Silverpop recently released our annual email marketing metrics benchmark study, the sixth year we’ve done the report. The new study, which examines messages sent by more than 3,000 brands in 2013, aims to help marketers enhance their email marketing programs, increasing customer engagement and marketing ROI.
Traditionally, we’ve differentiated ourselves from other similar studies by going beyond standard “average” (mean) benchmarks and including breakdowns of data by top-quartile, median and bottom-quartile performers in addition to analysis by industry and geography. In a hypercompetitive landscape in which “average” has become the new bottom, these additional data points enable you to see how your email programs compare to the best and what goals you need to set to achieve these superior results.
This year, we wanted to take our study up another notch. So, for the first time, we also reported on transactional and automated messages, and the results were frequently eye-opening. Here are three key takeaways – and related tips – from our 2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study:
1) Transactional messages get opened and engaged with much more frequently.
It makes sense that transactional messages such as receipts, shipping confirmations or password resets would drive stronger results. Since these emails usually relate to an action the recipient took, they’re inherently important and valuable, so customers will naturally open and click them more often than a generic broadcast message.
But exactly how much more often? As it turns out, quite a bit. Transactional messages achieved a median click-through rate of 4.2 percent and click-to-open rate of 15.1 percent, compared to non-transactional messages at 1.5 and 9.9 percent, respectively. In addition, transactional emails were opened an average of almost four times each among top-quartile companies, tracking well above nontransactional messages:
Related Tip: Take advantage of the longer shelf life for transactional messages by creating well-designed, informative emails that add relevant copy, such as shipping dates, cross-sell or upsell suggestions, package tracking codes, etc., to transactional information. Just remember to understand the implications under CAN-SPAM and CASL when adding marketing content to transactional messages.
2) The performance gap between the top and bottom senders is growing.
If you’re not convinced that putting the energy and resources into moving the needle on your email marketing program is worth it, just check out the gap between top-quartile performers and the rest of the pack in our study. Especially on key metrics such as opens and clicks, which measure the all-important quality of engagement, the divide is startling.
Take click-to-open rate, which measures click-through rates as a percentage of messages opened instead of messages delivered. It’s one of my favorite metrics because it gauges how effectively the content, design and offers in your message are driving recipient clicks. Top-quartile performers in our study notched click-to-open rates more than triple the overall median rate and nearly 20 times the bottom quartile:
Related Tip: Many of the top marketers I’ve worked with or talked to have seen outstanding results by incorporating more automated, behavior-driven emails into their messaging mix. The study bears this out, with top performers tallying gaudy results on their automated messages: a 46 percent unique open rate and 14 percent click-through rate.
If you’re not sure what automated program to start with, consider a “quick win” program such as a happy birthday, purchase anniversary or cart abandonment program. These types of programs are small in terms of volume sent, but can drive huge results when it comes to revenue. (For more on the topic, watch my “3 Tips for Prioritizing Emails” video.)
3) Hard bounce rates are declining noticeably.
Silverpop doesn’t usually examine year-over-year results because the companies involved, practices deployed and email messages themselves change, so the data isn’t “apples to apples.” But in this case, the difference between 2012 and 2013 hard bounce rates is eye-popping enough to justify a mention.
The overall median hard-bounce rate in 2013 was just under 0.04 percent. That’s an enormous 95 percent decline from the previous year, when the median was 0.8 percent.
While some email experts might disagree, I believe the decrease in hard bounce rates signals that email marketers are taking list hygiene seriously. We’re now seeing the fruits of their efforts to remove hard bounces more often and faster from their active databases, to keep bad addresses from getting into their databases and to keep a closer eye on factors that affect sender reputation.
Related Tip: While hard bounce rates are plummeting, many marketers are finding that their subscriber acquisition efforts are not keeping up with overall subscriber churn. So, if you’ve solved your hard bounce issues, pat yourself on the back and look to further reduce churn by offering alternatives to unsubscribing.
Why is this critical? Many subscribers are actually looking for a way to update their email address, change frequency or revise preferences when they click “unsubscribe.” So while you want to make it simple and easy for subscribers to opt out, you also want to provide multiple alternatives for them to stay opted in.
If you’re interested in more email benchmark data and related insights, please download our “2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study.”
1) Ebook: “15 Post-Purchase Emails That Build Loyalty and Drive Revenue”
2) Blog: “5 Approaches to Minimizing Unsubscribes”
3) Ebook: “Print Money Today: 7 Emails Marketers Should Automate to Drive Massive ROI”