How Important are Email Open Rates

Email Open Rates

Do you track the email open rates of your campaigns? Are ‘opens’ worth tracking? In this article, discover what your email open rates are trying to tell you.

There are a lot of levers, switches, and knobs we must adjust to optimize email design and campaign performance. Ultimately, email campaigns must drive more revenue for the business. On this journey to increasing sales, one campaign tracking metric is email open rates.

Email Open Rates Defined

An open rate is a measure of the number of people that opened (or viewed) our emails in a given campaign.  But how do we see which have been opened?

An email is usually sent out with an image. Once that image is downloaded, the email is registered as an open. But, this may not be as effective as you might think. Here’s why:

The graphic must be loaded in the email: If the graphic needs to be opened with an email this makes us assume that the email has been read according to if the image has been downloaded. However, it is entirely possible that the email has been read, even if the graphic hasn’t been registered.

Recipients want to receive emails in text format: Because an HTML email doesn’t include an image, it doesn’t mean that the reader hasn’t opened the email.

Viewing emails on the mobile: if the email is text-only without the download of an image, there is no record of readers opening the email.

The accepted metric in email marketing when it comes to open rates is generally from 11% to 35%. This is a metric that must be considered. So while it may appear that few people are viewing our emails as a result of no image download, it could be that the emails are indeed being opened.

Most email software systems consider whether a click-through had a corresponding open. If the click did not, the software will count the email as both opened and clicked in order to improve metric accuracy.

What Are Your Email Open Rates Telling You?

Even though email open rates are not a 100% accurate measure, don’t assume that this metric has no value. Pay attention to email open rate trends. Are your open rates trending up or down? Are some customer segmented lists performing better than others over time? Here are three elements that drive email open rates:

Targeted Email Lists: How well are you grouping customers together with similar interests and behaviors? If your list is a one-size-fits-all, be prepared for lower email open rates.

Compelling Subject Lines and Content: Do your subject lines motivate people to open your emails? Is the content contained in each email personalized and relevant? Know that even the best subject lines cannot overcome disappointing content. If customers come to doubt the value of the content they receive, they are much less likely to open future emails.

Email Frequency: How often do you communicate with your email lists? Over-communicating has a negative effect on email open rates even when the content and offers are consistently good.

In conclusion, open rates are not wholly accurate, but don’t dismiss them completely. Watch for open rate trends and consider how to improve the trend with segmented email lists, targeted email segmentation, and timely, relevant communications.

Your email open rates are trying to tell you something. Are you listening?

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Richard Cunningham

Richard Cunningham is a veteran of the software industry, serving in executive marketing roles with companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 100. As marketing vice president at Right On Interactive, Rich provides leadership for corporate marketing, lead generation, and product marketing. One of his passions is creating digital campaigns that produce sales-ready leads. Rich is also a voice-over talent, and is often heard as the voice of online “explainer videos.”

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