A closer look at email open rates
In the early days of email marketing open rates along with and deliverability rates were the only ways to determine campaign performance. Luckily, there are now a number of tools to better analyse success rates, but does that mean that email open rates should be disregarded?
Measuring open rates
When each email is sent out, a piece of code is added that requests a small, undetectable image from the relevant web servers. Thus, when a reader opens an email, the image is downloaded, allowing companies to record that download as an open for that specific email.
However, it's important to keep in mind that the open rate is not a 100% accurate measure. Recording an 'open' is only possible if the reader's email client is capable of displaying html with images, and if that option is activated within their email client. Therefore, companies that are sending text-only emails will not be able to record open rates (with the exception being if the text email contains a clickable link). Similarly, people who receive html mailers with the images disabled will not be recorded as 'opens'.
Opening rates vary from email campaign to campaign. The rate obtained for any list, or group of lists will differ according to how it was measured, when it was sent, the size of the list and a host of other potential variables. There are some trends though - niche topics as well as organizations that focus on specific supporters are more likely to see higher open rates, while large companies with extensive databases often see lower open rates. Generally however, a figure between 20 and 40% is considered an average open rate.
Don't be fooled
Of course a high open rate for any email campaign means that you're doing something right, but it is important to remember that an open rate only tells us half the story. Opening an email does not necessarily amount to any valuable interaction with the email - the mere fact that the email was opened does not mean that the recipient read it, saw the pictures or clicked through on any of the embedded links.
Even though email open rates are not the only or the most accurate indicator of success, they do indicate that people are following through on the first step of coming into contact with your marketing - which in itself is a good thing at any rate.
Here are some pointers that will help improve you company's email open rate:
Open rates are a valuable measure that can indicate whether your campaigns are working or not - but its inaccuracy and many variables can often be misleading. A good idea would be to consider open rate data alongside other results data as part of a holistic approach when measuring campaign effectiveness.
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