December 3, 2009, 12:00 AM

Marketers send more holiday e-mail, but are they reaching in-boxes?

Retailers sent a record number of marketing e-mails on the day after Thanksgiving and the following Monday, according to a study by Smith-Harmon. However, another study suggests that many retailer e-mails may not be reaching in-boxes.

Retailers sent a record number of marketing e-mails on the day after Thanksgiving and the following Monday, according to a study by e-mail marketing services provider Smith-Harmon. However, another study suggests that many of those messages may not be reaching in-boxes.

On the day after Thanksgiving, also known as Black Friday, 69% of major online retailers sent at least one promotional e-mail, up from 59% in 2008, according to Smith-Harmon’s Retail Email Blog. On the Sunday after the holiday, 45% of retailers sent at least one promotional e-mail, up from 36% last year, making Nov. 29 the biggest Sunday ever for retail e-mail marketing. And, on Monday, 71% sent at least one promotional e-mail-a slight bump from 70% a year ago-yet the most popular retail e-mail day of all-time.

While e-retailers aren’t slowing their sending, a study from e-mail deliverability services provider Pivotal Veracity suggests that many marketing e-mails may not be getting to consumers. The study found that nearly 25% of e-mail marketing messages sent the Monday after Thanksgiving did not reach in-boxes. According to the vendor, 76.2% of marketing e-mails reached in-boxes on the busy online shopping day, often called Cyber Monday because many consumers shop online that day.

“Cyber Monday has become a veritable trench warfare of offers, specials and hype in consumers’ e-mail in-boxes,” says Deirdre Baird, president and CEO of Pivotal Veracity. “As delivery queues get packed with messages, ISP spam filters go on high alert and many marketers end up with lower in-box delivery rates.” E-mail marketers often refer to e-mail inbox providers as ISPs, or Internet service providers, even though nowadays many providers of e-mail accounts, such as Google and Yahoo, don’t provide Internet connectivity.

The Smith-Harmon study outlined additional facts about holiday retail e-mails:

  • During the four weeks leading up to Nov. 27, the number of retail e-mails referencing Black Friday rose 96% this year compared to 2008.
  • The number of retail e-mails referencing Cyber Monday, the Monday following Thanksgiving weekend, in the four days leading up to the major online shopping day rose 54% compared to a year ago.
  • Compared to a typical Sunday, 68% more retailers sent at least one e-mail on Nov. 29, the Sunday after Thanksgiving.
  • Some retailers are wary of referring to “Cyber Monday” explicitly, instead promoting Cyber Sales, Cyber Events and Cyber Savings. Others that didn’t mention Cyber Monday used discount codes like CYBR20, CYBER9, CYBMON25 and MONDAY.
  • Many retailers that didn’t explicitly promote Cyber Monday held one-day, online-only sales on that day..
  • Retailers used their e-mail campaigns to actively promote in-store sales. Multichannel retailers Kohl’s Corp., Office Depot Inc., Sears Holding Corp.and Toys ‘R’ Us Inc. promoted their in-store sales in their subject lines.

The Smith-Harmon study is based on the activity of 104 of the top 150 online retailers in the Internet Retailer Top 500 Guide . Those retailers are tracked by Smith-Harmon’s Retail Email Blog. The Pivotal Veracity study reflects benchmark averages across all the company’s clients from Nov. 23 to Nov. 30. It uses data gathered from thousands of e-mail marketing campaigns.

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