Email marketing trends: Bounce rates drop 95% with rise of ‘list hygiene’

12/06/2014

The average open rate for emails is 17.1% but the number of emails sent to extinct addresses has fallen dramatically as marketers and automation tools take more care to clean their lists, according to new research.

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Image source: Silverpop

The study, from Silverpop, the digital marketing software company recently acquired by IBM, found that these so-called ‘hard bounces were down to less than 0.04%, a 95% drop from last year.

The study, which examined emails sent from some 3,000 of its client brands across 40 countries, placed overall median unsubscribe rates around 0.28%.

“Marketers have finally crossed the chasm. It's not just email marketers talking about list hygiene anymore,” says Loren McDonald, VP of industry relations at Silverpop and author of the study. “Marketing executives are now demanding that their teams take care of deliverability issue. That's part of the reason list churn declined so much this year.”

The overall median open rate for emails was 17.1%, but transactional emails such as order confirmations or shipping updates saw a median open rate of 38.5% across all countries and industries.

The top 25% of all email marketers experienced at least a 65.7% open rate on transactional emails.

“Typically transaction emails are triggered, or close to real time. Consumers expect, even hope for, these emails. You cant get any more relevant,” McDonald added. “There's a huge opportunity here to increase engagement by adding dynamic content like recommendations to transactional emails. Most companies have recommendation technology in place and they can easily integrate.”

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Image source: Silverpop

Commenting on placing too much importance on open rates, McDonald warned: “The fact that somebody opens an email is not ultimately helpful in determining the success of an email program. You can artificially inflate opens,”

For example, some email clients automatically download images, generating an open even though the recipient may actually delete an email before "opening" it.

Many marketers focus instead on click-through rates, which more directly indicate engagement with messages. The overall median click-through rate during the study period was 1.5%, with consumer services (2.3%), healthcare (2.6%), and real estate (2.8%) leading the field. “Click-through is a clear demonstration of interest, but not much better than opens in terms of measuring conversions and output,” McDonald says.

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Image source: Silverpop

For a more clear picture of output, McDonald recommends tracking the click-to-open rate (CTO). “CTO takes people who already opened the message and tracks what percentage of them actually clicked a link. It's a more diagnostic metric,” he explains. “CTO helps isolate the content within an email. It helps us understand problems with design, where links are located, are we responsive, etc.” The overall median CTO rate was 10%; highest in European and Asian countries (12.2%), and lowest in Canada (4.8%).

“Each of these metrics have a role,” McDonald says, “but you have to think of them differently and use them differently.”

Sector breakdown- Travel and media lags

In terms of sector, Industry-wise, Healthcare leads the way with 26.2% mean, unique open rate. Education, Consumer Services, and Non-profits all show better than a 25% open rate. Silverpop says this is likely because these industries are more about information than promotion.

On the bottom is Travel and Leisure with only 15%, Media and Publishing at 16.69% and Retail at 20.9%.

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