Email Open, Click Rates Recover in Q3; Triggered Emails Continue Strong Showing

December 10, 2012

The average email open rate increased to 27.2% in Q3, rebounding from a small drop in Q2, and representing the highest level in at least 2 years, finds a [download page] new report from Epsilon. The 27.2% rate in Q3 represented a 6.5% quarter-over-quarter increase and a more substantial 14.6% year-over-year rise. Although the average click rate saw only a marginal increase of 0.1% points from Q2, that was the first quarter-over-quarter increase since Q3 2011.

Triggered emails, deployed as a result of an action, such as Welcome or Abandoned Shopping Cart ”“ continued to vastly outperform business as usual (BAU) emails. Open rates for triggered emails stood at an average of 47.7% in Q3, down from 49.8% in Q2, but still 75% higher than the BAU rate. Click rates on triggered emails dropped for the 4th consecutive quarter, to 9.7%, far lower than Q2 2011”²s rate (11.7%). Even so, the average click rate for triggered emails was more than double the rate for BAU emails.

Triggered email non-bounce rates continued to be healthy in Q3, at 94.7%, only slightly below BAU emails’ rate of 96.1%.

2 in 3 New Subscribers Inactive

Details from Epsilon’s “Q3 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks” indicate that about half of an average email list was active in Q3 ”“ either opening or clicking on emails. Among new subscribers, though, who comprised 11% of the average list, 66% were considered inactive (up from 59% in Q2). Only 11% were dubbed “new clickers” (who had opened and clicked), and 23% “new openers” (who had opened).

The figures were better among “mature” subscribers ”“ who had been on a list for longer than 3 months. In Q3, 51% of these subscribers had engaged in some way in the previous 12 months, including 27% who had either opened or clicked recently.

Breaking down the overall performance of an average list by subscriber behavior, the report finds that in Q3, 24% were “super stars” who had opened or clicked emails within the most recent 3 months, an additional 22% were “nappers” (who had opened or clicked more than 3 months prior), and 43% were “dormant” (inactive for the previous 12 months).

The retail apparel industry had the highest proportion of super stars (37%), as in Q2, followed by the business publishing/media general (35%), travel/hospitality travel services (34%), and retail general (31%) segments. By contrast, the consumer services pharmaceutical vertical had the highest average proportion of dormants (54%), followed by the consumer services general (52%) category.

The analysis of subscriber behavior is based on 741 million non-bounced and opted-in email addressed contacted from October 1, 2011 through September 30, 2012, across multiple industries and from approximately 150 clients.

Most Industries See Drop in Click-to-Open Rate

Breaking the BAU emails down by 11 industry segments, Epsilon reveals that click-to-open rates (CTORs) fell by more than 5% year-over-year for all but 2 segments (financial services general and consumer services general). Consumer products CPG boasted the highest CTOR (43.2%), while financial services CC/Banks (10.2%) saw the lowest.

In terms of open rates, financial services CC/Banks (38.3%) and retail general (35.3%) topped the list, while consumer publishing/media general (15.3%) occupied the bottom spot. Consumer products CPG boasted by far the highest click rate (8.5%), followed by financial services general (6.2%).

Email effectiveness trends specific to the personal lines insurance industry can be found here.

Other Findings:

  • When factoring out triggered and real-time messages, average volume per client was down 9.7% quarter-over-quarter and 8.9% year-over-year. The report suggests this indicates a move by marketers to more triggered and real-time messages rather than business-as-usual (BAU) emails. Even so, in Q3, triggered emails represented just 2.6% of total email volume, unchanged from Q2, though up 10.3% from Q3 2011.
  • In Q3, 64% of emails deployed through Epsilon’s email platform were characterized as marketing messages, up slightly from 63.4% in Q2. The open rate for these emails in Q2 was 21.8% (compared to 20.2% in Q2), significantly behind the rates for editorial (32.7%) and service (49.7%) messages. Click rates also lagged at 2.9% (compared to 2.6% in Q1), also trailing editorial (8.3%) and service (7.6%) emails. CTOR for marketing messages in Q3 was 13.3%, up from 12.7% the previous quarter, but lower than all other email categories save for acquisition emails. So while marketing emails trailed other categories in effectiveness, they did see improvement from the previous quarter.
  • Marketing message CTORs continued to be highest in the retail general (19.7%) category and lowest in the financial services general (6.2%) category.
  • The highest triggered email open rates were in the retail general (65.6%) and travel hospitality (64.9%) categories. The highest triggered email click rates were in the consumer products CPG (20.4%), and financial services general (14.2%) categories.
  • Consumer products CPG (+197.8%) and retail apparel (+127.3%) showed the largest disparities in open rates between triggered and BAU emails, for the third consecutive quarter.
  • The consumer services general (+206.6%) and retail apparel (+202.1%) categories demonstrated the most significant differences in click rates between triggered and BAU emails.

About the Data: Epsilon’s Q3 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks analyze performance trends by both industry and message type to provide an understanding of how the average company in each category performs. The study is compiled from 6.4 billion emails sent in Q3 (July, August and September) 2012, across multiple industries and approximately 170 participating clients.


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