December 29, 2009, 12:00 AM

The holidays bring out the e-mails, but were they getting through?

E-retailers stepped up their e-mail marketing as the 2009 holiday season moved into high gear, says one study, but another report suggests a lot of e-mail is not getting through

Retailers flooded the Internet with marketing e-mails on Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, and Cyber Monday, the Monday after Thanksgiving, according to a study by e-mail marketing services provider Smith-Harmon. But many of those e-mails may not have made it to customers’ in-boxes, another study says.

On the day after Thanksgiving, 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.

“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.

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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