In our July 2018 Blogpost on Deliverability, we said:
“The email industry has spawned a number of services by which mailers can acquire what’s typically billed as an official stamp of approval, allowing messages anointed as trusted to pass through spam filters. Depending on vendor, these whitelist-type services carry names that are often variations on words like “certify/certification.” Ours is called “Reputable Sender Accreditation.” Qualifying for these designations requires meeting a rigorous set of standards regarding the program’s mailing infrastructure, policies and practices, and domain and IP performance. These services can be useful, but email marketers need to buy them with a clear understanding of what they will and won’t do.”
Return Path offers perhaps the best known (and most expensive) of these certification services. Does theirs work? Our 2015 analysis showed no useful difference in inbox performance between major retail brands that were, and weren’t, Return Path certified. Recently, we set up to update that analysis.
The methodology¹ for our updated exercise identified the top 60 retail companies, as ranked by Internet Retailer; classified the group between those that do and don’t use Return Path Certification; and then tracked inbox and read rate performance, by ISP, for each company’s promotional1 email during Q2 of 2018.
The first notable finding was that only 25 (42%) of the 60 retail brands we analyzed are using Return Path certification at all. This penetration is actually less than the over 50% so classified in our 2015 analysis.
As for actual certification impacts, the story is quite interesting.
The table below shows deliverability performance for the brands that are, and aren’t, Return Path certified. There are no discernible inbox differences for any of the ISPs, except Outlook, where the certification advantage appears pronounced, although Outlook reflects only a small portion of the total activity we analyzed.