Silverpop - How to Measure Email Marketing Performance in a Mobile-Obsessed World
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How to Measure Email Marketing Performance in a Mobile-Obsessed World

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by: Adam Steinberg (@adams472)
05 November 2014

An email open isn’t worth what it once was. Savvy marketers have long known that clicks are a more telling indicator of engagement, and in today’s always-on mobile world, this is truer than ever. People are constantly scanning through their inboxes, swiping open emails to quickly skim email content. What happens when an email isn’t compelling? It’s deleted even faster. What’s the net? More people may be opening your emails and skimming them, but fewer are actually reading your emails.

The Challenge

Many digital marketers look at the number of opens, or open rate, as a key measure of email campaign success. Yet in a mobile world of users constantly swiping through email, this metric is no longer as relevant.

Background: If you’re not familiar with the “email open” metric, it’s typically recorded whenever a user opens an email and enables images within that email. However, many email clients automatically display images now.

For example, iPhone/iPad email clients, and most Android clients, automatically display images. And recently, Gmail began enabling images for all users.

As a result, when users skim through their inboxes on their mobile devices, almost all emails will have images loaded. Your email metrics will reports those “skims” as opens. In these situations, an email open is no different whether the user instantly deleted the email, clicked on it, or read it word for word three times over.

So, with “email opens” being less indicative of email performance than in the past, how do you measure the success of your email-marketing campaigns? 

Here are three metrics that can complement email opens and offer greater insight into your campaign performance.

1) Click-Through Rate

Click rate is still a reliable metric. After all, most emails are sent to drive conversions, and typically an email will request the user to click on a link to complete an action on a website or mobile application.

As reported in Silverpop’s “2014 Email Marketing Benchmark Study,” the mean click-through rate is 3.6 percent. Doing better than 3.6 percent? Congratulations, your content is engaging and compelling your readers to take action. Less than 3.6 percent? You may be registering a lot of mobile “skim” opens, but your content is failing to drive clicks and conversions.

2) Click-to-Open Rate

As Silverpop’s Loren McDonald advocates, the click-to-open rate (CTOR) provides insight into exactly how effectively your email content drives engagement. CTOR measures how well your emails drive action among those recipients that open your email.

Is your CTOR significantly less on mobile devices than on desktop opens? If so, it may be time to implement responsive design or simplify your calls to action.

3) Engagement Rate

An email open is great, but only if the recipient actually reads the email content. Enter engagement rate, which measures how long recipients read your emails based on the time differential between when an email registers as opened and when the user exits that email.

Do recipients, on average, read your emails for three seconds, six seconds, 10 seconds?  Anything fewer than two seconds should be considered a case where a recipient opened your email and instantly deleted it. What you really want is people reading your email for at least six seconds. This is indicative that a recipient at least viewed part of your email content.

With smartphones and tablets becoming more widely used every day, the metrics we use to measure campaign performance must also evolve. Relying more heavily on click-through rate, click-to-open rate and engagement rate to measure campaign success can help you more accurately gauge your marketing programs’ effectiveness.

Related Resources:

1) Ebook: “Ultimate Guide to Assessing Your Digital Marketing Program

2) Blog: “Email and Smartphones: Tips for Closing the Conversion Gap

3) White Paper: “2014 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study


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