Q3, 2011 Email, Mobile & Social Benchmark

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As clocks roll back and the days grow shorter, we’re going to pause and review last quarter’s (Q3) deliverability across email, mobile and social messaging to get our bearings as we head into this holiday season. It’s more important than ever to mine data, extrapolate trends and make strategic decisions based on good tactical analysis as many marketers prepare for their most crucial marketing pushes of the year.

Deliverability Holds Strong in Q3

Average deliverability across industries and mailers was measured at 83%. On average, 1 in 5 emails wind up in either the spam folder or is blocked outright. This has been a long held statistic to describe average deliverability across industries—this continues to be the case Q3 of 2011.

However, the average is not reflective of all industries and verticals out there. Across different retail sectors we’ve seen deliverability as high as 95% on average and as low as 75%. Travel and hospitality remain strong with an average 92% deliverability, while Publishing has languished at 73%. It’s important to recognize how the industry as a whole is performing in order to set realistic goals for the coming quarters.

Weekly Deliverability

As has been the case for a long time, Tuesdays and Thursdays are still the strongest days for marketers to deliver their emails. Email marketing appears to follow the workweek in lock step. On average, since Q1 2011, we’ve seen deliverability improve on an average of 2-5% for Monday-Thursday. In Q1 deliverability to the inbox on Mondays averaged 78.6% while in Q3 it’s risen to just over 83%. This is good news for marketers and probably gives many of them justification to not make any changes moving into the holiday season.Average deliverability by day of week slips from Tuesday-Thursday

It’s hard to justify experimentation during crucial periods of the year. However, opportunity does exist outside of the traditionally coveted days of Tuesdays and Thursdays for intrepid marketers. Weekends show much higher deliverability and the added bonus of less competition. If we think about this logically then we can assume that patterns of engagement that relied on consumers being present either at work or at home in front of their PCs no longer paint an accurate picture. Because of this, weekends are fertile ground for ongoing campaigns.

If you don’t take my word on it, just see how many of your competitors are experimenting with weekend driven campaigns. Test small portions of your house file and see if they respond to offers on weekends only vs. those that receive them during the week. This will help you determine of weekend campaigning is right for your brand and consumer demographics.

Human Behavior Drives Mobile & Social

Reliably, human beings are creatures of habit. Their habits in regard to mobile engagement have remained relatively similar over the last three quarters. Mornings show less mobile engagement but it grows rapidly as we approach the noon hour, after which it remains high but tapering off as we move into the evening.

Deliverability by hour examined through the lens of mobile usage by hour.

Consumers are no longer tied to a desk; smart phones have enabled them to stay connected everywhere. To take advantage of your consumer’s mobility and their new patterns of cross-channel engagement, it’s important to track and understand who is using what kind of device and where.

Use this keen information to selectively deliver optimized messages during strong hours of mobile engagement, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM. By doing so you give your emails the best chance to grab the consumer’s attention and be at the top of their inbox.

Design Across Devices & Platforms

Preview Pane vs. Full Message ViewMarketing collateral design remains an important factor in today’s digital messaging. Based on our findings the full message view is beginning to hedge out the preview pane among consumers reading email across platforms, channels and devices. This may in part be due to smart phones and tablets which don’t employ a preview pane due to size constraints. Robust design in today’s world is one that can cross channels, devices and platforms, marketers have employed simple elastic formats to achieve the most uniform designs. When planning cross channel designs keep in mind a few basic rules:

  • Use a single column design that renders across mobile, desktop and web email clients seamlessly.
  • If the call to action is hard to read or press on your phone, then it’s just as hard on your customer’s handset. Keep it clear and straightforward and you’re likely see a higher conversion rate.
  • Let your text breathe—use a 10 pixel border and keep content from the edges of your layout, as it can be difficult to read when text comes up to the very edges of a mobile screen.
  • Don’t forget your ALT Tags. Although marketers enjoy the default image ON feature of devices such as the iPhone and iPad, you have to take measures to protect your brand in web email clients and desktop email clients where images may be off by default.
  • Your landing pages are just as important as your emails; optimizing them is part of the overall cross-channel optimization design strategy. If you convinced someone to click a link in your email, imagine their surprise when the page isn’t optimized for their mobile device.
  • Not all browsers are built the same; test your email across browsers and versions of those browsers. Given the fact that Microsoft is only now retiring Internet Explorer 6 (10 years later), there’s a wild mix of browser versions out there each with their own nuances. What works in one browser may not work very well in another. Compound that with how different and varied the rendering engines of webmail clients are and you have a cornucopia of design permutations for which to code and anticipate. If you’re uncertain what should be your lowest common denominator, then might I suggest you look no further than the World Wide Web Consortium’s HTML standard and test your code against their code validators for code compliance.

Users are increasingly cross channel in their media consumption habits and how they engage with brands. Marketers have to think similarly in order to anticipate and deliver high quality content to engage and sustain lasting conversations.

Social Continues to Grow

Social media and the growing social marketplace continue to make their mark on today’s marketing world. We examined a few dimensions related to the social marketplace to understand how email influences and drives content across channels and helps enforce a brand’s presence from one digital messaging stream to another. Mobile devices continue to feed the social media marketplace growing significantly, almost 50% (from 11.25%) in Q1 of 2011.

Social sharing as measured by platform of originationCompelling content is the foundation of social media. The two major social networks, Facebook & Twitter, attract fairly different levels of engagement and content. Tweeting appears to be more mechanical than posting to Facebook. The relative speed of tweets and audience makeup differs from the social networks of most users that can include family members and close friends. Posting to Facebook reaches a more personal audience than twitter and users seem to limit what they post to Facebook a bit more than what gets tweeted to the greater world audience. This means two things for marketers:

  • Ensure your content has clear mechanisms allowing users to share it through their social networks
  • Create engaging content that is likely to be shared among more trusted circles such as Facebook


Although the coming holidays may seem bleak with the current economic outlook, the potential for reaching today’s consumers and the avenues that marketers can take to do it are numerous. Smartphones have enabled consumers to take their inboxes on the road and creative marketers can take advantage of Location Based Services to truly deliver the right message at the right time to the right person.

Continue to build engagement among your customer base by ensuring you know and take advantage of their messaging habits. Correlate data across channels to find meaningful insights that will help you plan for future success. Hold back from blanket messaging everyone across every channel in your house file because the danger of message fatigue is real and can do irreparable harm to your overall marketing. Set realistic goals but allow room for experimentation that is tempered with good research and data rich decisions. The danger in today’s market place is to believe that yesterday’s approaches will yield tomorrow’s success, they may for a brief period of time, but if one thing is certain the world is changing faster and faster every day.

-Len Shneyder
IBM Product Marketing Mgr.

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