The Latest Email Benchmarks: How Do You Compare?
Email marketers love benchmarks. Of course, they aren't the only ones, but emailers have a special yen for the numbers because email marketing has so many ways you can use them to measure your success.
So, if numbers are your thing, I have a smorgasbord of them for you from my company's most recent email marketing benchmark analysis of 1,124 global brands for messages sent in 2011 and Q1 of 2012. We analyzed metrics by mean (average), median, top and bottom quartile, and I’ve included a sampling of average and top quartile metrics below:
1. Unique open rate
- Average: 20.1%
- Top 25%: 43.7%
2. Number of opens per opener
- Average: 1.79%
- Top 25%: 2.97%
The open rate is a slippery statistic, because image blocking can cause underreporting. Track this metric over time to spot trends up or down.
Give your emails a longer shelf life to improve the number of opens per opener. Besides your regular offer, include educational information or contact information that encourages subscribers to save your message.
3. Unique click-through rate
- Average: 5.2%
- Top 25%: 16.6%
4. Click-to-open rate
- Average: 19.3%
- Top 25%: 40.0%
I personally love the click-to-open rate (CTOR), as it tells marketers how effective their message content and design is at getting the recipient to take an action. With the explosion of mobile readership, simple design and obvious call-to-actions are going to be increasingly important.
5. Message size
- Average: 15 kilobytes
- Smallest 25%: 4.5 kilobytes
- Largest 25%: 30.5 kilobytes
Message size has historically not been much of an issue or challenge for email marketers, but in a world gone mobile, finding the balance of having enough content to maximize conversions and small message size for quick opens on mobile will be key.
6. Hard bounce rate
- Average: 2.1%
- Top 25%: 0.1%
7. Unsubscribe rate
- Average: 0.31%
- Top 25%: 0.02%
8. Complaint rate
- Average: 0.08%
- Top 25%: 0.00%
As with the open rate, the best use of the unsubscribe rate is by examining it over time for trends. An unsubscribe rate that increases over time, or that remains constant while spam complaints increase, likely signals subscriber discontent. Higher bounce or complaint rates probably mean you need to tighten up your list hygiene or acquisition practices.
Higher unsubscribes rates also indicate your message content doesn't meet subscriber needs or expectations, and you may need to adjust message frequency.
And the Winners for 'Top Performing Verticals' Are ...
- Consumer Software: 24.7% average open rate; 55.0% top quartile open rate
- Media & Publishing 8.9% click-through and 31.7% click-to-open rate
Interpreting Benchmarks More Effectively
Don't be satisfied if your numbers jive with your industry or vertical average. Remember my earlier column and mantra: "'Average' is the new bottom."
My point then and now is, do you really want to be satisfied with meeting or beating the average? "Average" doesn't help you make the case for a larger share of the marketing budget, or take your program to the next level.
Unlike "output" metrics like conversions or revenue per email, benchmarking doesn't measure how well the messages delivered on your campaign goals or how they contributed to your company's success.
It can, however, help you identify any weaknesses in content, message design, list hygiene and deliverability, especially if you track them over time.
Using Benchmarking to Underscore Two Improvement Strategies
Benchmarks are useless unless you put them to work to improve your email program. Below are two strategies to help you do that:
1. Identify the trouble spots. If your open rate is significantly beneath even the average, you're probably dealing with a largely inactive list. That could drive a decision to launch a re-engagement initiative or rethink your acquisition process.
2. Use the numbers to lobby for the additional budget resources you need to improve your program. Be sure to focus on the areas that have the greatest potential to help you achieve departmental or corporate goals, such as higher revenue, reduced expenses, more conversions or better customer retention.
Until next time, take it up a notch!