Email open rates rose to 24.8% in Q4 2011, representing healthy 12% growth from 22.1% in Q4 2010, but more subdued 4.2% growth from 23.8% in Q3 2011, according to [download page] an April 2012 report from Epsilon and the Email Experience Council. Click-through rates fell more than 5% quarter-over-quarter from 5.5% to 5.2%, but remain in line with rates seen in Q4 2010 (5.1%). Non-bounce rates were strong at 96.3%, while average volume per client increased by 41.5% over Q3 2011 and 21% over Q4 2010.
Triggered Emails Get Better Open, Click Rates
The study also examined triggered messages, which accounted for 2.8% volume of emails in Q4 2011, finding that open rates (48%) were 96% higher than “business as usual” (BAU) open rates, while click rates (11.5%) were 125% higher than BAU. The highest open rates for triggered messages were in the travel/hospitality travel services (66.5%), financial services CC/banks (63.3%), and retail general (63%) categories. Meanwhile, the highest click rates were in consumer products CPG (17.6%), retail specialty (15%), and consumer publishing/media general (14%).
CPG Has Best Overall Click Rate, Again
Among the categories examined, consumer products CPG (8.6%) had the best click rate among all emails (not just triggered messages) for the second consecutive quarter, but actually decreased by more than 5% compared to Q4 2010. Consumer products pharmaceutical (5.2%), consumer services telecom (4.4%), and retail specialty (4.3%) also saw decreases of at least 5% year-over-year.
By contrast, the financial services general (5.8%), financial services CC/banks (5.4%), consumer publishing/media general (5.3%), consumer services general (4.8%), and business products and services general (4.3%) categories all posted an increase in click rates of at least 5% compared to a year earlier.
Finance, Retail Get Best Open Rates
The highest open rates were in the financial services CC/banks (35.6%), retail general (33.9%), travel/hospitality travel services (31.5%) and financial services general (28.5%), and retail general (27.8%) categories, all of which increased by more than 5% from Q4 2010. The best click to open rates (CTOR) were experienced by the consumer products CPG (42.3%) and consumer publishing/media general (37.5%) categories.
Marketing Messages Display Low Open, Click Rates
Data from Epsilon’s “Q4 2011 Email Trends and Benchmarks” indicates that 55.1% of the emails deployed in Q4 2011 were categorized as marketing messages. This was a sizable 16% decrease from 65.8% the previous quarter, and is surprising given the holiday season. The study indicates that marketing messages dropped due to a rise in the use of “other” as a campaign category, from 26.6% of emails in Q3 to 37.1% in Q4. Data from an Experian report [download page] released in April 2012 suggests otherwise: according to that report, email marketers were active throughout the year, with email volume rising 12.9% quarter-over-quarter in Q4.
Meanwhile, the Epsilon report finds that among the different categories of messages, marketing emails had a lower open rate (20.4%) than the research (32.7%), editorial (33.3%) and service (45.6%) categories, beating out only acquisition emails (9.8%). Similarly, the click rate among marketing emails (3.3%) was lower than for all categories save for acquisition (1.6%). The CTOR for marketing emails (16.2%) was the lowest of all categories.
About the Data: The Epsilon study is compiled from 8.5 billion emails sent by Epsilon in Q4 (October-December) 2011, across multiple industries and approximately 140 participating clients. The benchmark data should be used only as a guideline, as specifics for each company will drive results.
The Experian findings are based on CheetahMail tracking of the holiday mailing activity of 385 brands that also mailed in the 2010 holiday season. All metrics are based on results 3 days from send.