The availability of detailed real-time metrics is part of online marketing’s DNA. Email marketing is no exception. Suitable key performance indicators (KPIs) are as always essential tools for evaluating, controlling and optimizing the various online marketing channels.
Particularly interesting are all key figures that capture the engagement of users accurately, since their commitment is the key to sustainable ROI. User interactions are in general the basic prerequisite for achieving common online marketing goals: website visits, sales, registrations, downloads, webinar participation, survey participation, etc., which brings us to the three basic key figures for email engagement, namely:
- Opening rate: engagement = general interest
- CTR: engagement = concrete interest
- Log-out rate: engagement = end of interest
These three KPIs form the key data backbone of the email marketing channel that will unlikely change in the foreseeable future. As a matter of fact, even the simplest distribution systems can reliably measure these key figures and display them in time courses, but what’s important in these engagement key metrics is:
1. Not having considered bounce rates: Since bounces represent a technical state of temporary or permanent non-delivery and no interaction of the email recipient, bounce rates could be ignored in the context of email engagement viewing - unfortunately, bounce rates can increase because of high complaint rates.
2. Blurring in the measurement process: Measured figures are not exact, on the one hand due to limitations in the precision of the measuring methods, on the other hand due to a lack of standardization in the measuring method. For example, since tracking pixels are set by default for the measurement of the opening rate, the openings of newsletter recipients who read offline, just the text version of the newsletter or block images, cannot be measured. For some email clients, the tracking pixel is only loaded when it’s in the visible range. Thus, the registration of the opening depends on the size of the preview and display window as well as the position of the pixel in the HTML code. The fact is that there are more openings than can be measured.
3. Weaknesses in the expressiveness and interpretability of the key figures: When deleting an email, an opening is registered in many cases, since the email is often briefly clicked on before getting deleted. This will show part of the email and that way the tracking pixel in the preview window. The negative engagement "delete email" is therefore part of the positive key figure opening rate.
4. Limited comparability: Benchmark reports regularly publish trends and various averages (by country, industry, etc.) of these three basic engagement metrics. Unfortunately, these reports, which are often done with much diligence and attention to detail, have only limited significance due to several factors: The basis of the analysis is often the customer portfolio of an email delivery service provider; therefore, the average values reflect the target group of the provider. Large and small distributors are also lumped together, making it much harder to create relevant subject lines and content for 100,000 than for just 1,000 recipients. The business practices of distribution setup and selection are ignored in the average calculation. For example, a reasonably priced raffle can easily generate so many bad email addresses that as a result the open rate drops massively, as most new addresses are said to be more interested in the raffle than in the advertiser's products and services. On the other hand, deleting the non-reactors can eliminate most of the distribution list, but massively increase the open rate. Anyone who has sent re-opt-in campaigns during the GDPR implementation phase can confirm this with certainty.
5. Little interest in variance: It is astonishing that the discussion about metrics almost exclusively revolves around their averages and trends, and the dispersion of values around these averages hardly attracts any attention. For the assessment of optimization potential, it is valuable to know to what extent the measured key figures deviate from the average and why. For a sender with an average opening rate of 20%, it is important to know if perhaps half of the campaigns will regularly produce 10% and the other 30% open rate.
As you see, just common sense is needed to figure out the points that need some considerations.