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Email Flip or Flop?

Like it or not, email is still the go-to, tried-and-true, best-all-around channel for digital marketing. That’s why we’re all firing off emails for every sale, event, promotion, holiday and Wednesday that comes along. But are we succeeding? Is there more we should be doing to get our email recipients to actually take action when they see our emails? Or are we already doing too much? How should we measure our email campaign successes (and failures)?

There are a million ways to slice and dice campaign metrics, but here’s our take on how to benchmark your email performance.

Not All Metrics Are Created Equal
First things first: There are two important variables to consider when looking at email benchmarks. One is your industry. Some industries have notoriously bad email performance rates compared with others. For example, retail and media publishing are the two industries with the lowest mean unique open rates. Comparing email metrics apples to apples may be impossible, but at least compare red delicious to honeycrisp by looking at benchmarks within your industry. The second variable is organization size. Bigger businesses are going to have more strategic and creative resources working on their email campaigns. As a result, they’re also going to have higher response rates. Try to focus on benchmarks from similar-sized organizations to get a more accurate comparison of performance.

Benchmark Basics
Here are some basic email benchmarks. When analyzing your own campaigns, remember to look at benchmarks by industry and organization size as well.

Unique Open Rate
• What it is: The number of unique recipients who opened your email divided by the total number of emails delivered
• Average companies: 10-15 percent
• Top performers: 16-20 percent

How to Improve:
1) Send more targeted communications.
2) Change your “from” name to one your recipients will recognize.
3) Optimize your subject lines.

Click-Through Rate
• What it is: The total number of clicks divided by the total number of emails delivered
• Average companies: 2.1-5 percent
• Top performers: 5.1-10 percent

How to Improve:
1) Move calls-to-action (CTAs) up higher in the email.
2) Test different types of links (image vs. button vs. text) to see what generates the most clicks.

Click-to-Open Rate
• What it is: The total number of clicks divided by the total number of opens
• Average companies: 11-15 percent
• Top performers: 16-20 percent

How to Improve:
1) Test the color and wording of your CTA buttons.
2) Try offering limited-time deals to encourage clicks.

Bounce Rate
• What it is: The number of emails that do not deliver because an email address is bad, an inbox is full, an email server is down, your email exceeded the size limit, etc.
• Average companies: 2.1-5.0 percent
• Top performers: < 2 percent

How to Improve:
1) Remove any recipients who are hard bounces from your email sends.
2) Remove soft bounces after five failed sends.
3) Provide a way for recipients to easily update email addresses and preferences.

Unsubscribe Rate
• What it is: The number of recipients who ask to be removed from your email list after each send
• Average companies: 0.11-0.2 percent
• Top performers: < 0.1 percent

How to Improve:
1) Deliver high-quality, targeted content.
2) Don’t inundate your contacts with unnecessary email communications.

Of course, none of these metrics tell your CEO, CFO or CMO what he or she really wants to know: How are all these emails impacting the bottom line? Is email a viable tool to build our pipeline? How many recipients clicked on this email and bought something from us? How many printed the coupon and used it in-store?

These ROI metrics are critically important when evaluating the success of your email campaigns. And it’s much easier to track direct revenue for some types of businesses than it is for others. Work with your marketing strategy team to determine the best way to track email ROI for your organization based on your unique industry and what you’re trying to sell.