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Rethinking Email Marketing Metrics

Email marketing is complicated. Selecting the right message, subject line, imagery, audience, cadence. Maintaining and building lists. Measuring outcomes. It’s exhausting just thinking about everything that needs to come together for a marketing email to arrive at all, get opened, and ultimately, prompt a specific customer action.

Alchemy Worx CEO Dela Quist is one email marketing insider who obsesses over these issues. In fact, Quist has spent about 20,000 hours so far in his career thinking about nothing but email, he said during his keynote at the MeritDirect CO-OP 2013.

“People forget why email is so important,” Quist said, noting that there are 4 billion email addresses globally. “We’re sending nearly 200 billion emails per day, not counting spam.” In comparison, according to Quist, there are only 3 billion searches a day—and email drives more searches than any other channel.

“Not having an email address is the digital equivalent of being homeless,” he said.

Quist also noted that email is as important as ever in our increasing social world. First, in most cases users need an email address to join a social network. And second, social networks are among the biggest users of email—as a way to maintain customer engagement. “At 2 billion emails a day Facebook is largest email sender in the world,” Quist pointed out.

And as much as consumers may like or follow brands in social channels, when asked, “How do you want to be communicated with by brands” in terms of promotional communications, the overwhelming response is email, Quist said.

That said, customers aren’t sitting around breathless with anticipation waiting for your email to arrive. “The key to understanding email is to understand the nature of engagement,” Quist said. “People have lives. Understand that and get over it. They’re not your friends, they’re your prospects.”

Which brings us to measuring success in email marketing. According to Quist, marketers need to rethink email success measure like open rates. “The problem with open rates is they’re a campaign measure, not a customer measure,” he said. “If you want a 100 percent open rate, sent one email to your mother.”

The irony of open rates, he said, is that “the harder you try to optimize open rates, the fewer customers you’ll drive to your site. Don’t optimize for high open rates, optimize for sales. Optimize for total opens.”

Marketers need to rethink their measure in terms of timing, as well.  According to Quist, although most opens are in first 24 hours, the majority of early opens aren’t purchasers. Nearly 40% of sales come in one day from the last click, and about 25% happens a month after you send an email.

What’s more, in some cases email drives sales in other channels without click-throughs, Quist said. “You don’t have to open an email to drive you to a purchase,” he said.

Quist’s advice to marketers:  “See the light,” he said. “Email works. Use it to drive sales across channels. Send more of it. Email isn’t about frequency, it’s about value. Send customers [content and offers they] value and they won’t complain about how much email you send.”

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