Benchmarking e-mail response metrics

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Liz Bross
Liz Bross

In the first half of 2007, the travel and hospitality and entertainment industries received the highest delivery, open and click-through rates of the 13 industries monitored by the Harte-Hanks Postfuture Index, a periodic e-mail benchmarking monitor.

The Postfuture Index provides comparative e-mail metrics in aggregate, and includes business and consumer e-mail campaigns executed using the Harte-Hanks Postfuture Enterprise Edition from January-June 2007. Altogether, the findings represent more than 6,800 single-send broadcast and more than 1,200 transactional e-mail campaigns across 13 industry sectors.

Metrics reveal that marketers using dynamic personalization, print-at-home incentives and behavior-driven delivery enjoy the highest e-mail open and click-through rates. Among those industry categories with at least a dozen campaigns executed during the first half of the year, travel and hospitality fared best, recording open rates of 28.6 percent and click-through rates of 8.8 percent. Entertainment ranked second for open rates (26.4 percent) and click-through rates (5.4 percent). The lowest click-through rates were found in the government sector (0.7 percent).

Cross-industry metrics Overall delivery rates across all industry sectors and campaign types from January through June 2007 averaged 88.6 percent. Open rates averaged 20 percent of all delivered messages. Click-through rates across all industry sectors averaged 3.8 percent.

B-to-b and b-to-c audience comparison Business-to-business email open rates for the year's first half were recorded at 21.8 percent with a 3.5 percent click-through rate. By comparison, business-to-consumer open rates were at 16.3 percent with a 3.4 percent click-through.

Transactional, send-to-a-friend and coupon metrics Given the cross-industry average open rate of 20 percent and click-through rate of 3.8 percent, transactional, send-to-a-friend and online incentives campaigns fared much better for both opens and click-throughs.

For example, average open rates for transactional e-mail were recorded at 50.1 percent, with an average click-through rate of 11 percent. E-mails with coupons averaged 59.6 percent opens and 38.31 percent click-throughs.

Implications for direct marketers Marketers that accelerate rollout of customer-centric e-mail strategies, including personalized product recommendations, behavior-driven messaging dialogues and print-at-home incentives to deliver individualized marketing offers are more likely to find success in open and click-through, and ultimately more e-mail conversions. The best-performing e-mail campaigns combine personalization and behavior synchronization.

Transactional cross-sell is also effective and combines account status e-mail with dynamic product recommendations.

Likewise, momentum toward the outsourcing of transactional and customer service e-mail delivery continues to increase as marketers realize the value of transactional e-mail messages for cross sell and up-sell marketing.

Liz Bross is vice president of digital interaction at Harte-Hanks. She can be reached at

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