Honing in on Your Open Rates

Article by John Landsman CATEGORIES: Deliverability TAGS:


Ahh, the open rate: the redheaded stepchild of email-marketing metrics. You look at it and something about it just makes you want to send it to bed without supper.

But what you should be doing is trying to understand it and the unique qualities it possesses.

Too many marketers track opens primarily on a campaign-by-campaign basis, which is fine as a barometric measure of an email-marketing program’s health. If it’s generally 20 percent or above and holding steady or rising, the marketer is doing something right. If it dips suddenly, then something somewhere is wrong.

For example, if the campaign-by-campaign open rate at Gmail suddenly plummets, it’s safe to say something’s going on at Gmail and that the situation warrants looking into, but may not require action. If the open rate suddenly plummets across the board, then something is happening on the sender’s end, the situation definitely requires looking into and some action is most likely going to be required.

But the open rate on a campaign-by-campaign basis says little about how engaged subscribers are with the sender’s messages overall.

Does that 20-percent open rate on a campaign-by-campaign basis translate into 70 percent of the file’s subscribers opening messages over the course of a year, or more like 30 percent?

If it’s 70 percent or even as low as 50 percent, great. Assuming the list was built on a permission basis and all the technical aspects of the program—such as authentication—are buttoned up, inbox providers are highly unlikely to treat the sender’s messages as spam.

But if it’s more like 30 percent of the file is opening messages in the course of a year, Houston, we have a problem.

What to do about such a low long-term open rate will vary from sender to sender. Some will suppress email addresses that have been inactive for a year or more, others will implement re-engagement campaigns or a combination of the two approaches.

As in seemingly everything email, the answer is: It depends.

But marketers must know what percentage of their file is opening messages on a three-month, six-month and 12-month basis in order to know whether they need to take action or not.

With Inbox Tracker 2.0, eDataSource recently unveiled a tool offering clients access to those numbers.

Through its panel of 2-million-plus inbox holders, eDataSource is able to determine on a statistically significant basis what percentage of a brand’s subscribers are opening its emails on a three-month, six-month and 12-month basis at each of the four major consumer inbox providers.

For example scores of 30 mean that 30 percent of the marketer’s subscribers have not opened a message in the period of time and/or at the ISP to which the number refers.

Using these numbers, the marketer can see if she has a problem at, say, Gmail. It’s always Gmail, isn’t it?

If any or all of the numbers start creeping over 50, the marketer will know it’s time to take action and she’ll know exactly where.

Okay, open rates, you can come out of your room now.