The email marketing landscape is continuously evolving, and the GDMA Email Benchmark 2024 provides a pivotal point for setting new standards in the industry. As contributors to this comprehensive benchmark, we highlight two unbeforeseen statistics from this year’s benchmark: the unsubscribe rates (UR) and spam complaint rates (SCR). We believe these findings offer insights and set new standards and best practices for the email marketing world.

Why focus on unsubscribe and spam complaint rates?

The more positive approach to this article would have been to focus on how the unique open rate (OR) has grown in the past 3 years or how the click-through rate (CTR) has improved yet again. The reality, however, is that we have undergone many changes in the past few years, where focusing on opens & clicks has become less relevant. Contrary to that, closely monitoring your engagement – or rather disengagement – with your emails has become increasingly important.

A recent example of that trend is the Google and Yahoo update, which prompts senders to stay below the 0.3% spam complaint rate and makes it easier for recipients to unsubscribe from emails: the one-click header unsubscribe.

This 0.3% spam complaint rate might sound low already, but what does that number look like in reality

The global unsubscribe rate: A benchmark for engagement

Let’s start with the global average of unsubscribe rates. Covering 30+ countries, the GDMA Email Benchmark gives us plenty of insight into the differences per country, but the global average balances out at 0.14%.

What is the unsubscribe rate?
The unsubscribe rate is a crucial metric in email marketing. It represents the percentage of recipients who opt out of your mailing list after receiving an email. A high unsubscribe rate can indicate email relevance, frequency, or quality issues. It can ultimately lead to being blocked from inbox providers like Gmail, Outlook, etc.

The global average unsubscribe rate of 0.14% is a critical benchmark for email marketers. This figure is more than just a number; it represents the delicate balance between engagement and disengagement. The slight variations observed in the Netherlands (0.15%) and the UK (0.12%) indicate that regional nuances play a significant role in how recipients interact with email content. Understanding and managing unsubscribe rates becomes essential as we strive for higher engagement.

Unsub Sunday

One of the most interesting findings from the GDMA benchmark is the higher unsubscribe rate on Sundays, peaking at 0.17%. This trend suggests that recipients are more likely to declutter their inboxes during weekends – since Saturdays are also above average at 0.15%. For email marketers, this insight is food for thought. It calls for a strategic reconsideration of how and when we send our communications.

Regular list cleaning, relevant content, easy opt-out options, and double opt-in methods are best practices that should now be considered industry standards.

Spam Complaint Rates: A measure of trust

Spam complaint rates are a direct reflection of trust and satisfaction. The global average SCR of 0.014% sets a new bar for email marketers. Yes, the threshold at big inbox providers like Gmail and Yahoo is higher, but we’ve seen before how the inbox-providing industry adopts industry best practices.

What’s a spam complaint rate?
The spam complaint rate measures the percentage of recipients who mark an email as spam. Calculated by dividing the number of spam complaints by the total emails delivered, a high rate indicates issues with brand and/or content relevance or frequency. It can harm the sender’s reputation and reduce email deliverability.

Notably, the Netherlands and the UK demonstrate exemplary performance with rates at 0.006% and 0.004%, respectively. These figures are not just statistics but indicators of successful email marketing practices that foster trust and minimise negative feedback. Achieving and maintaining low SCR should be a primary objective for all email marketers.

The Sunday Paradox: Lower spam complaints

Interestingly, the data reveals that spam complaints are least likely to occur on Sundays, with a rate of 0.011%—meaning people are 20% less likely to click the spam button on Sundays than during the week. This paradoxical trend implies that while people unsubscribe more on Sundays, they are less likely to mark emails as spam.

This insight offers a dual perspective: while engagement might be reviewed more critically, emails’ perceived relevance and trustworthiness remain stable. Marketers should harness this knowledge to refine their sending strategies, ensuring their communications are always timely, relevant, and welcome.

Improving UR and SCR

As every (email) marketer knows by now, there is no golden rule to apply or miracle quick fix. If your unsubscribe and spam complaint rates are higher than the industry average – even when you haven’t surpassed Yahoogle’s threshold – it might be worth digging into your data and re-evaluating your email marketing strategies:

  • Segmenting your email lists to tailor content more precisely to the interests and behaviours of different audience groups;
  • Implementing A/B testing can help determine the most effective email formats and send times;
  • Monitoring engagement metrics regularly and soliciting feedback from recipients can also provide valuable insights into their preferences and pain points;
  • Adjusting and optimising your strategies based on these insights, you can enhance their email campaigns’ overall impact and effectiveness.

Spotler’s commitment to higher industry standards

Spotler’s involvement in the GDMA Email Benchmark underscores our commitment to advancing email marketing standards. By contributing data and insights, we aim to set new benchmarks and guide the industry towards more effective and respectful marketing practices. Our role is to observe trends and actively shape the future of email marketing by promoting best practices and leveraging data-driven strategies.