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Some?58% of consumers say email is a great way for companies to stay in touch (up from 45% a year ago) – yet only about 77% of invited email successfully makes it to the inbox, according to (pdf) an email study by Harris Interactive (with Merkle) and another?by?Lyris, Inc.

Permission-based email marketing (PEM) refers to consumers’ voluntarily signing up to receive updates, offers, and information from an organization.

Among the findings of the Harris Interactive/Merkle study:

  • Consumers spend 21% of their email time with PEM emails, third behind work emails (23%) and emails from friends?and family (43%):

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  • Email effectiveness has improved three percentage points from last year – half of respondents made an online purchase in the previous year as a result of PEM.
  • Some 88% of consumers feel mostly or completely in control of their inboxes, compared with 79% who said so in 2004.
  • Companies that do a good job with email can influence consumer decisions to do business with them – half of respondents said so, up 6% points from last year. (Poor email practices, however, caused about one-third (32%) of respondents to stop doing business with at least one company.)
  • Transaction emails (e.g., purchase receipts, shipping notices) are the most relevant (“worth reading”), followed by account summary emails – 41% and 18%, respectively, consider them “worth reading”).

Still, nearly one out of every five (18%) of permission-based email messages sent to US-based ISPs lands in the junk/bulk mail folders, according to an email deliverability study?from Lyris, Inc.

Inbox delivery rates among ISPs vary significantly:

  • At 93%, AIM.com has the highest inbox delivery rate in the US, closely followed by RoadRunner SoCal (92%):

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  • Just 57% of Hotmail’s delivered messages reach the inbox, making it second from the bottom?among all ISPs in the study.

US ISPs most likely to send invited email to the junk/bulk mail folder include…

  • XO Concentric (62% of its total delivered permission-based messages were sent to the junk mail folder)
  • SBC Global (23%).
  • MSN Network, Hotmail and Yahoo (all around 21%).

AOL, on the other hand, has just 1.2% of its delivered email landing in the junk mail folder.

Globally, European ISPs had the highest percentage of junk mail delivery at 19.4%, compared with the US (17.5%) Canada (14.2%) and Australia (10.4%).

“ISPs base much of their delivery decisions on a sender’s reputation – and that reputation is governed primarily by how often that sender’s recipients click the ‘Report as Spam’ button for its messages,” said Blaine Mathieu, SVP of marketing, Lyris, Inc. “Marketers can improve delivery by better managing their relationships with their subscribers – to reduce those spam button clicks.”

Other ways to avoid being marked as spam are to be aware of what content filters tend to trigger as “red flag” emails. The top three most frequently triggered* were emails that…

  • Contained images with little to no text, garnering the highest measured penalty score of 3.6.
  • Had a “from” name that wasn’t real – a 0.96 penalty.
  • Were 60% or more HTML – a 0.29 penalty.

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*Lyris ran 1,716 unique emails from the sample through a content score application using the Spam Assassin rule set to see how they measure against ISP spam filters.

About the studies: Merkle conducted the sixth annual “View From the Inbox” study in conjunction with Harris Interactive, interviewing 2,512 U.S. adults age 18+ who check and/or send email at least once a week.

The Lyris HQ “ISP Deliverability Report Card” for Q4 ’07 (Oct. 1 – Dec. 31) is the result of its EmailAdvisor’s monitored full delivery trajectories of 436,558 production level, permission-based email marketing messages sent from 69 businesses and nonprofit organizations to multiple accounts at 59 ISP domains in the United States, Canada, Europe and Australia.

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