Email Volume and Inbox Placement Exceeded Yearly Average During 2017 Holiday Season—But So Did Spam Complaints


New research from Return Path provides data and guidance to help email marketers plan for the upcoming 2018 holidays

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Email is a critical channel for marketers, allowing them to deliver timely, relevant content to subscribers. This is especially true during the holiday season when email campaigns are typically intended to drive purchase behavior—and failure to connect with subscribers can have a dramatic impact on the bottom line. To help marketers as they begin planning their 2018 holiday campaigns, data solutions provider Return Path today released Have Yourself a Merry Email Christmas, a new research report that explores 2017 holiday email performance and provides practical tips for 2018 holiday planning.

Following are a few of the report’s key insights:

Holiday email volume dramatically exceed the 2017 average

As expected, email send volume during the 2017 holiday season was significantly higher than the year’s average. The season’s first spike in email volume occurred on Thanksgiving Day when email volume was 78 percent above average. Holiday send volume reached its peak on November 29, at 122 percent above the 2017 average.

Inbox placement rate was significantly elevated during the 2017 holiday season 

Marketers were surprisingly successful at reaching the inbox during the 2017 holidays. Average inbox placement for the period fluctuated between 90.4 percent and 92.0 percent—significantly higher than the 2017 average of 86.5 percent.

Increased email volume led to increased spam complaints

As is often the case, the uptick in holiday email volume was accompanied by a sharp increase in spam complaints. Overall, complaints trended upward throughout the 2017 holiday season. Spam complaints peaked toward the end of December, reaching nearly 0.9 percent (compared to a 2017 average of just 0.17 percent).

Nonprofits were giving thanks for strong performance on Giving Tuesday

While Black Friday and Cyber Monday are critical days for retailers, nonprofits count on the generosity of consumers during their own unique holiday, Giving Tuesday. In 2017, nonprofit marketers saw an inbox placement rate that was four percent higher than their average—80 percent, versus 76 percent for the year.



This study was conducted using global consumer data from the Return Path Data Cloud. Analysis of holiday send volume, inbox placement, volume of email received, read rate, platform usage, and complaint rate is based on data collected between October 1 and December 31, 2017.

About Return Path

Return Path analyzes the world’s largest collection of email data to show businesses how to stay connected to their audiences and strengthen their customer engagement. They help mailbox providers around the world deliver great user experiences and build trust in email by ensuring that wanted messages reach the inbox while spam doesn’t.

Download the full report here