Delivery vs Deliverability

14 June, 2022

The difference between the two goes beyond the word’s complexity and length. Based on the same verb, with time and development of email, email marketing, spam filtering, and mailbox structure those two terms became to mean actually quite different things.

What is the difference then?

Imagine not being home for a while. Someone whom you know and you have ordered a periodical package-delivery from has sent you one during this time, with a crazy fast Oops service. Do you see already where I am getting at?

The courier arrives at your home, but instead of a mailbox next to your door, "by mistake" he hides the package in the rose bushes on the left. You come back home and wouldn’t even think, to look for the package in the bushes. All you know is that you should’ve got the package, but it’s not where it should be. But the mailman can write down into his worksheet - “Delivered”.
That’s poor deliverability.

Let's imagine a similar scenario, but this time, you closed the gate before leaving the house. So, you know, this mean guy with leaflets from this pizza place you’ve never asked for couldn’t come in. Now the courier with a package cannot pass it. He tries so hard, but every time he runs into the gate, he’s just bouncing back with his nose bleeding more and more. Eventually, he gives up and leaves with the package on the passenger's seat and sadly writes down “Undelivered”.
That’s bad delivery.

Similarly, a good delivery rate doesn’t necessarily mean good deliverability. A good delivery rate means that by a huge majority most (if not all) messages, have been accepted into the receiving servers. In technical terms, we know this by a specific code the servers have sent us back reassuring, the message was actually received. This, however, doesn’t tell us the whole story of the message's journey. Looking past the 250ok code (accepted) is like looking past the black hole’s event horizon. We do not know what is happening there, we can (and we do) have educated guesses. The one difference from a black hole is that after seconds we can actually see (or not) the result on the other end - the mailbox. Either our message pops up in there, or not. If not - this is also some kind of information.

To put it simply - deliverability goes beyond delivery itself. It’s presenting the message to the recipient in such a way that is visible and convenient to her/him. As an effect, it should produce a positive engagement with the message; so either open, read, reopen, reply, click, etc. (Please stay tuned for positive vs negative engagement posts, we’re definitely going to cover that topic). 

Examples of poor deliverability would be, of course placing the message in the spam folder, or even “disappearing” it entirely (aka quarantine or already mentioned blackhole).

A very common mistake I’ve noticed over years working in the field is mistaking a “Promotions” folder with Spam. The so-called “tabs”, first introduced by Gmail, are there for a reason. It is not a bad one, either. Making it possible to properly segregate and approach specific kinds of email has actually been proven to have a positive effect on both recipient’s and sender’s end. Also, it’s worth keeping in mind, that it is estimated for only 1 in 5 Gmail users have their tabs turned on.

Getting back to our example, imagine that just next to your main mailbox, you hang a little basket for the leaflets that you actually want. Assuming the gate is open this time, you’re getting back home and really, really need to get to the package, as it contains the code you need to use to open the bathroom after a long trip. Perfect, it’s in the main mailbox! You’ll browse through the leaflets once you have some spare time and an empty bladder. For sure you’ll order this discounted sweater for your mom!

Now imagine, what would you do with a leaflet that’s in the main mailbox with the package. I would personally rumple the paper and throw it away to get to my package as fast as I can. Oops, it’s gone! If only it was in the basket there, with other leaflets…

It has been shown that people who actually use the tabs (estimated for 1 in 5) are more likely to buy. Now, even if getting into the promotion folder would get you a slightly lower open rate, the actual opening receivers are likely to generate more revenue.

Returning to the main topic, a good delivery rate doesn't mean healthy deliverability. It is also worth remembering that different ESP might be showing you different numbers because of the approach in calculating data (delivery rates, open rates, engagement, etc). Many ESPs over there do not have a really good insight into the actual deliverability, which makes the predictions only harder.

The clarity, readability, and accessibility of shown data are highly important, so don't hesitate to ask our Helpdesk for specifics.

To sum up, getting into the destination doesn't necessarily mean the package will be opened, and that the leaflet will be read. It's the high deliverability that working with Mailkit will provide, is what you need. Our dedicated specialists will help you on each level of the delivery and deliverability process.