SparkPost started its transactional email report in 2018 and we’re excited to announce that the 2020 report is now available (want to see the inaugural report? click here). We surveyed more than 300 senior professionals tasked with managing transactional emails for their companies  (both large and small) and across a variety of verticals.

Here are the top findings from the 2020 report: 

Email Volume Rises, As Does its Importance

While many senders have historically been low volume senders of transactional email, we’re seeing a growth trend emerge. More than half of senders (58.1 percent) mail 50,000 or less transactional messages a month, a marked decrease from 2018 (70.8 percent). There was however significant growth in the mid-volume and high-volume categories. More than a quarter of respondents (28.6 percent) reported sending 50,000 to one million messages per month versus 13.4 percent in 2018 and 13.3 percent said they send one million or more, versus to 4.7 percent in 2018. 

We also found that companies cited with an overwhelming majority that it’s critical to convert, engage and retain customers using transactional emails. This shows how important email is to core business objectives. 

Lastly, many of the message types related to helpfulness through education such as new user welcome, application notifications, user onboarding/feature familiarization and ongoing user education/nurture. Email is the right vehicle for these messages, especially complex ones requiring imagery and detailed content. 

SMS, push and other one-to-one channels cannot accommodate, which is one of the drivers behind the continued growing demand for email to deliver these messages. No other communication medium has come along to replace what email can offer and we don’t think that will change any time soon. 

Fragmented Responsibility Harms Visibility and Performance

Tech Fragmentation Cause Reporting and Testing Blind Spots

IT and engineering roles were cited at nearly 50 percent as being responsible for the sending of transactional messages. When marketers manage email, they typically send it from an ESP/hosted solution. Only 29.2 percent of respondents stated they send their transactional emails from an ESP. The majority in our study send via API, in house email servers or don’t know. The non-ESP options are typically owned and only accessible by IT/Engineering teams, so this may explain why marketers/product owners are less involved on the sending side. 

Reporting Blind Spots Lead to Customer Experience Issues

Our study also revealed that only approximately one-third of senders (36 percent) conduct A/B testing and the higher percentage than expected responses of “I don’t know” when it came to authentication, deliverability and engagement metrics, especially mobile engagement. 

Only 52 percent reported some form of authentication, and a whopping 21 percent don’t even know if they authenticate emails. Of those that do authenticate, less than 22 percent use DMARC.  On the mobile side, more than a third (37 percent) of senders are unsure what percentage of mobile engagement is actually happening, citing a major potential experience issue. 

This could explain the deliverability issues leading to the high number of customer complaints. 

Nearly half of senders (49 percent) said they receive complaints from customers about undelivered transactional emails. 

Ownership has Shifted but IT and Engineering are Still Tasked with Writing Emails

When we look at content, over 64 percent of transactional email content producers are roles in marketing or product owners. This is a slight shift from 2018 where we saw that number at 58 percent. More than a third of the writers are in technical roles. Given that writers with experience producing content that resonates with customers typically sit in marketing, it’s a huge opportunity to move even more of the content development for transactional emails to these resources. 

The lack of visibility in reporting, minimal testing and content production are huge opportunities for understanding and improving the performance of transactional emails. Making strides in these areas alone will generate an increase in engagement and improvements in customer experience. This is important in the age of tightening privacy regulations globally, as transactional emails may be the only communication type that brands have with consumers that have opted out of promotional communications. 

You can access the full report here, we’d love to hear what you’re experiencing with your own transactional emails and how we can help with better insights into your own engagement and sending analytics.

~ April