Marketing Email Open Rates Jump

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Email open rates are on the rise as companies continue to engage with email clients more frequently through their mobile devices, according to a report released by Epsilon, which delivers direct-to-consumer connections to drive business performance.

The "Q1 2013 North America Email Trends and Benchmarks" report shows that the email nonbounce rate remains strong, at 96.4 percent, meaning that almost all marketing email is reaching its intended targets. Open rates increased by 13.5 percent from the previous quarter, and 18.6 percent from the same time last year, resulting in an overall open rate of 31.1 percent. Click rates increased as well, and have reached about 5.1 percent.

"This is a notable increase," Judy Loschen, vice president of digital analytics at Epsilon, says. "We expect to continue to see increased open rates as more consumers check email and manage their inboxes...via mobile phones and tablets."

Loschen says the increase in click rates "suggests that more marketers are recognizing their consumers' mobile behaviors and preferences and are focusing on optimizing their email creative and content for the mobile Web."

Triggered messages, which account for only 3.3 percent of the email volume, performed better than business-as-usual (BAU) counterparts overall. Open rates were 60.8 percent higher, and click rates were 116.9 percent higher.

"Triggered emails often outperform their [BAU] counterparts because they're deployed based on an action the consumer has taken or milestone they've identified," Loschen explains.

The study also found that in the first quarter of this year, there was an even more significant increase in triggered email click rates when compared to BAU than previous studies. Nearly every industry category analyzed had a lift—from 70 percent up to 442 percent.

"Triggered emails are an optimal means to continuously connect with consumers where and when they are attentive and ready to hear from your brand," Loschen says.

An overall email activity segmentation analysis also revealed that half of an average email file had at least one open or click during the 12-month study period, but as many as 61.5 percent of new subscribers had zero opens or clicks.

Despite the impressive numbers, marketers worry that the success is only temporary as email providers restructure the way promotional email is delivered. Gmail recently introduced a new inbox system that automatically sorts users' email into categories including primary, social, and promotions, the latter being where most marketing messages will likely end up.

"My sense is that Gmail wants all marketing email to go to the Promotions tab," MailChimp's Matthew Grove wrote in a company blog, suggesting that this change could lead to a decline in open rates for communications like email newsletters. "For marketers...trying to establish a personal relationship with their customers, this change can be frustrating," he wrote.

And while Gmail, at least for now, is allowing users to revert back to their old mailbox format, marketers worry that it won't be long before the transition is mandatory. According to Grove, the rate at which Gmail users opened marketing email sent via his company's service was 13 percent or higher for a typical weekday before the new feature was introduced. A week after it debuted, open rates were lower than 12.5 percent.

Though the shift isn't dramatic, Grove says, it is an unfortunate sign of things to come, especially given that, at the time this article was written, many Gmail users haven't adopted the new mailbox yet.

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