After all the work in creating the email campaign you might feel that you are entitled to a bit of rest and recuperation and the local is your well earned destination. But you would be wrong.
In any argument with regard to the benefits of email marketing compared to the use of post, once the subject of measurement arises, the dispute is over. Measurements in themselves are of little value unless they are interpreted, the conclusions used to modify the current email campaign and considered when planning subsequent ones, whether these are for collecting email addresses or of selling goods or services.
Before interpretation of the figures can be considered, the life of an email when used in a direct email marketing campaign needs to be understood. There are set stages once it is sent.
In reaches the recipient’s inbox
It is opened
The offer is viewed
It is acted upon
The calculation of percentages of each stage as compared to previous email campaigns and the baseline – how many emails were sent for this campaign.
It has to be accepted that a number of emails will not be received. The percentage of returned emails, sometimes called bounces, is the attrition rate. It is a simple calculation: number of bounces as a percentage of the number sent.
There are two kinds of bounces: hard and soft.
Soft bounces are due to problems with the recipient’s email server and are of no real concern. Most email clients will continue to resend the email until it is successfully received or until it becomes a hard bounce.
Hard bounces are more of a problem as they indicate that the address does not exist.
Email addresses have a life expectancy. Retail customers tend to keep one email address for an extended period but research has shown that in the case of B2B the time is considerably shorter. Promotion, reorganisation, rationalisation and such make the change of email address quite common. Research is inconclusive as to annual rates but 20% seems a reasonable estimate.
Hard bounces can be a temporary phenomenon, especially with B2B. A reorganisation might well have coincided with your time of posting and the email client could well be low on their list of priorities. So it is well worthwhile sending the email a couple of further times although after three hard bounces it is best, perhaps, to face the inevitable.
If you have a postal address for the person then, if your product merits the investment in time, a letter or postcard might well prove productive.
Hard bounces might be caused by incorrect addressing. Again, how much time you are willing to invest in this is a consideration but an incorrectly placed full-stop is easy enough to see and easy enough to correct. Remember that once you have deleted that email address it is gone forever. Such problems indicate that your data entry system needs assessing.
What is an acceptable rate of attrition depends to a certain extent on how you came by the email addresses. If it was a bought-in list then the bounce rate should be compared to that which was mentioned at the time of purchase.
With html emails it can be ascertained whether a certain graphic has been downloaded. The calculation as to the open rate is simple enough: emails opened as a percentage of the emails sent minus permanent bounces.
In this country most recipients have preview panes and it is felt that this increases the open rate as the customer can, to a certain extent, asses the content before deleting. It should be remembered, however, that many preview panes do not show images as default. Further, many email clients block images in order not to notify tracking software that the email address is ‘live’.
There is no acceptable rate of opening, no universal percentage whereby you can go down the pub satisfied with your efforts. So you can experience difficulty in calculating whether the creative aspect your email was a classic of the art of merely a classic of its kind.
Various authorities quote opening rates of between 10-30 per cent as acceptable but it has to be accepted that a factor of three tends to indicate that there will never be an evidenced figure. Bought-in lists, for instance, have a lower opening rate than many other sources of email addresses and although many suppliers can arrange more targeting, this will be reflected in the price.
You might spend hours dissecting the email only to realise later that for B2B 4pm on a Friday is not the best time to send them.
This is the vital statistic. It indicates the effectiveness of the email design.
The recipient has shown enough interest to read the email. This can be considered to be the same as a passer-by looking in through a shop window, examining the display and then coming into the shop to find out more. The biggest hurdle has been overcome.
Whilst a reluctance to click-through can indicate a lack of targeting of the email itself, it is much more likely that the problem lies with the creative side. The recipient has, metaphorically, strolled around your shelves, picked up and item or two to examine, then replaced them and left your shop.
Calculating the click-through rate can be complicated if there is more than one offer, or dedicated hotlink, on the email.
The landing page, or pages, will have some function built into it. This might be, for instance, a subscribe mechanism for your newsletter, the request for a catalogue or a purchase. It could also include an alternative offer, such as a request for further information. Most will contain a form, an application, which includes the request for an email address, the ultimate goal. So it can be appreciated that the conversion rate is the ultimate figure. Here we have the measure of the campaign: the collection of addresses for direct email marketing.
It is, unfortunately, not quite that simple. There is not just one conversion rate. If you were trying to sell your company’s methods you would, of course, quote the percentage of conversions to click-through, this being the highest figure. But there are others.
The percentage of conversion to the emails sent, minus the hard bounces, might be seen as the more applicable if you are funding the campaign.
You might have included on your landing page a system to collect postal addresses for, perhaps, catalogue delivery, or even a free sample of the scent you are trying to sell. This can be seen as a failure of the campaign but is at least a lead and open to development.
Statistics in themselves are of little use. They must be used. But therein lies a problem. They need interpreting and then must be acted upon.