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While the issue of deliverability appears to be an increasing concern among email marketers, there’s another long-term trend that spells trouble for those vying for attention in the inbox. Over this decade, email click rates (as measured in each second quarter) have declined every year with the exception of 2018, with the latest quarterly report [download page] from Epsilon confirming another decline.

In the second quarter of 2019, analysis of the aggregated data of emails sent through Epsilon’s platform shows that average email click-through rates dropped below the 3% mark (2.9%) for the first time in North America, reversing a minor uptick in the same period last year. This figure is far below the rate recorded back in 2010, when emails boasted an average 5.3% click-through rate. Curiously, at the time, open rates were, on average, significantly lower (22.1% in Q2 2010 vs 30.7% in Q2 2019). In tandem, these results suggest that click-to-open rates have fallen dramatically over the course of this decade.

The report suggests that as the volume of email increases, “this could be an indication that we’ve reached the tipping point for consumers and email volume. More email doesn’t necessarily mean more opens and clicks.” On the latter point, consumers feel that only around 1 in 4 emails are interesting enough to open.

But not all email is equal, as some types perform significantly better (or worse) than others.

Business-as-Usual Emails See Lower Engagement

Epsilon’s tracking of business-as-usual (BAU) emails show that these perform worse than email as a whole (which include triggered emails). For example, the click-through rate on BAU emails was just 2% in Q2 2019, while only around 1 in 5 emails (20.6%) were opened.

The most common kind of BAU emails, accounting for 80% of the total as tagged by Epsilon, were marketing related. These seem to be responsible for the lower averages, as the unique click rate on BAU marketing emails was a paltry 0.7%, compared to the 5.5% for service emails. Open rates paint a similar picture, as an average of just 12% of marketing emails were opened, compared to 38.2% within the service category.

Triggered Emails See Far Higher Performance

By contrast, triggered emails see far better engagement rates. These emails – which accounted for 2.1% of email volume in the second quarter of this year – saw an average click-through rate of 7.5%. While that’s down from the year-earlier period, it’s otherwise the highest rate of any quarter in the past 2 years.

Furthermore, the average open rate for triggered emails in Q2 was an impressive 50.9%.

Separate research backs up the value of triggered email, with data from GetResponse showing that triggered emails are the most effective type, followed by autoresponders.

Nonetheless the proportion of triggered emails “has been hovering at this [small] level for the last few years” according to the report.

The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Data: Figures are based on aggregated data from billions of emails sent through Epsilon’s platform.

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