If you can double the number of people who hit “reply,” even if your overall open-rate goes down, what is the better metric? Part of the problem is with industry measures as well as the kind of email that people are sending. Gigantic retailers dominate by overall volume of email, but typically, they are not very good emailers. Looking at a total pie that is predominantly influenced by people who are doing weekly blasts of coupons or of special offers that aren’t very relevant, we need to drop back and say: “Okay, now tell me what happens when I add more data. Tell me what happens when I decrease my frequency for a certain segment of individuals and things like that,” and measure what you are really trying to accomplish â€” not measure open rates or clickthroughs as the total goal of success. Again, that’s an impression model left over from television, which, in our business, reeks of the dark ages.According to Eric Kirby, senior VP and general manager for email solutions at DoubleClick, the yardstick is actually shrinking and here’s why: over the past year, more and more email software clients have been adopting a feature that in many cases, by default, will block images from displaying in a message:
Given how we actually track opens in email (using uniquely-named, one-pixel images known as “web bugs”) the act of opening will not be visible to the email marketer if the request to load the “web bug” isn’t made. Previously, a display within the preview pane in Outlook would have counted as an open, as long as the recipient was online at the time. Today it won’t â€” assuming the recipient hasn’t changed that default setting in their new version of Outlook. ISPs and email software providers are adopting this feature because they figure that spam of a graphic nature wonâ€™t display, unless the user takes an action to display those messages. But in doing so, they simultaneously sabotage the marketer’s ability to measure campaign effectiveness. DoubleClick actually sees this downward trend in opens in data tracking quarter to quarter. Looking back over the past year of long-term trending data among a similar set of companies, they see slight declines occurring in email open rates. However, analysis indicates that it is being driven by the image-blocking phenomenon. The reason DoubleClick can say that is because other metrics that, over time, directly correlate with open rates, such as clickthrough rates, have actually maintained their performance levels.According to Eric, one other metric you probably want to be thinking about is purchase rates â€” because the only purchases we can directly, in most cases, attribute back to email are those that we can track back to a click from that email:
Most companies aren’t sophisticated enough to actually look at the multi-channel impact of their email messages, such as when, for example, an email campaign recipient goes in to a store and buys or opens up a catalog and buys over the phone. That isn’t being captured today in most cases in email metrics, which actually causes people to under-report or under-credit the impact of email in their overall marketing efforts.It’s surprising how few marketers are looking at trends. Even though the technology and the data are there, marketers aren’t utilizing them. Rok Hrastnik, author of Unleash the Marketing and Publishing Power of RSS, explains it well when he says that email tracking is really about trend-watching, rather than exactly pinpointing the actual and absolute numbers. The trends are enough to give us an impression of what works, what doesnâ€™t and what, in fact, makes the sale. In the end, that is the most important thing.