Open Rates: Friend or Foe?

Never a very reliable metric, open rates now tell us even less about the actual behavior of our email subscribers. With image suppression on as the default setting for the majority of email clients, tracking open rates with any accuracy is nearly impossible.

However, don’t use that as an excuse to ignore what sharply declining open rates are telling us! Open rates declined by an alarming 25% over the last year. At the same time, however, click through rates and conversions (e.g. to purchase) both rose over that same time period. That means we can’t entirely blame unreliable tracking.

The subscriber experience also plays a significant role. These days, inboxes are too crowded for any consumer or business professional to waste time reading irrelevant messages. Many of these subscribers become “inactive” – not bothering to unsubscribe or visit the preference center, but completely tuning out the email. As marketer files age, more and more of the total records are inactive.

The bottom line is that it’s never too early to start retaining your email subscribers. Ensure that your content is relevant and that you take advantage of targeting and segmentation strategies to trigger email that delights and engages your subscribers.

The key to retention is to consider all avenues available to you and use an integrated approach. Rather than rely on inaccurate measures like open rates, monitor success using metrics like conversion, website behavior, pass along, retention and response over time in addition to the results from content and offer strategy testing. Your subscribers have more control than ever, so it becomes essential to consider new ways to reach them in today’s marketplace. For new ideas to reach your customers, read our whitepaper: Customizing Marketing Efforts for a Content-on-Demand Culture.

(And, for a copy of our latest strategy brief on open rates, just email [email protected])

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