Email Marketing

The joy and danger of email open rates

By | February 23, 2012


How many people open your email campaigns? When you first start an email marketing program, you are often quite enamored with the open rates. Seeing the results of your efforts in real time is always a thrill, but I often warn clients about the misleading nature of open rates. It is the most looked at and often the most misleading. Here are two things to consider when looking at open rates:

  • The numbers are soft. As much as they look like hard numbers, they aren’t. There are significant numbers of email programs that block the signal that reports back that the email has been opened. The only way to be sure is if someone clicks on a link within your campaign (another good reason to include great links). The good news is your open rate is ALWAYS higher than the “official” number. I would say it’s at least 10% higher.
  • The open rate does not indicate engagement. Do you open or click through every email you receive? It really bugs me that most email services will average your open rates. The same people do not open every email. To get a true measure of how engaged your list is, you have to find how many on your list have opened a campaign over a period of time (a year is a good benchmark).

The good news hidden in your stats

Recently I reviewed stats with a client whose email marketing program we manage. The open rate was averaging 47% (more than double the industry average for a consumer list). I was sensing that someone not familiar with email marketing was thinking that if less than half of the list was opening the emails, maybe the program should be re-evaluated. That is not really illogical: If I were speaking and only 47% were listening, I would be disappointed. However, I ran a report querying who on the email list opened a campaign in the last year. The percentage was 83% – That’s one engaged audience! It shows that the open rate of an individual campaign really wasn’t a good measure of engagement.

We really love email marketing at Spire2 because it is the simplest and most cost-efficient way to take advantage of the most basic building block of effective marketing – repetition. Getting stats is like a bonus, but remember that it is wise to look for trends and dig a bit deeper before drawing conclusions.

Spire2 helps organizations and businesses get their message out. Whether it is online, through email or with paper and ink, we make sure your message is being heard and that all these channels are working together to build your brand and get results.

Jeffery James
Jeffery James
Jeffery is the Creative Director and Principal of Spire2. He brings marketing expertise from a variety of industries. He excels at understanding clients' corporate objectives, translating them into brand positioning and executing marketing materials that exceed expectations.