eNews Statistics

Email marketing, done correctly, can help you evaluation the progress and success of your mail campaigns. By evaluating your email campaign statistics, these can help you understand your client base and perhaps suggest areas to explore that may improve your email campaigns.

Heard the saying "never judge a book by it's cover"? Well, here's where email campaign statistics only really tell you part of the story. Relying too much on actual numbers, or what the statistics return, can make it difficult for you to understand your real results.

Here are some things you should be aware of:

Email "open rates" (or never judge a book by it's cover!)

People often ask me what open rates mean, and whether the open rates they are getting is any good or not. To understand the relevance of open rates, you need to understand how the reporting tool determines "open rates", which are explained below.

What is an open rate?

An open rate is a measure of how many people on an email subscriber list open (or view) a particular email message (sent by the campaign). The open rate is normally expressed as a number, along with a percentage.

What determines an "open"?

As we can also track the number of times an email has been opened, a higher than usual number of open's for a subscriber may generally indicate perhaps a higher than usual level of interest, or (more often than not), or that the newsletter has been forwarded on to others informally – this can also account for a high open rate for some subscribers.

For example, a 20% open rate would mean that of every 10 emails delivered, 2 were actually opened.

How are "open rates" measured?

When each email is sent out using our newsletter tool, the tool automatically embeds a piece of unique code or image to each email message from the web servers. So when a reader opens the email, the unique image/code is downloaded, and we can record that download as an open for that specific email – for that specific subscriber. 

It is important to understand that the open rate is not a 100% accurate measure.

Recording an 'open' can only happen if the readers email client is capable of displaying html with images, and that option is turned on. So if you are sending text-only emails, there is no way to record open rates (the exception is if they actually click a link that has been uniquely identified for each subscriber using a newsletter tool). Similarly, people reading your html email without images showing will not be recorded as opens.

Another issue is that your readers may have a preview pane in their email client. That preview pane might be displaying your email automatically (and therefore downloading the images) without the reader ever having to click on it or read it.

There are a range of software firewalls, mail addons and management programs within a wide range of mail clients (operating on different software platforms) that may also affect the way your email is managed and read.

So you should never take your open rate as a hard and fast number, because you can never know the true figure. It is much better used as general guide, and as a way of measuring the trends on your email campaigns.

What are typical open rates?

Really, there is no typical open rate. The rate obtained for any list, or group of lists will depend on how it was measured, when it was sent, the size of the list and a zillion other potential variables. There is no shortage of benchmark numbers out there, but even between benchmark figures you will find big variations in the reported open rates.

As subscriber list sizes increase in size, the open rate tends to fall - possibly because smaller companies are more likely to have personal relationships with their list subscribers. Groups that are focusing on enthusiasts, for example, hobbies, sporting groups, church groups and not-for-profits, generally see higher open rates.  More specific niche topics, like some mining or manufacturing areas also typically have higher open rates than emails on broader topics.

Statistically speaking...

For the first half of 2010 and based on industry figures by available email marketing tools and whitepapers:

  • Unique open rates across all industries and domains were around 23%
  • Industry with the highest unique open rates was Mining/Oil/Gas which may in part be due to the increase in general interest in mining during the BP oil crisis at 38%
  • Industry by IT and Telecommunications unique open rates was 22.38%
  • Unique click through rates across all industries was 4.77%