Email volumes by Email Service Provider (ESP)?

email-magnitudeHave you heard of “dmexco“? It’s the biggest digital marketing fair in Germany, which takes place from 18 to 19 September 2013 in Cologne. The organizer expects more than 24,000 people visiting the 720 exhibitors. There will of course be many Email Service Providers (ESPs), each one competing for attention with new features and know-how…

For prospects looking for an emailing software, one of many indicators of ESP expertise seems to be monthly of yearly email volume. An ESP, who claims to be responsible for 3 billion emails per month, is thought to be more developed and experienced than one, who sends just 1 billion. The conclusion doesn’t necessarily have to be true. Anyway, the numbers show up on exhibition stands and on brochures for a reason.

Do we have means to verify them?

Determining ESP email volumes

Let’s put advertising claims aside for one moment. Port25 suggests another way to determine and compare send volumes, namely by looking at Cisco SenderBase statistics.

Cisco does not only publish global spam/ham volumes, which it tracks via its popular anti-spam technology. It also lists the worldwide top 100 senders per day and month on the website – including their email volume shares. The top 100 account for 41.9% of the world wide email traffic.

If you put together

  1. the global monthly volume of 1928 billion emails in August and
  2. the shares (=magnitudes) of the top-listed ESPs,

you will get something like the following table:

#World #ESPs ESP Monthly Magnitude % of global email volume Email volume in August (bn)
25 1 ExactTarget 7.6 0.4 7.7
26 1 SendGrid 7.6 0.4 7.7
52 2 Constant Contact 7.3 0.2 3.9
60 2 e-Dialog 7.3 0.2 3.9
61 2 Emailvision 7.3 0.2 3.9
75 3 Silverpop Systems 7.2 0.16 3.1
80 3 RESPONSYS 7.2 0.16 3.1
85 3 MailChimp 7.2 0.16 3.1
93 3 Epsilon Interactive LLC 7.2 0.16 3.1
97 3 AWeber Systems 7.2 0.16 3.1
100 4 Cheetahmail – Experian 7.1 0.13 2.5

Graphically, the data would look like this:


Or like this (log-scale on the y-axis):


For some explanations on how the Cisco magnitude scale works, have a look here. You’ll find all the other ESPs using the look up tool – feel free to add them.

What does the data tell us?

One interesting thing: Take for instance place #4 and place #1 in the table. #1 has a magnitude of 7.6, whereas #4 has 7.1. The difference is 0.5. In other words, ExactTarget sends 10^0.5=3.2 times more emails than Experian Cheetahmail.

Another thing: Where are all the other senders, who claim to send [insert_huge_number] billions of emails per month? If Cisco providers a valid sample of the real world and if I interpreted it all correctly, some brochures need perhaps to be reprinted. ;-)

On the other hand, the estimates for monthly email volumes are probably everything but accurate. E.g. what about the global email volume – is it correctly measured? Are the magnitudes right? Note that a minimal change from 7.3 to 7.4 can make a huge difference of about +26% emails per month. Magnitudes with only one decimal place are a rough estimation: A magnitude of 7.64 translates into 8.4bn emails sent.

Although blog posts like MailChimp hits 3bn/month (October 2012) and SendGrid hits 7bn/month (January 2013) seem confirm the numbers, nonetheless I’d stay sceptical.

What do you think?

BTW: If you happen to visit the dmexco in Cologne – stop by and have a coffee with me in hall 8 on stand E031-E033. :-) That’s the optivo stand.

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