January 8, 2010, 12:00 AM

As holiday e-mail marketers overreached, spam filters tightened, study says

As retailers tried to reach the maximum number of e-mail marketing recipients during the first three weeks of December, spam filters increased their blocking of e-mail until peaking at 13.8% of e-mail on Dec. 17, Pivotal Veracity reports.

As retailers tried to reach the maximum number of e-mail marketing recipients during the first three weeks of December, spam filters increased their blocking of e-mail until peaking at 13.8% of e-mail on Dec. 17, reports Pivotal Veracity, a provider of e-mail deliverability technology and services.

Aggressive e-mail marketing campaigns that targeted an unusually large number of inactive recipients on e-mail lists, along with the unusually high volume of e-mail, appeared to have led to increases in the number of recipients who either didn’t open e-mails or hit the “This is spam” button, says Jordan Cohen, senior director of marketing at Pivotal Veracity.

“What we tend to see around the holidays is everyone upping their e-mail volume at the same time, and as a result, consumers get bombarded with messages and are more likely to hit the spam button,” Cohen says. In turn, a rising rate of spam complaints can cause Internet service providers to block marketers’ e-mails, he adds.

Some retailers try to compensate for an expected increase in spam complaints by increasing the volume of e-mail to inactive customers on their lists, figuring that the higher volume among a familiar audience will lead to a lower rate of spam complaints, Cohen says. But because inactive recipients are likely to just ignore e-mail messages-declining to click the spam button or open the e-mail promotion-this can lead to a lower open-rate, giving ISPs another reason to block a sender’s e-mail, he adds.

“ISPs have realized that marketers are trying to game the system by sending e-mail to friendly but inactive recipients,” Cohen says.

Pivotal Veracity notes that on Dec. 17, 78.8% of marketers’ e-mails were routed to recipients’ in-boxes and 13.8% were completely blocked. The remainder was sent to recipients’ spam or junk folders.

E-mail deliverability improved markedly on Dec. 23, with only 6.4% of e-mail blocked, down from 12.2% the prior day, as most online retailers could no longer promote before-Christmas delivery, Pivotal says.

But e-mail blocking spiked again in the final days of the year-ranging from 11.5% to 13.3% on Dec. 28–30, as retailers increased e-mail volumes with post-holiday sales and year-end clearance promotions, Pivotal says.

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