Commentary

Are Your Click-to-Open Rates On The Decline?

To plan and drive your email programs forward, it is critical to truly understand the metrics that have been the most meaningful to your programs’ successes. But we need to do more than reflect to position our email programs for future growth. We also need to start looking forward and projecting trends, which may indicate longer-term and more telling measures of success, like revenue.

Click-to-open rate (CTOR) is one of those forward-looking indicators. The CTOR helps brands understand the portion of subscribers that opened their email message and found the content interesting enough to click through. It also projects a reasonable expectation of conversion. If CTOR is down, it is a vast leap to conclude that revenue also may be down, especially if that behavior is exhibited as a consistent downward trend over time.

I recently spoke with many brands that are seeing depressed CTORs. They asked me what the cause of this trend is and how to combat it. While each of their cases is unique, still I'd say that a handful of the causes of their lower CTORs could also be affecting your email programs.

Mobile Opens
According to the Movable Ink Q4 US Consumer Device Preference report, 65% of email was opened either on a smartphone or tablet. (A trend that continues to climb.) However, many brands are not seeing a proportionate increase in click-through activity on those devices. This is largely because the email experience is not optimal for the devices. Taking a mobile-first approach to your email creative (especially if this is a trend that you too are seeing across your subscriber base) can help facilitate the click-through experience for your customers. And, don’t forget to optimize the mobile experience beyond the email click as well – if the shopping experience is negative the first time, subscribers may not click on your emails again.

Changes in Mailing Behavior
Any marked changes in your mailing behavior can also affect your CTOR. Are you sending less targeted email communications more often, rather than maintaining your targeting and segmentation approaches from a year ago? Or have you possibly *over* segmented your audience and are actually suppressing customers who may want to engage with your messages? These are both very real scenarios and should be considered to determine if they are contributing to decreased performance.

Sudden Changes in Creative
Has your creative, or your creative director changed? Has your company gone through a recent rebranding exercise? While creative tests are very effective in identifying the proper approach for your email’s layout and design, large, sudden changes to your creative could have a negative impact – with potentially long-term effects – on your email program performance. Examine the placement and usage of elements like your call-to-action, color treatments and pre-header space. Have those elements possibly “slipped” into less effective positions and usage? Have there been any other sudden changes lately?

The factors that are contributing to a negative change in your CTOR could be any combination of elements – new sources of less quality data, increased or reduced mailing frequency and cadence, diminished relevance… the list goes on. If you are seeing a change in CTOR, the first step to correct it is to verify that one of your leading indicators of program success, such as revenue, also shows negative performance. Then begin troubleshooting. After all, if you fail to recognize the downward trend of your CTOR to begin with, you won’t be able to affect your revenue or other key performance indicators.

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