To the all-important statistics and first, the good news. In Q4 2016, according to Experian, the volume of email rose by 14% compared to the corresponding period in the year before. You would imagine that with all the talk of overloaded inboxes and people setting up accounts specifically to handle that volume, this would lead to a lack of engagement. Swamped people would just look away. Actually, no -- open rates remained pretty constant but when people opened their emails, they did more with them.
Now, we often talk about hygiene metrics in email, so let's cut straight to the chase here. Transaction-to-click rates were up 10% on last year, at 4.1% compared to 3.6%, and order values were up $10 per average order. On the downside, unsubscribe rates rocketed from 0.09% to 0.1%, and bounce rates were up from 1.9% to 2.5%.
So what are we to make of these figures, which seem to tell two stories? On the one hand we have people transacting more frequently and spending more. On the other we have an increase in unsubscribes and bounce rate.
I suspect that all the things we are talking about in email marketing are borne out by these figures. First, on the down side, people are setting up new accounts so they can have an "offers" address for branded email. This could well be accompanied by some old email addresses being closed down while a new, fresh address is set up for a clutter-free inbox. Those cluttered inboxes are also prompting more people to spring clean who can send email to them -- hence the rise in unsubscribes.
To be honest, this is probably a blessing in disguise because it is taking away the people who are less keen on email marketing and leaving those who are more engaged. Hence, transaction rates are up as well as basket values. That surely must mean that -- perhaps ironically -- people who don't want to be emailed are switching off accounts at exactly the time when email marketers start delivering better, more personalised offers.
So some disengaged consumers are switching off. It's no big deal because those who remain are clicking more, they're spending more frequently and their basket sizes are on the up. A blessing in disguise, surely?