommerce platforms offer the same functionality.

2. Follow Email Marketing Laws

Businesses doing email marketing must abide by specific laws governing the use of recipients’ data and their rights. These instructions have direct implications for email design and, of course, deliverability.

The most common email laws include:

  • UK electronic mail marketing regulations. This law spells out requirements for marketing emails sent to UK-based recipients.
  • CAN-SPAM Act. This is an American law that establishes requirements for commercial email messages and describes penalties for violations.
  • CASL. This is the Canadian law protecting email recipients from spam and other unethical practices. All merchants sending email marketing campaigns to Canada must follow CASL.

Many countries have domestic email marketing laws, so checking them before starting to collect email subscribers is a must. 

The good news is that most email marketing apps come with templates designed to meet some legal requirements. 

For example, templates often have a business address and an unsubscribe link section in the footer (these are essential), so all you have to do is provide the content.

marketing email footer template

[Source: Author’s screenshot]

3. Increase Sending Volume Gradually

Email lists don’t appear from nowhere. Businesses build them organically, which takes time and requires effort. 

So, if a new sender starts their email marketing by sending out 100,000 messages at once, inbox providers may treat that as a potential spam attack.

That’s why the best idea is to start with small, segmented campaigns and increase them gradually. This strategy sends a good signal to inbox providers, who will likely see it as a sign of a proper approach to email marketing.

4. Clean Up Your Subscriber List

Some customers stop interacting with emails after some time, and senders can’t really do anything about it. It’s totally okay for an email list to change constantly, so businesses should keep an eye on who stops interacting with emails to avoid having their open and click-through rates go down.

If a subscriber hasn’t opened your emails in the last 10 months, feel free to send them a message asking if they want to continue receiving your messages. If they open that email, you should treat that as a sign of interest. 

If they don’t, you should delete that contact from your subscriber list.

Here’s an example of a creative email from Threadless, asking if the recipient is still interested in getting their campaigns. 

reengagement campaign email example

[Source: Author’s screenshot]

Using such emails could help you to keep your subscriber list useful. So, track engagement in the email marketing tool of your choice and remove inactive contacts to avoid wasting your time.

5. Monitor Deliverability Metrics

Most email marketing apps come with built-in email deliverability analytics. You can check how many emails get delivered, how many go to spam folders, and how many go missing. This data can help you notice potential issues and manage your reputation.

But what percent of delivered emails should you hope to see in your analytical dashboard? Well, it’s reasonable to expect the rate to be around 90% if you follow the best email marketing practices. That means you’re doing your job well and performing well above the average rate.

As for the 100% rate, not even the perfect sender reputation can achieve this kind of delivery. Just as we mentioned above, there are reasons affecting the deliverability rate that are beyond a sender’s control (like invalid email addresses). 

Anything between 90% and 99% is an amazing result.

Wrap Up: Email Deliverability for eCommerce Businesses 

Email deliverability is important for eCommerce businesses. There’s just no way around it: every online store must take care of its sender reputation to maximize the number of emails that get delivered to potential customers’ inboxes.

Hopefully, this guide helped you get off on the right foot with email deliverability. Feel free to apply the tips to achieve an excellent email placement rate and monitor your reputation regularly to notice any potential issues.

Karolis Civinskas

Karolis is a partnerships manager at Firepush. He’s responsible for building relationships with online communities and creating content that helps Shopify store owners advance their businesses. In addition to managing content relationships, Karolis enjoys photography, books and music.

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