Email Marketers Report Mixed Results, But Technology Is Helping Some: Study

Email marketers have issues. Less than a tenth are free of challenges, and over a third have open rates of 10% or lower, according to The State of Email Marketing, a study by Return Path and Demand Metric.

But some are making progress anyway. Demand Metric researcher John Follett states that among study participants with above-average open rates, “nearly three quarters report using technology that helps them preview email campaigns." 

Another key finding is that buying outside lists is counterproductive. Companies with below-average open rates are more than twice as likely to purchase email addresses for their list. This, in turn, is tied to sender reputation. 

“We’ve known for years that sender reputation is a fundamental part of email marketing success, and this study confirms that,” states said Tom Sather, senior director of research for Return Path. “Survey participants with above average open rates were 12 times more likely to have a Sender Score above 95, compared to those with below average open rates.” 

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He adds, “Unfortunately, our most recent Sender Score Benchmark shows that nearly two-thirds of email volume comes from senders with a Sender Score of 90 or below — so marketers still have a lot of work to do when it comes to reputation.”

Meanwhile, the study shows that revenue growth enjoyed a modest increase for 50%, and a significant one for 20%. But 18% report flat or no growth, 9% a modest decline and 3% a significant decline.

In addition, 36% say that their email effectiveness is improving slightly, and 37% that it’s holding steady. Only 8% feel it’s improving significantly, and 5% admit it’s declining significantly. 

That could be because some skill sets are in decline. For example, 64% see a decline in building brand awareness, and 74% in communicating with customers. 

As for open rates, 23% report rates of 11 to 15% and 18% from 6% to 10%. Another 16% achieve open rates 5% or less, and another 16% from 16% to 20%. Only 12% generate rates of over 25%.

Firms that generated significant revenue growth were twice as likely to cite revenue growth as an email objective. They also were more likely to pursue the following email objectives:

  • Communicate with customers — 76%
  • Communicate with prospects — 73%
  • Build brand awareness — 70%
  • Generate revenue — 52%
  • Capture data on subscriber — 29%

The most popular email marketing tactic is personalization, with 68% using it. This is followed by email list management (67%), subject line optimization (50%), A/B testing (39%), email deliverability optimization (36%) and reactivation campaign (25%). Multi-variate testing is pursued by only 12%).

So what are their challenges?

The top one — by far — is getting noticed in the mailbox. Here is the full list of hurdles:

  • Competition for attention in the inbox — 56%
  • Staffing/resource constraints — 41%
  • Poorly defined metrics — 26%
  • Low visibility into email performance — 26%
  • Email deliverability — 25%
  • Poor email performance — 24%
  • Limitations of email service provider — 21%
  • Lack of executive buy-in — 14%
  • We are not experiencing any email marketing challenges — 6%

Here are a couple of other findings:

  • The most successful email marketers show a greater understanding of subscriber preferences and behaviors.
  • Firms with revenue growth are more than twice as likely to monitor their competitors’ email marketing.

 

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