Benchmarks? Top-Performing Email Marketers Are Way Ahead of the Pack

July 26, 2016

IBMMarketingCloud-Email-Open-Rates-by-Region-in-2015-Jul2016Marketers often pay attention to benchmarks, which are useful to get a sense of what one might expect from a campaign (though individual results almost always vary from the average!). But as a recent study [download page] from IBM Marketing Cloud demonstrates, it might be worth shooting for the top, rather than the average.

In analyzing emails sent in 2015 by close to 750 companies representing 3,000 brands, the study shows that there’s a wide gulf between the top quartile of performers and the average across various measures. (The top quartile is determined by calculating the median of all data above the overall median, while the bottom quartile is based on the median of all data below the overall median.)

For example, the global median open rate was 18.3% in 2015 for the brands analyzed. However, the top quartile of performers on this measure boasted a median open rate more than twice as high (41.6% vs. 18.3%).

The same was true for unique click-through rates (CTRs), which saw a median average of 1.6%. The top quartile blew those figures away, with a median average of 9.5%. As for the laggards, they averaged a median click-through rate of just 0.3%.


Similarly wide gaps are observed across other measures, including click-to-open rates, bounce rates, unsubscribe rates, and complaint rates.

These results indicate that it’s useful to look at the rates for top-performers rather than simply an average rate that’s dragged down by the worst-performing campaigns.

Analyzing the global data on an industry basis, the study reveals that certain verticals performed far better than others. Restricting the results to those of the top quartile of performers, the study shows that:

  • Schools & Education enjoyed the highest median unique open rate (58.7%), with the Media and Publishing (34.8%) sector the worst-performer on this measure, which the analysts attribute to higher frequency in the latter vertical;
  • The top quartile of Computer Hardware & Telecommunications email marketers achieved the highest median CTR, of 13.9%, double the median CTR of 6.9% for top-performers in the Lodging, Travel Agencies & Services sector; and
  • Non-profits, Associations & Government boasted the highest median click-to-open rate, of 39.2%, about 12 times higher than the bottom quartile in this sector (3.3%).

The study – which contains the full data across industries – can be accessed here.


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