Email Opens Have Increased While Clicks Remain Static

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Open rates rose to 32.9% in Q1 2014, but clicks haven't changed for the past couple of years, a study says. But why?

Email Opens Have Increased While Clicks Remain Static
Email Opens Have Increased While Clicks Remain Static

Marketing services firm Epsilon has released the results from its 2014 Q1 Email Trends benchmark study. The study found that the open rates for business as usual (BAU) emails climbed as high as 32.9% by the end of March 2014, up 5.7% from the same period in 2013. However, click rates for these emails remained consistent throughout the past four quarters, finishing Q1 at 4.3%. In fact, click rates have remained static throughout the past two years, according to Jennifer Wiese, strategic services analyst at Epsilon and author of the study. “[Clicks] have been pretty much static for the last two years,” Wiese says. “The opens fluctuate, but within the last year they've been going up.”

According to the study, which analyzed the performance of 6.2 billion emails across 13 industries, opens were highest in the banking (50.1%), general retail (43.6%), and general financial services (39.6%) verticals. However, only general media (6.4%), general retail (6%), general financial services (5.2%), and general consumer services saw click rates at or above 5%.

This begs the question: Why are people opening emails, but not clicking through? “People now have email at their fingertips 24 hours a day, seven days a week. With that, you're going to see more opens,” Wiese explains. “[Opens] could be rising because of things like Gmail Tabs, where you can just click through a bunch of business and promotional emails at once, instead of having them trickle in and mix with personal emails where you'll just skip through them,” notes Josh Rosenwald, CEO at Unroll.Me, an email subscription management service. But is today's increasingly inundated consumer clicking less because of email volume and better organization, or is there something larger at play here?

“Over time clicks should get worse, not better. Consumers only have so much time to devote to any given marketing channel. The more emails you get, the less time you have to open them,” Rosenwald explains. “That being said, I think marketers probably focus more on growing their lists than targeting [their lists]. When you're not focused on targeting your lists your [metrics] will remain static at best.”

Once again, the narrative shifts toward relevance, something analysts and email experts have been championing for years. As Rosenwald says, people simply don't have time to sift through hundreds of commercial emails, especially when these messages are peripheral at best, completely irrelevant at worst. Analysts and savvy marketers have long discussed what needs to be done in terms of improving email performance. “Marketers should always make sure they've got a good customer experience and that they're targeting their customers with the right content at the right time,” Epsilon's Wiese recommends.

Indeed, opens and clicks were considerably higher for triggered emails according to Episilon's study. Triggered email opens in the general financial services, general retail, and travel services industries all exceeded 60%. Trigger email click rates were suitably higher, as well, with general media email click rates topping out at 18.1%, retail apparel at 15.3%, and consumer pharmaceutical products at 13.5%. The largest click rate differences between BAU and triggered emails were in retail apparel (332.8% increase), general media (297.6% increase), and specialty retail (267.2% increase).

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