The Truths Your Email Metrics Don't Reveal

When you read the latest email statistic as it comes through your news feed each day, it conjures up an image of the consumer behavior the data point depicts. For example, when you read that 70% of big brands’ opens in March occurred on mobile devices, is it not inevitable that your mind creates an image of a person (dressed exactly the way you picture your ideal customer) peering intently at a mobile phone with the very expression that your last message was crafted to elicit? Also, he’s standing. My imaginary mobile consumers are always standing.

The same thing happens when we examine our own analytics. We read a 44% open rate and the shortcut that our minds create is that we’ve “reached” half our audience. Intellectually we are able to step back and spot the shortcomings in our data and in the leap we just made, but since no verifiably accurate story of what is really happening is available, we suspend disbelief. When we all collectively take the same shortcuts, suddenly the shortcuts become the main road. And if we’re all on the main road, we can’t possibly get lost, right?



What email metrics, then, can we trust to tell us the truth? Are there any that aren’t disingenuous? The only ones I’ve been able to identify don’t exist yet:

Eye Rolls per Recipient: Maybe someone does love your brand, but does anyone need to be reminded to buy a new pair of skinny jeans every day?

Mobile Ignoreship: Yes, I opened your message on my mobile device. No, I'm not engaged because I only pay attention to work emails on my phone during the day. Also, I check my mail compulsively every 30 seconds, so even though I opened your message immediately, it's not your brand I’m engaged with; it's my phone that I find irresistible.

Butt Clicks: It was very thoughtful of you to make that call-to-action button large enough to click with my 45-pixel finger. But that click you’re taking credit for happened when the phone was in my pocket.

Unsubscribe Exasperation Quotient: I tried to find the unsubscribe link, but you artfully disguised it at the bottom of the message in a low-contrast color and by highlighting the word "the" instead of "unsubscribe." It took me less time to set up a filter in my inbox to banish your messages heretofore to my purgatory folder. If you find a way out, I'll hit the spam button. Try me.

Coincidental ROI: I was actually going to visit your site anyway to buy another pair of skinny jeans, as much in spite of your emails as because of them. I clicked on the link in the email that takes me to clearance-priced goose-down parkas because I had a Dr. Pepper in my hand making clicking easier than typing. You might attribute the sale to email, but I sure don't.

False Positive Behavior: Also, please don't assume I want to buy clearance-priced goose-down parkas for the next six months straight.

Mobile Geo-Engagement Continuum: I might be using my phone to read an email you sent with a coupon to my local store, or I might be sitting in a meeting, bored, and about to delete your message. But I might be deleting it because I know it's still on my computer, where I'll print it out and take it to the store because I don't have confidence that your sales associate will honor a picture of the coupon on the screen of my my iDevice. But if she does, I’ll give my iDevice to my friend to score the coupon, too.

I love data as much as the next marketer. I love my kids too, but that doesn’t mean I believe everything they tell me.

5 comments about "The Truths Your Email Metrics Don't Reveal".
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  1. Darrin Searancke from Halifax Chronicle Herald, May 1, 2013 at 11:52 a.m.

    Ha! Thanks Mike,
    Really enjoyed both the humour and the painfully obvious logic in this article.

  2. Nick Cavarra from Quigley Simpson, May 1, 2013 at 12:14 p.m.

    Very fun and funny article. Spot on! Thanks for posting.

  3. alex bernardin from san francisco aids foundation, May 1, 2013 at 3:08 p.m.

    Loved this!! Thanks for giving me a good read this morning :-)

  4. Chuck Lantz from, network, May 1, 2013 at 5:20 p.m.

    "False Positive Behavior: Also, please don't assume I want to buy clearance-priced goose-down parkas for the next six months straight."

    Laughed so hard I almost choked. Bulls-eye!!

  5. Pete Austin from Fresh Relevance, May 2, 2013 at 5:09 a.m.

    All of these are symptoms of marketers trying to target/personalise email marketing based on the tiny amount of information that they get from clicks and opens on emails. They could do a much better job, if only there was a company that could let them easily use the vastly greater amount of information from shopper behavior in their online store. Oh wait...

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