Failure to Connect: Email Open Rates Rise, but Click Rates Fall Again on Y-O-Y Basis

epsilon-email-open-and-click-rates-from-q22010-q22016-nov2016Marketers may be doing a better job of creating engaging subject lines, but they don’t seem to have solved the problem of providing relevant content that entices a click. That seems to be the takeaway from the latest quarterly email trends and benchmarks report [download page] from Epsilon, which shows open rates at a new high, but click rates continuing to trend in the opposite direction.

For the second quarter of 2016, the average open rate on business-as-usual (BAU) emails was 35.6%. Epsilon’s press release notes that this is a “two-year high,” though a review of the company’s quarterly analyses dating back to Q4 2009 suggests that this is the highest mark yet, with the previous high set in Q1 2016 (33.3%).

However, while marketers may have mastered the subject line (89% of the analyzed emails were characterized as marketing messages), they seem to be having a harder time engaging readers. The click rate of 3.5% was a step up from the prior quarter (3.4%), but failed to reach the same level set in the year-earlier period (Q2 2015: 3.6%). In fact, the last time click rates increased on a year-over-year basis was in Q1 2013, more than 3 years ago.

The open and click rate trends offer a stark contrast: the average open rate in Q2 2016 was about 61% higher than it was in Q2 2010 (22.1%), but the average click rate was about 34% lower than it was then (5.3%).

The composition of emails sent may have changed over that time frame. But even triggered emails – which see above-average response rates – saw a decrease in engagement in Q2. The 8.5% click rate on triggered emails was down from 12.1% during the year-earlier period, even as the open rate on these emails rose from 54.4% to 57.5%.

Overall, triggered messages accounted for just 3% of total email volume, down from 4.3% in Q2 2015.

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In other results from the Epsilon report:

  • The “financial services general” category enjoyed the highest average open rate, of 53.7%, while the “consumer products pharmaceutical” category had the lowest average open rate (21%);
  • The “consumer publishing/media general” category boasted the highest average click rate, of 5.2%, more than twice the rate of the “consumer services telecom” vertical (1.6%), which had the lowest rate;
  • The “consumer publishing/media general” category also had the highest average click-to-open (CTO) rate, of 23.5%, while the “retail apparel” vertical had the lowest CTO (6.1%);
  • Marketing messages had the lowest click rate (1.5%) and CTO rate (6.7%) of any message type; though
  • Marketing messages in the “retail general” category had the strongest average click rate (2.9%), about double that of the average marketing message.

About the Data: Epsilon’s Q2 2016 email trends and benchmarks analyzed performance trends by industry and message type. The study was compiled from around 8.5 billion emails sent by Epsilon from April 2016 to June 2016 across multiple industries and approximately 150 clients.