Email Open Rates Up in Q1; Click Rates Drop

epsilon-email-open-rates-and-click-through-rates-q42009-q12012-june12.pngEmail open rates continue to trend upwards, rising to 26.2% in Q1 2012, representing 5.6% growth from 24.8% in Q4 2011 and a 12.4% year-over-year increase, per an Epsilon report [download page] released in June 2012. Click rates, though, moved in the opposite direction, falling to a low of 4.7%, down 8.3% from last quarter, and 19.3% from Q1 2011. Non-bounce rates remained strong at 96.5%, while average volume per client decreased by 23.9% over Q4 2011, unsurprising given historical spikes during the holiday season. Even so, average volume per client did demonstrate 21.4% growth from Q1 2011.

Triggered Emails Perform Far Better

Data from Epsilon’s “Q1 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks” indicates that triggered email messages – deployed as a result of an action, such as Welcome or Abandoned Shopping Cart – continue to vastly outperform “business as usual” (BAU) emails. Open rates for triggered emails hit 45.9% in Q1, down from 48% in Q4 2011, but still 75% higher than BAU rates. Click rates on triggered emails, while also dropping from 11.5% in Q4 to 10.4% in Q1, were more than double the rates seen by BAU emails.

And although triggered email non-bounce rates are expected to be lower than BAU emails, they showed healthy results in Q1, at 95.2%, only slightly below BAU emails’ rate of 96.5%.

Click to Open Rates Decline Y-O-Y

Breaking the BAU emails down by industry segment, the report finds that click to open rates (CTORs) fell by more than 5% year-over-year for all but one segment (financial services general). Consumer publishing/media general sported the highest CTOR (38.1%), closely followed by consumer products CPG (37.3%). On the other end of the spectrum, CTOR was lowest for the retail specialty (12.8%) segment.

In terms of open rates, financial services CC/banks saw the healthiest results (38.4%), ahead of travel/hospital travel services (36.2%) and retail general (35.7%). Consumer products CPG, financial services general, and consumer publishing/media general shared top billing for click rates, each at 5.7%.

Marketing Messages Gain Share, But CTOR Drops

In Q1, 61.4% of emails deployed through Epsilon’s email platform were characterized as marketing messages, marking a significant increase from 55.1% in Q4. Despite this growth, marketing messages did not markedly improve across the various metrics tracked. The open rate for these emails in Q1 was 21.8% (as compared to 20.4% in Q4), significantly behind editorial (32.7%) and service (48.1%) messages. Click rates also lagged at 3.2% (compared to 3.3% in Q4), also behind editorial (9.6%) and service (8.8%) emails. And CTOR in Q1 was 14.7%, down from 16.2% the previous quarter, and lower than all other email categories save for “other.”

Spam Increases in 2011; Accounts for Vast Majority of Volume

Meanwhile, according to [download page] a ReturnPath report also released in June, after significantly dropping at the beginning of 2011, spam volume steadily increased after July, as did the total number of messages blocked, before leveling out slightly at the end of the year. Overall, more than 90% of the emails sent had a sender score of less than 70, indicating that the sender was classified as “Bad,” “Very Bad,” or “Blacklist.” The sender score is calculated on the basis of: the volume and percentage of emails from an IP address that recipients mark as spam; the percentage of emails sent from an IP address to non-existent addresses (“unknown users”); and the number of emails sent from an IP address to decoy accounts ISPs use to catch spammers (“spam traps”).

Social networking sites in particular are said to need improvement, with an average of 20 spam traps per IP address.

Delivery Rates Increase With Higher Sender Scores

The sender score – which measures the reputation of the email sender – has a significant effect on the likelihood of an email being delivered to the inbox. Overall, businesses with a score of 90-100 (“great”) saw an average delivery rate of 95%. That fell to 68% for businesses with a score of 71-80 (“fair”), and plummeted to 21% for sender scores under 60.

Other Findings:

  • According to the Epsilon report, marketing message CTORs were highest in the consumer products pharmaceutical (19.9%), retail general (19.3%), and consumer products CPG (18.9%) categories. They were lowest in the business publishing/media general (6.8%) and financial services general (6.4%) categories.
  • The highest triggered email open rates were in the retail general (66.2%), pharmaceutical (58.3%) and travel hospitality (58%) categories. The highest triggered email click rates were in the consumer goods CPG (21.6%), consumer publishing (18%) and retail general (14.1%) categories.
  • Consumer products CPG (+270.9%), retail apparel (+175.2%), and consumer publishing (+156.1%) showed the largest disparity in open rates between triggered and BAU emails.
  • The retail specialty (+329.4%), consumer products CPG (+277.3%), and retail apparel (+253.8%) categories demonstrated the most significant differences in click rates between triggered and BAU emails.
  • Per the Return Path report, the average sender score in the US is 66.93, slightly less than in Canada (70.22), but far ahead of Australia (55.79), the UK (50.75), and France (47.43). Brazil (15.88) and Italy (22.42) have the lowest average scores.
  • Social networking sites saw the highest average complaint rate (3.5%), ahead of banking (3.2%), corporate services (3%), and retail (3%).
  • Social networking’s total spam traps of 20.8 was dramatically higher than the next-highest by sector, consumer products (2).

About the Data: The Epsilon study is compiled from 7.1 billion emails sent in Q1 (January, February and March) 2012, across multiple industries and approximately 150 participating clients. Please note this benchmark data should be used only as a guideline. Specifics for each company will ultimately drive results.

The Return Path study is conducted by monitoring data from its Reputation Network from January to December 2011. The study tracked the reputation rates for more than 130 million IP addresses sending nearly 20 trillion emails to ISPs in Return Path’s Reputation Network. For each IP address, Return Path recorded total messages sent, delivered and blocked. Return Path also reviewed unknown user, complaint, and spam trap rates for each IP address, and assigned each IP address its own score, called a Sender Score, based on these data points.