October 16, 2007

New Data: 6 Actions to Lift Open, Clickthrough Rates

SUMMARY: Do you know what day of the week is best to send your email? Is Saturday a no-no day? What about subject lines -- how many characters can you use and still get the highest open rate?

We have exclusive new data on industry averages for click rates and best practices:
- How personalization affects open and click rates
- How to include product information and pricing in tags
- Bounce rates by industry
What’s the most critical component of an email marketing campaign after the list? Subject lines. That’s the findings from MailerMailer’s new Email Marketing Metrics Report, which will be released next week.

“We are seeing the trend of open rates going down continue across industries,” says Raj Khera, CEO, MailerMailer. To contend with this, subject lines are gaining importance. “Shorter, personalized subject lines that contain your brand name consistently outperform everything else.”

When you look at the open and clickthrough rate findings, it’s the marketers who know what to offer and when to offer it that are the winners. In short, relevancy is everything.

Here is a sneak peek at MailerMailer’s findings. Check these email scorecards to see where you stand and what industries are outperforming the others as you head into the holiday season. The data in the report comes from an analysis of 270 million email messages from 3,136 clients in 22 industries January-June 2007.

The entire 60-chart study will be available next week at
(Note: Clickthrough numbers throughout the study reflect measurement against number of opens and not the total list.)

Chart 1: Open Rates by Industry
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Not many surprises here. At the top is Banking/Finance at a 28.07% open rate . At the bottom is Wholesale/Distribution at 9.26% . The chart underscores that some players have more built-in relevancy (e.g., utility-like call-to-action, like account statements) than others. But Manufacturing (15.59%) being slightly ahead of Consumers: General (15.55%) is a bit of a surprise; it suggests that the B-to-B world is closing the gap on their consumer marketing counterparts.

Best practice tip: The biggest factor in determining whether someone will open your message is your subject line and “from” address. Subject lines that read like spam are often confused with spam, so be sure to include your brand name to increase recognition. And you always want the from line to show your brand as well.

Chart 2: Click Rates by Industry
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Appropriately, many of the top open-rate performers, niche-wise, are also doing well with clickthroughs. Banking/Finance is proving that their opens are not just about informing people about their money. They also seem to deliver relevant content because a chart-leading 6.52% of their recipients click through. In addition, retailers have been acquitting themselves extremely well by coming in with a 6.3% clickthrough rate.

Best practice tip: Use alt-text tags to improve clickthroughs for recipients who have your HTML images automatically disabled. Include copy about products and pricing in the tags. Let them read the offers and encourage them to click.

Chart 3: Open & Click Rates by Day
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Timing is everything. Open rates are highest on Monday and then go into a decline the rest of the week before rising again on Saturday. The Saturday development likely reflects the growing BlackBerry and mobile crowd, who check their messages on-the-go while they shop, run errands and attend events.

Clickthroughs have been peaking on Tuesdays but staying relatively even during the work week. Last year’s high-water mark was Wednesday. This may mean that people are getting email fatigue earlier in the week. If you have to mail later in the week, focus even more on the relevancy of your content.

Best practice tip: Despite what statistics say, keep in mind that some marketers with “weekend products,” such as entertainment venues, restaurants and retailer, may get better sales conversions later in the week.

Chart 4: Opens by Subject Line Length
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Chart 5: Clicks by Subject Line Length
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

If you aren’t convinced that shorter is better for subject lines, perhaps this will be the proverbial final straw. Opens are 5.08 percentage points higher (or +28.2% comparatively) for subject lines under 35 characters. Clickthroughs are a whopping 1.66 percentage points better (or +78.6% comparatively).

What these numbers underscore is the importance of having great copywriters, in-house or as service providers. And no matter who is writing the copy, they should spend at least as much time writing subject lines as the rest of the message.

Best practice tip: Employing the right “aura” is integral to getting good open and clickthrough rates. Give your copywriters freedom to innovate when crafting subject lines. But make sure they’re short and punchy.

Chart 6: Open Rates by Personalization
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Chart 7: Click Rates by Personalization
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

OK, it’s not shocking to see open rates higher for personalized subject lines. But it’s interesting to see personalized subject lines with generic messages get clickthrough rates (5.02%) that resoundingly beat personalized messages with generic subject lines by 1.87 percentage points. And who would have guessed that personalized email messages would only outdo generic ones by 0.21 percentage points?

These findings beg the questions: What’s the right balance when it comes to personalization? Can you personalize too much? The answers lie in your brand identity, understanding your audience and ongoing testing to validate your tactics.

Best practice tip: If you haven’t already, try testing the recipient’s name and other information about them in your subject line and body of the message. But be careful. Using too much personalization may make your email appear spam-like, which may explain some of the surprising data in this chart. Which brings us back to test, test and test some more.

Chart 8: Bounce Rates by Industry
Copyright 2007 by MailerMailer LLC. All Rights Reserved.

Here’s some good news: Nearly every industry niche appears to be cleaning their list regularly; the bounces are being cut in half after the fifth mailing for almost everyone. Nonprofits should especially take note of this chart; they are among the worst performers when it comes to bounces after the fifth mailing.

Here’s some bad news: The wholesale industry appears to still struggle with email, as their already high bounce rates don’t improve one iota after the fifth mailing. You can almost guess that most of them are not tracking their email campaigns at all. ESPs may want to canvass this seemingly unmanned territory, although whether the soil is fertile is the question. At the end of the day, it’s probably worth a shot by your sales team. But don’t expect them to know the same emarketing language that retailers understand; the wholesale marketer will not likely be up to speed.

Best practice tip: Invest in getting your list professionally cleaned on a regular basis. At the very least, peel off your multiple bounces into a special file and send it to the cleaners every 120 days. If you wait too long after that, people will forget they were on your list and may view renewed communications with suspicion.

Useful links related to this article

MailerMailer’s Email Marketing Metrics Report:

MarketingSherpa’s Email List Hygiene 101 - How to Clean Your List, Plus 7 Ways to Stop Names From Going Bad

MailerMailer LLC:

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