- Posted by Nigel Edelshain
- On September 28, 2012
So, you sent an email to your subscriber base, alerting them to a new product you think they’d be interested in.
After a week or so, you go to your email program to track the success of this campaign. You may be pleasantly surprised with an email open rate of 25 percent – after all, that is one percent higher than what the Direct Marketing Association says is the average open rate for B2B (business to business) email campaigns.
And, maybe you should feel pretty good about those results.
Except after you learn that email open rate statistics really don’t tell you how many of your recipients did actually open that email.
Technology & Human Behavior
What?? I know, I just said the metric was called an email “open rate.” If your email program says it was opened, who are you to argue? Actually, there are a number of technology-related factors and consumer behaviors that impact the “true” open rate.
Here are just a few that skew the open rate:
1. Many email programs use a small graphic, usually transparent, to track whether the email was opened. So if your email reader shows a preview pane as you scroll through your messages, you may not have actually opened, and therefore been influenced by, the message intended to get through to you as you automatically send it to the trash.
2. If your recipients are set to receive text only in their email program or personal digital assistant (BlackBerry, iPhone, Android, etc.), even if they open your email it won’t count toward your email open rate, lowering it overall. Some companies have firewalls that also block images from showing for security reasons.
3. Yet a third technology-related factor that will skew your open rates is the tendency of large companies to have groups of employees, if not the whole company, use one IP address (essentially, one “post office”) where emails get sent and then parsed out to the recipients. So, you may have sent 25 emails to 25 employees of Monolith Corporation A, and 24 of the 25 opened them, but you’ll show a 4% (1/25) open rate, rather than a 96% open rate.
What Can You Do?
Because of these and many more technological and human behavioral factors we didn’t get into here, the best way to use open rate as a metric is to do so over time. Benchmark your current performance and see how it behaves over a certain period.
To keep the variability to a minimum, try to track an email campaign (either a specific product or event promotion, an e-newsletter, not all of them, etc.) to a certain segment of people, at near the same time of day, day of the week, etc., and look at whether your open rate is trending up, down, or staying the same over time.