What’s in my inbox today?

8 minute read

48 emails – that is, 48 ‘marketing’ emails, not including notifications or those from colleagues, contacts or friends. In this respect I’m not entirely abnormal. Worldwide email traffic is estimated at around 205 billion emails per day – with the average consumer receiving around 80-120 emails each day.

I thought it would be interesting to delve into my daily inbox a little deeper to see exactly what I (and probably you) are receiving.

Inbox analysis

Firstly – permission. It depends on your definition of ‘spam’ but estimates of the proportion of spam emails varies between 20% to around 50%. To most email marketers ‘spam’ is those emails for which explicit permission (that is a positive opt-in action) has not been obtained. For my inbox, this accounts for around 25% of my total messages received. These are messages from organisations where I certainly have not subscribed and cannot recall any ‘relationship’ which might otherwise constitute a valid interest.

Then there’s the grey area. 67% of the marketing messages I’ve received today are from organisations which I’m aware of and have some historical contact with in the past. Provided that this contact was recent, and that today’s message is along similar lines then it although may not be entirely welcome it isn’t technically spam. Looking at the those in my inbox, some are fine, but I think it’s fair to say that many are stretching the ‘relationship’ thing a little. Then of course, there’s the 8% from my opt-in relationships – those who I’ve actively subscribed to and whose messages are anticipated and welcome. Great.


Next, let’s look at responsiveness. Like many of you I typically preview and screen my daily inbox before earmarking those I’ll get back to later in the day. Also like many, this typically takes place in a (well known) coffee shop, and on a mobile phone. Typically only around 20% of emails are optimised for consumption on a mobile device – that is, they are designed and created using responsive technology.

Today’s inbox analysis contains 26% that are truly responsive – multiple columns collapse nicely, images resize – it’s all good. The majority (52%) are scalable – they are HTML based but I need to pinch, zoom and scroll to view and find the information I need. It’s fair to say that some do not suffer too badly from this treatment but many are still making me work much to hard to find and interact with the content. Like many of you, I’m an unreasonable email consumer – if it isn’t super easy and immediate I won’t do it.

And that leaves 22% which are neither – primarily rich text content. It’s not all bad here. Again, most of these messages are perfectly adequate in order to convey the information, so they are effective, if a little dull.


Personalisation is one of the key tools that we, as email marketers, have at our disposal to get our audience to read and actively interact with our campaigns. Personalisation adds relevance, and it’s surprising how even simple personalisation can significantly increase levels of engagement.

It’s a little subjective but on the whole it’s good. 71% of today’s inbox has a personalised greeting (Dear Tony, or similar). However that’s not hard to do and it’s so commonplace that we only tend to notice it when it goes awry.  Around 8% of my inbox has messages which are, at least to some degree, further personalised to my own situation. To be fair, many of these are not ‘standard’ scheduled emails but are automated responses to  actions I’ve taken (more on automation in a moment).

Congratulations go to the 2% who have taken the effort to use the profile information they have to actively personalise content to my needs and interests. Much appreciated. And that leaves around 19% which have no personalisation at all – the same content to everybody, not even a ‘Dear Tony’.  Should try harder!


I mentioned automation. Timeliness is another key component in relevance. Because emails triggered using marketing automation rules are responding to a particular need at a particular time it’s no surprise that their open and click-through rates are typically significantly higher than your average catch-all newsletter or promotion. It may seem harsh but robotic replies (intelligently done) are actually much more likely to be successful. It’s hard to measure exactly but based on their content and my recent actions my best estimate is that around automated versus non-automated messages in today’s inbox are around 27% and 73% respectively.


Personalisation may be an important step towards relevance, but this aside, are the messages I’ve received actually interesting, valuable and timely? Again, it’s entirely subjective, but being generous I estimate around 33% to be interesting (varying from mildly to very), 8% to be timely (even given that 27% of the messages are are automated) and that 11% are actually directly valuable. Bearing in mind around 8% are from directly opted-in relationships, that doesn’t seem so bad. However it also means that 89% of the emails that I (and probably you) are receiving today are not directly enriching our lives.


The end result – would I open and click or unsubscribe? Of course, in order to do this analysis I opened and read all of them, but had today been just another day I reckon I would have opened 52% of them, clicked 17% and unsubscribed from 8%.  Compared to 25%, 3% and 0.5% (our 2016 Benchmark report figures) all of these figures are significantly higher than industry averages – they are averages after all, and I’m quite prepared to accept that my interest in what’s in my inbox might be just a little more intense than your average consumer.


For the record, my congratulations go to Guide Dogs UK, Mini, Honda Motorcycles, Cineworld and HSBC  – you passed most of the above categories with some style. Nice email work!