E-mail marketing: alive and kicking

By Joris Heijltjes

“Joris, this is your last chance to have a great holiday in Greece!” We’ve all received e-mails that try to persuade us to open them with an attention-grabbing, personalised subject line. But are they effective? Is e-mail marketing effective at all?

For the second consecutive year we conducted the research and data analytics for the Dutch E-mail Benchmark as published by DDMA (Data Driven Marketing Association) in June 2017. Seven E-mail Service Providers (ESP’s) handed in their 2016 data of 2,901 companies divided into 25 industries. On average these ESP’s sent over 500 campaigns representing almost 13m e-mails per day, bringing the total number of analysed campaigns on 185 thousand, representing 4.7bn e-mails over the year 2016. Given the breadth of industries and the number of e-mails analysed we consider the dataset as a representative or at least meaningful sample of the entire population of companies who use e-mail for their B2C and B2B campaigns in The Netherlands.

It isn’t always clear to recipients, but marketeers spend a lot of time and energy developing strategies to improve return on advertising spending and other KPIs. You’d expect that by now, companies would have learned to use e-mails effectively in advertising campaigns. We analysed 4.7bn e-mails this year and found that the number of people who opened an e-mail divided by the total number of successfully delivered e-mails (COR) has increased from 35.2% to 37.5%. That’s the good news. The bad news is that we’re still no good at persuading people to click on a link. The number of link clicks divided by the total number of successfully delivered e-mails (CTR) fell slightly, from 7.0% to 6.9%. Why is that? Has the quality of our e-mails declined, are people more selective, have our measurements changed – or is something else going on?

One could argue that people are becoming more selective, since fewer recipients heed the call to action and click on links in opened e-mails. However, I believe that the way we measure “opens” has an important impact on the KPIs. E-mails are considered opened when images are loaded. Because more e-mail clients automatically load images from trusted senders, even if the recipient hasn’t actually opened the message, the open rate appears higher and, logically enough, the CTR and CTO are lower. 

Whatever the exact reason, e-mail is still one of the most effective ways to reach target audiences – provided you adhere to the following do’s and don’ts:

1.    Keep the campaign size small. A smaller campaign size (up to about 10,000 recipients) has a positive impact on number of e-mail opens and CTR.

2.    Send the e-mail at the end of the day. Campaigns sent between 4pm and 9pm generally have a positive impact on COR and CTR.

3.    Limit the number of campaigns. Companies that send 1 to 10 campaigns per year have higher than average ratios.

4.    Send the e-mail on Saturday. E-mails sent on Saturdays are 0.6ppt higher than average in CTR. 

5.    Use techniques. Dynamic content, personalised subject lines and responsive design will improve most ratios. Dynamic content has an especially significant impact, with an increase of up to 3ppt on mobile clicks.

Let’s stick to these do’s and don’ts and see whether we can improve this year’s figures! The complete Dutch text of the E-mail Benchmark can be downloaded for free at: www.nationaleemailbenchmark.nl   

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Joris Heijltjes
Senior Manager
Tel: +31 (0)88 792 10 73
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