First, the good news: the rate of spam is down! And we mean way down. According to cyber-security firm Kaspersky Lab, the percentage of spam has fallen from around 80% to 67% of the global email total. That’s a significant drop.

Next is the potential bad news: although decreasing spam is good news for legitimate email marketers because it means people will overall be happier about the state of their inboxes, it doesn’t necessarily mean less competition in those inboxes. That’s because some analysts are predicting that our post-recession economy will result in more email messages as businesses realize email still has the best ROI and yank funds from social media budgets to dedicate them to email marketing once again.

That means a decrease in spam but an increase in email. And while the number of emails goes up, average email read rates are down for some sectors.

Return Path found average email read rates around the world were less than 17% in the 4th quarter of 2012, although some industries saw an increase in read levels. Finance emails went up 2.5% to a 27.5% read rate. The email read rate for business soared from 17% in 2011 to over 24% in 2012. And real estate stayed the same, at right around 20%.

Every other industry saw a decrease in the percentage of emails read, however. News mails and emails from social networks were hardest hit, both dropping to about half of their prior read rate in 2011.

Retail hadn’t been doing very well to start with. According to the study, only 15.2% of shopping emails were read, down from 17% the previous year. Although retailers got a 27% read rate overall, which is a healthy number, subscribers read only 15% of those emails they identified as marketing emails. And retailers outside of the top 100 Internet retailers got even less attention: subscribers read a mere 10% of marketing messages from those “other” senders.

Strategies to Boost Engagement in Email Marketing

The lesson to be drawn from all of these statistics is the same lesson we email marketers are constantly learning: relevance rules. We might see a decrease in those unwanted emails that clutter up inboxes and get between us and our customers (i.e. spam), but if our competitors are ramping up their frequency with newly funded budgets, we’re going to face possibly even stiffer competition for that subscriber’s attention…attention that is already low, in some cases, and waning, in the worst cases.

Folks, there isn’t any magic email marketing software that’s going to make this challenge go away. All you can really do about it is what you’ve been doing…only better as you step up your game:

  • Provide awesome content consistently.
  • Meet the subscriber’s need for frequency, not yours.
  • Segment like there’s no tomorrow.
  • Be personalized, target and as relevant as can be.
  • Put triggered email to work.
  • Find the best email service provider, the one that will help you create the best, most relevant email marketing campaign possible.

And then? Could you keep it up? Because there’s no sign people will start paying more attention to their inboxes, only indicators that they’ll care less.

Make winning their attention your first goal. Then, worry about winning their business.


Published On: March 20th, 2023Categories: Email marketing best practices

About the Author: Sharon

Sharon Ernst from is on a mission to improve the business and marketing writing skills of today’s workforce with her blog, newsletter and online classes. Her newest class on intermediate email copywriting covers 19 tips and techniques non-copywriters can put to use right away for better results. The class has real-life examples and before/after comparisons to make the lessons stick. Find her class at When she’s not busy helping employees, managers and marketers master their writing skills, she and her husband are busy raising pigs, cows, chickens and vegetables on their 20-acre farm.

Recent Posts