Edinburgh Web Development

Email marketing open statistics down?

by Iain Wilson

18 July 2011

Have you noticed a reduction in the number of 'opens' that your email marketing campaign statistics are producing?

When it comes to marketing in general and email marketing in particular, statistics can play a major part in telling you what's working and what isn't. In addition to our own monthly newsletter, we administer and send out campaigns for a range of clients and over the last 12 months, we've noticed a common trend - the number of 'opens' appears to have fallen.

email marketing statisticsNow, you might be thinking this must be caused by the economic downturn or perhaps people getting tired of too many marketing emails, and all things being equal you might be right. But two things indicate that may not be the case at all.

First, the number of clickthroughs for the campaigns (areas in the email where people can click to get further information on a feature) has, in general, remained steady and in many cases increased, so it appears people are in general still finding the emails interesting and/or useful.

Secondly, email client programs have made a significant change that impact the way 'opens' can be sensed and therefore counted. The email marketing services add a reference to tiny image to each email that is sent out. Each time an email is viewed, the image is viewed and that view can be counted. Now, most email programs these days have an option to not show images (indeed, sometimes this is the default setting). If images are not shown, when the email is opened the tiny image cannot be loaded and the email 'open' will not be recorded.

To take this a step further, we tried an little experiment. We sent out a test email to 40 subscribers. The subject of the email was social and of interest to all the subscribers. The 'open' statistics indicated that the email had been opened by 23 people - an open rate of 58%. However, the email asked each subscriber to respond to the email and the responses counted 38. So at least 38 (95%) of subscribers must have opened the email and indicates that in this case, the open statistics from the email marketing service were almost 40% out!

Now, although your open statistics may not be accurate, they can still be very useful. Your open stats will be worthwhile when compared relative to successive emails. So, your open percentage for your last email is more than the last one, you should be able to say with some certainty that the email was more successful.

So the lesson is - don't interpret the 'open' stats as exact numbers, just as a measure compared with previous email campaigns!

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