Matt Blumberg is Co-Founder and CEO of Return Path, Inc. and one of the dozens of thought leaders featured in DMA’s 2017 Statistical Fact Book.

Last year, mailbox providers focused more on protecting their users from phishing and malware, as the world saw headlines dominated with hacks from Russia and U.S. elections to Yahoo revealing the world’s largest known data breach. Here’s how email’s story continues to play out.

Email continues to be the number one digital channel for ROI. To make this channel perform even better, marketers have been piling money and resources into growing subscriber engagement and growing their lists. 54% of marketers stated that increasing engagements were their highest priority, followed by customer acquisition.


As a result, we’re seeing more and more email marketers using data more and more to make email a truly bespoke experience everywhere from the time of day to the frequency of emails and even using data to write copy that gets results. But obviously, marketers need not only more data to make this happen, they will need better systems in 2017 and beyond to turn data into action.

As marketers try to increase their engagement rates, so do the bad guys. Phishing emails were the alleged reason for the many election breaches in 2016. Yahoo also discovered another data breach where 1 billion email addresses were stolen, topping their previous record of world’s largest data breach. Mailbox providers and marketers will need to proactively address this issue to protect not only their own companies, but also their email users. Mailbox providers will need to enforce stricter filtering and create new ways of reacting to unauthenticated email—ideally, by blocking it from the inbox.

Gmail began to address the issue this year by marking both unencrypted and unauthenticated messages—warning their users that these messages are potentially harmful. Gmail’s new policy not only provides a more informed experience for email users, it also places a penalty on marketers who are providing an unsecure experience.

Today, people are looking for a more personalized experience to help them interact with and manage their email. Many mailbox providers have already begun to address this issue. Gmail’s tabbed inbox and new inbox client, Inbox by Gmail, already automatically sorts incoming mail for its users based on the subject matter of the email—creating a more organized email experience. The latest launch iOS 10 included a new unsubscribe banner placed prominently at the top of the email creative making it easy for users to opt out of unwanted email.

Alongside these features and apps, mailbox providers are placing more weight on subscriber engagement. By using engagement based filters, mailbox providers are able to distinguish and deliver email their users want in the inbox from unwanted email that should be sent to the spam folder. Marketers are beginning to adjust for this in their own email programs but most are lacking the right tools and the right data to accurately measure and adjust their strategy based on how their subscribers interact with their email as well as how mailbox providers filter their messages.

It’s no doubt that email will continue to be the most important of the marketing channel for some time to come. The stats in the latest DMA Statistical Fact Book should help marketers create an engaging, and safe, email experience for consumers in 2017 and beyond.

More than a dozen thought-leaders from across the marketing ecosystem have contributed their perspectives to DMA’s 2017 Statistical Fact Book. Executives from leading solution providers such as Return Path, Vehicle, IBM and more have shared how best to build a customer-centric marketing operation in the face of technological disruption. Download your copy of the Statistical Fact Book today and gain the business intelligence you need to make informed marketing decisions in the digital age.

Additional Data & Marketing Insights from DMA