Open Rate is a Journey, Not a Destination

 In Email Deliverability, Email Infrastructure

This article is about Panel 1 of the ForTheLoveOfEmails virtual email event. Here we talk about why the open rate is not the deciding factor for the success of your email campaigns.

A great campaign doesn't just end with great open rates. But for a long time, email marketers have considered an email campaign to be successful if the open rates were high.

In this panel discussion, we try to break that myth by discussing the real indicators of success for an email campaign.

For the discussion, we have:

  • Priya Patankar - Head of Communications, PhonePe
  • Anurag Mukherjee - Head of Technology, PT Matahari Department Store Tbk
  • Monique Schuldt - Email Marketing Specialist, Mindvalley
  • Tanishq Juneja - Global Product Marketing Head at Netcore, Co-founder & The Email Guy at Pepipost

Let's get right into the discussion.

What are some important metrics to track, apart from the open rate?

We start the conversation out by asking what are the important metrics that our guests track within their companies, to judge the success of their email campaigns.

Emails are the gold standard in reaching out to users personally and it is certainly important to know how many of the users actually open the email.

Open rate can be the first metric to track, but not the one to end with.

Each email needs a different tracking metric

Each campaign has an objective, and depending on the objective, the metrics need to be different.

Priya

For example, if an email's objective is to get people to try an app, the success of the campaign will be determined by understanding how soon does the email get the users to visit the application.

An important objective is to track user journeys. There's a lot that goes into inbox placement and deliverability of emails than simply sending the email out.

Inbox placement

This boils down to ensuring great inbox placement which is an important metric that Monique tracks for their email campaigns.

An email list needs to be targeted and segmented perfectly well to ensure superior inbox placement. Brands have to understand when a user subscribed and at what point they unsubscribe.

If a pattern repeats multiple times, it tells us that something needs to be changed in the way the emails are sent.

Deliverability is important. If the email isn't delivered, all other metrics fall apart because the user never saw the email.

Tanishq

Click through rates and bounce-rates

The next important metric is click-throughs. And after the click happens, what is the bounce rate.

These two metrics according to Anurag dictate the success of their campaigns at Matahari. If the click through rates are high, but the bounce rates are high as well, the website or the landing pages need modification.

What compelled a user to click through from the email, didn't continue on the landing pages. And we need to ensure that the excitement or the eagerness of the customer stays throughout the purchase.

What stage are your users at?

The goals and metrics of the campaigns are majorly dictated not by the absolute numbers but by where your users are, and what you want them to do.

If a user has never purchased from your brand, the important task is going to be converting them into a buyer first. The metrics for campaigns that are run for these users are conversions.

But for those who have already purchased once, we need to ensure that the buyer continues to stay loyal to the brand and enjoys their future purchases from your brand.

Suggested read: Second purchase rate

So the metric here is engagement and loyalty, than simply focusing on conversion.

You also need to know what your users want or would like.

You can't sell motor insurance to a person who doesn't own a vehicle. That won't happen. And if you push it too much, you might end up in the spam folder.

Now, we aren't ruling out open rates, let's move to the next question.

What factors influence the open rate of emails?

There are many factors that can affect the open rate of any email campaign that is sent out. So we asked our guests about some of the factors that they consider for their campaigns.

The answers shared offer some interesting insights into how we can influence the email open rate over time.

1. Composition of the list

Monique Schuldt: Lists need to include people who are actually interested in receiving your emails. Apart from that, you also need to know how many of those are interested in your emails and have actively engaged with those emails in the past few months.

You cannot continue to send out emails to unengaged contacts. So always maintain a clean list.

2. Geolocation of the user

Monique Schuldt: A targeted campaign needs to be relevant to the location that the customer is in. If a campaign from New York is sent out to a user in London, it won't make any sense to the reader and will be ignored.

3. Distribution of Mailbox Service Providers

According to our benchmark report, Gmail dominates world email volumes with 72% emails landing in Gmail inboxes. And with Gmail's additions of tabs, people have more flexibility in filtering out emails.

Monique Schuldt: Depending on the distribution, your emails may need to go through some strict email filtering systems at Gmail and Outlook. If you land in the Primary tab of Gmail, the probability of someone opening the email is much higher than if your email lands in another tab.

4. Sender reputation

Monique Schuldt: Sender reputation is an indication by Gmail of your sending practices. Whether they are good or bad, is up to you. Because a brilliant email campaign will never reach your customers if your sending reputation is low and gets filtered out as spam.

5. Age and stage of the customer journey

Priya Patankar:How long has a customer been your customer, and at what stage they are in the buying process will decide which emails they interact with and which ones they ignore.

If you can divide the user according to their customer lifecycle stage then targeting them with the right campaigns becomes easier.

6. Timing of the email

Priya Patankar: The timing of your email can also be a major factor in deciding how high your open rate is. Sending out an email when the user is most likely to be active is the best way to ensure that your emails are opened by most people.

There's no point in sending out an email campaign when the users are likely to be busy, or are not interested in checking their emails. It’s not easy to keep a track of the schedules of your users. 

At Pepipost, you can leverage AI-based Send Time Optimization (STO) to automatically send emails at the best times for individual users. It looks at the historical data to find when a user is likely to interact, and sends individual emails based on those times. 

For example, offers and discounts on food work the best right before lunchtime!

7. Is the campaign useful to your customers?

Priya Patankar: A campaign that's meant only for the promotion of the brand is not going to be useful to your users. PhonePe tried a campaign right after the COVID lockdown to help their users and was recorded as one of their most shared email campaigns.

They identified that the users were looking for shops that would continue to stay open during the lockdown for the bare essentials items like food and groceries.

PhonePe surveyed all the shop owners and made a list of phone numbers and addresses of shops that will continue to stay open. They then mapped those numbers and addresses on the map and added the feature to their PhonePe application.

This, even though it did not directly promote the brand, helped the brand reach a lot more people than a promotional campaign would have.

8. Personalization and knowing your customers

Anurag Mukherjee: Knowing your customers is very important in terms of getting higher open rates. A personalized email needs to be really personalized, from the subject line to the end of the email. 

Because when a person opens an email with a personalized subject line, they’re expecting the email to contain something of value to them. If it doesn’t contain anything valuable, they go back and never view the email again.

What is the one metric that email marketers should follow?

Metrics are going to be different for different industries. So we asked our guests from the different industry sectors to tell us what metrics they'd like to track.

  • Anurag - For Matahari Retail stores, they observed that the best way to ensure the success of their email campaigns was by tracking click-through, and conversions
  • Priya - For PhonePe, they wanted their email campaigns to be great! Their success lied in having their emails retained for a long time.
  • Monique - At MindValley, they focused more on the deliverability and inbox placement of their email which took priority above other metrics

Final words...

After decades of use, email continues to dominate personalized marketing to a large extent. But the metrics that mattered have changed. Where open rate was the major success indicator, many marketers have now moved away from the same.

Depending on how your business operates, the metrics that indicate campaign success will be different. As we saw, retail stores like Matahari found that click-throughs and conversion were probably the best indicators of success for them.

While a SaaS payment gateway company wanted its customers to stay with them for a long time.

For edTech platforms like Mindvalley, reaching customers and showing up in inboxes is what measures higher success as their external marketing will reinforce the brand image in its customers' minds

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