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Email click rates in North America have failed to increase on a year-over-year basis for 18 consecutive quarters, per Epsilon’s latest quarterly review [download page] of client activity. The Q3 2017 report shows the average click-through rate at 3.1%, consistent with the year-earlier period.

That in itself could be considered a success: click rates had been trending down for several years, with each passing quarter seemingly registering a drop from the preceding year’s rate.

But if – and it’s a big if – click rates are stabilizing, that doesn’t mean marketers are out of the woods yet. Now it looks like open rates are a concern: the average open rate of 31.2% in Q3 2017 was down from 34.1% during the year-earlier period, and marked the third consecutive quarter featuring a year-over-year decrease.

That comes after a sustained period of growth in open rates.

Clearly these are aggregate trends – and individual results vary – but they’re nonetheless instructive in understanding overall response to email over time.

Marketing Emails Continue to Underperform

Some 93.1% of emails sent by Epsilon clients during Q3 were classified as marketing messages, meaning that they contained merchandise information and incentives for purchasing.

These emails performed considerably worse than other email types, registering a 19.4% open rate (vs. the 31.2% average) and a 1.5% click rate (vs. the 3.1% average).

Some industries fared better than others with their marketing emails, though. The “Financial Services CC/Banks” sector, for example, achieved an impressive 50.7% open rate for marketing emails during the quarter. The “Consumer Products/CPG” industry, by comparison, managed only a 9.6% open rate on its marketing emails. However, the industry made up for it with a healthy click-to-open rate on those emails, of 14%.

Overall – irrespective of email types – Epsilon notes that:

  • Travel and Hospitality email click rates grew substantially year-over-year;
  • Retail Specialty open rates also increased; while
  • Open rates for the Retail General category dropped considerably; and
  • The Consumer Products/CPG industry saw a sizable decline in email click-to-open rates.

Triggered Emails Still Garner Far Higher Engagement Rates

Triggered emails continued to show far greater response rates than business-as-usual (BAU) emails, averaging a 52.3% open rate and an 6.1% click rate.

Yet, response rates declined for triggered emails, as open rates fell from 53.3% during Q3 2016 and click rates from 7.6%.

Just 2.5% of emails sent during Q3 were triggered messages, down from 3.7% during the year-earlier period.

The Financial Services CC/Banks category once again led the way with a 68.2% open rate on triggered emails. This category also featured the highest share (9.5%) of triggered emails sent.

About the Data: The results are based on an analysis of 13.2 billion emails sent during Q3 (July through September) 2017 across multiple industries and approximately 150 clients.

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