This week DoubleClick released its Email Marketing Trends Report covering Q2 2005 (press release). The report concludes three forces are pushing down open rates, which have declined 23.6% from 36% in Q2’04 to 27.5% in Q2’05: ISP technology changes, aging lists and changing consumer behaviour.
ISP Technology Changes
Most readers here will know that changes to settings in Outlook and AOL 9.0, and the default in Gmail, have greatly impacted open rates. Open rate tracking often relies on image data and with these email clients defaulting to not display images, that information can not be tracked by email marketing software. Many marketers would argue that open rates are not reliable and not an effective way of measuring campaign success. DoubleClick’s research suggests that what has most influenced open rates is changes in new versions of Outlook, indicating as many as 47% of users use their preview pane to review email.
I tend to also view open rates with suspicion and tell my clients to look to other data to judge results. However, in one case we have little other information to track the email back as the response driver when other communications are also in the market. Open rates can then at least indicate interest based on your sender name, subject line and recipients’ previous impressions of your email messages.
Aging Subscriber Lists
The fresher the list the higher the response, as direct marketers know. Email lists are starting to age and showing their age with declining response rates from consumers. This natural process should be seen as a sign of a maturing industry and an opportunity to better understand what your active, older customer looks like once they’ve settled into a ‘routine’ with your organization. Compare it with your lower responding segment of customers of the same age (age being how long they’ve been a customer).
Changing Consumer Behaviour
This, too, is no suprise, that with an increase in use of email, plus spam, that now email-savvy consumers would start to get a little more finicky over what they actually read in their inbox.
Despite the continuing decline in open rates, click rates remain steady at 7.2%, and the most important metric of all: order and click-to-purchase conversion rates have increased 18.2% and 27.8% respectively for the same quarter over the previous year.