November 04, 2004

2004 Email Metrics Survey: 2293 Marketers Share Real-life Campaign Stats & Plans for 2005

SUMMARY: Here's the useful results overview of our third annual Email Metrics Survey we promised you. Includes:

- Average campaign click rates

- Conversion data (for the first time ever)

- How open rates are shifting

- Which tactics marketers plan to spend more on for 2005

Our thanks to the 2,293 MarketingSherpa readers who took the time to share their real-life data and plans with the community:
The most surprising result of MarketingSherpa's Third Annual Email Marketing Metrics Survey is how exceptionally little year over year change in marketing plans and tactics there's been from 2003 (or even 2002.)

Email marketing is holding steady, despite delivery problems and the budgetary lure of hot tactics such as search campaigns.

Almost no one plans to decrease spending on any email tactic. In fact, we're seeing healthy planned increases for every tactic across the board:

- 62% plan to create more campaign specific landing pages
- 53% expect to spend more on their house newsletter
- 49% plan to increase alerts sent to their house list
- 48% will increase automated (event triggered) campaigns
- 38% are pumping up their co-registration budgets
- 32% may place more ads in 3rd party newsletters

... and 22% will invest *more* in list rentals. (In fact, if you take marketers who do no list rentals at all out of the picture, 49% of those currently renting plan to increase for 2005.)

Happy change: True permission email on the uprise

We don't know if it's the effects of CAN-SPAM or if all our and other's educational efforts have finally sunk in. This year for the first time we saw a significant upswing in permission.

In 2003, 35.4% of respondents admitted to adding names to their house list without previously requesting permission to do so from each individual. This is known as "opt-out" and is not a best practice.

That number dropped by more than 11 points in 2004. Now just 24.1% of respondents rely on opt-out alone.

Although open and click rates have not risen (we suspect delivery problems are to blame for this, more below), spam complaints have dropped a bit. In 2003, 15% of marketers said they had significantly increased spam complaints. This year that number went down to 9%.

Plus, 55% of respondents reported the willingness of people to opt-in for their lists had not changed significantly, and 23% said it had increased. (This also matches 2003 data very closely.)

And now for the bad news: delivery problems

Although we've been reporting on the false positive problem since 2001, this is the first year the data reflected growing delivery problems.

26% of respondents reported a significant year over year increase in bounces/undeliverables. Of those tracking open rates, 10.5% said house list opens decreased "significantly."

Last year 22% of respondents reported open rates to house list mailings of 60% or higher. This year 15% did. 2004's most popular house list open rate response was a 30-39% open rate.

We'd like to report on more specific delivery numbers, but the fact is no one on this planet really knows for sure what their delivery into the recipient's non-junk in-box is. You can only guess based on HTML-version opens, text-version clicks, and bounce report findings. (Note: Most filters do not show up on your bounce reports.)

Tracking these basic metrics by recipients' ISP is one of the most valuable ways to find out where and when you're filtered. So, if no one on your list from AOL opens anything, you know you've been filtered.

Sadly, a mere 11.2% of respondents said they tracked response metrics by ISP.

So, despite all the media fuss about delivery, few marketers are taking this basic step to defend their email programs from the ravages of false positives.

Clickthrough trends remain steady for house lists

For three years running, both B-to-B and B-to-C marketers have reported roughly the same year-over-year variances in clickthroughs. Roughly 50% say "not a big change", 16% say "increased significantly", and 5% say "decreased significantly." (The rest aren't tracking clicks.)

This year's most popular clickthrough rate answers were:

Newsletter articles sent to your house list - 6-10% CTR Free offers sent to your house list - 6-10% CTR Sales offers to your house list - 3-5% CTR Anything sent to 3rd party lists - 0-2% CTR

Note - These numbers are a percent of total emails sent (not opens). There were naturally some big variances between B-to-B and B-to-C which are reported on in our complete Metrics Guide (see below.)

Final note - conversion metrics are under-tracked

While 75.6% of marketers said they tracked open rates, and 68.6% tracked clicks, only 48% tracked the conversion rates of these clicks.

The is almost certainly due to the fact that most email metrics reports are isolated in separate silos from Web metrics reports as well as offline sales reports. (In fact we're happy that as many as 48% of marketers are tracking conversions at all.)

Thing is, there's a cheap workaround for this problem. Just get yourself an affiliate tracking program (some good ASP services are as low as $60 a month), set up your own mailings as "affiliates" and let the program do the online conversion tracking.

Why invest in email marketing if you're not tracking how it's affecting the bottom line? Are your clickthroughs spending enough time reading your online content to influence brand perception? Are they filling out and submitting registration forms? Are they buying?

A click is worthless unless you know your conversion rates. Plus, since 62% of you plan to invest more in landing page design in the coming year, conversion data is vital.

Of the respondents who did track conversions, the most popular answer was 2-3.9% of clicks converted. Here's the surprise -- that answer was most popular for everyone (b-to-b vs b-to-c), every list (house vs 3rd party), and every offer (free vs sale.)

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