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Troy and Mo

Thursday, May 8, 2008

The Open Rate Must Die

The email open rate is simply a tired, inaccurate and irrelevant metric that no longer measures what it was originally intended to. As a result, it gives you the wrong picture of your subscribers’ interest in and involvement with your mailings. (”Engagement,” if you want to use the buzzword). >>Full Story

Thoughts// Frequent readers of this blog are all too familiar with our opinions on the collective reliance of the "click rate" as a measure of success in online campaigns. This thought provoking blog by MediaPost's Email Insider extends this argument to e-mail. The author makes the valid point that using the default "read rate" as calculated by your e-mail platform is a flawed metric, akin to the music industry "measuring sales based on the number of CDs sold."

In most e-mail clients, the read rate is based on the display of a tracking image on each e-mail displayed. The author lays out the following scenarios of why there are inherent flaws with this method of tracking.

  1. The e-mail is “opened” (launched), but images are blocked: not counted as an open.

  2. The e-mail is not opened (launched), but images are enabled and is read in the preview pane: counted as an open

  3. The text version of a message is read on a BlackBerry. The HTML version (with images blocked) is later opened in Gmail (or other email service/client). The email has been opened and read twice — but zero opens are recorded.

  4. A text version is opened and read but not clicked: not counted as an open

  5. A text version is opened and read, but the user clicks a link: not counted as an open with some email software. Others assign an open because the email was clicked on, which assumes an open.

To the author's point, consumers engagement with your e-mail could be tracked by measuring clicks on actionable calls to action...but as illustrated by the examples above, you don't necessarily have to click to be involved.

As an example, the image above is a rendering of my May Colorado e-newsletter. While I didn't enable images or click on any links, I did get the message that "May is archaeology month in Colorado" and that there is "no better place to celebrate than Mesa Verde Country."

Engaged? Yes! Tracked? No! My privacy intact? Most definitely! :)

We're curious... how are you measuring the effectiveness of your e-mail newsletters?


Rhiannon said...

This makes me want to cry, because our open rate is *really* good. But, I try to look at clicks, forwards, visitor guide requests...

Karen Skidmore said...

Yes, I feel that open rates dont represent the effectiveness of an email newsletter. I used to watch my open rates like a hawk, but to be honest if your subscribers aren't acting on the call to actions, then an email newsletter isn't really doing its job of helping you grow your business (IMHO!).

I focus on monitoring the click-throughs and the ultimate sales, bookings, responses to questionnaires, or whatever it is I am asking my readers to do.

Oh and also the opt-outs and forwards :)

Karen Skidmore