So, to the figures. Interestingly, at a very macro country level, the latest stats from IBM are worth checking out. The UK leads the rest of Europe by a country mile on open rates. The worst performers in the UK see open rates of nearly 11%, and in the rest of Europe nearly 7%. The average performers, however, see the lead narrow to one in four emails compared to one in five in Europe, and for top performers the lead narrows further to an open rate rate of nearly 43% compared to nearly 38%.
Clearly, the gap is tighter between email marketers doing the right thing in the UK and the rest of Europe, but at the bottom of the pile there is a 50% gap in performance, meaning that there are far more who are not bothering to hygiene check their lists and personalise than in the UK.
If you're wondering whether it could be this simple, it's worth checking out the latest eMarketer article on how personalisation has worked well in the UK. Among marketers who have embraced getting to know their customers better and serving up what they are most likely to want, open rates are up 82% and click-throughs are up by 75%. Nearly two in three of those marketers surveyed agreed that personalisation was either somewhat or extremely effective, compared to 4% who said it was not.
So there could well be other reasons why UK email marketers are performing better than their European counterparts, and those in the U.S. too, but personalisation would appear to be an obvious candidate if wider statistics are taken into account.
Interestingly, the IBM researchers make a very good point about Canada -- which now outperforms the UK, having previously lagged behind. New anti-spam rules, introduced from 2014, have seen the country's email marketers improve permissioning and personalisation to ensure they are sending out messages that customers engage with and do not get them into regulatory trouble. So it's not just the UK -- Canada has been showing how putting customers first can help boost engagement.
This obviously leads to a second huge question over EU email marketing. If the rest of Europe is trailing behind the UK, and personalisation is at least a major contender for the reason why, could there also be an issue over more consumers ignoring emails? Could customer sentiment toward branded emails be lower in the rest of Europe than the UK? If so, what will this mean as May 2018's GDPR deadline approaches and brands will need to show explicit permission to communicate with individuals? If they are being ignored now, as lower open rates would suggest, will there not be a larger impact in the rest of Europe when brands ask customers to sign up again to their email lists? i rather suspect there will be.
The UK has been thinking about itself, understandably, when it comes to GDPR -- but it looks like the rest of Europe is likely to have an issue on its hands. As repermissioning gets underway, they too will find that email lists start to shrink as being ignored moves to being rejected.