The number of marketing emails sent during the third quarter of 2006 was more than 1bn, an increase of 37% year-on-year, but open rates for customer acquisition emails dropped by more than a quarter, according to the DMA.
The DMA's National Email Benchmarking Survey showed a "worrying" drop in the average unique open rate for acquisition campaigns from 25% in the third quarter of 2005 to 18% in the third quarter of 2006.
The same rate for retention campaigns fell slightly from 34% to 33%.
The survey also highlighted improving delivery rates. The fail rate -- the non-delivered emails divided by the number of emails sent -- for acquisition and retention campaigns fell from the second quarter of 2006 when it was 9% and 7% for acquisition and retention respectively to around 3% for both.
Richard Gibson, chair of the DMA Email Marketing Council's Benchmarking Hub, said: "With inbox delivery still proving to be one of the biggest challenges for ESPs, this is an area where they can demonstrate real business benefit.
"As more and more clients adopt some of the deliverability best practice standards such as sender ID, domain key registration and use of spam-checking tools, we should see deliverability rates hold, or maybe improved in the next few reports. The rewards will be significant for those who get it right."
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