Be Wary of Email “Trend” Reports

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Friday’s release of a new report from eROI published on emarketer is a glaring example of why you have to look hard at email marketing reports to comprehend what is really going on. If I hadn’t read this one carefully I would think that: a) if I have a large mailing list I’m automatically getting lower response, and b) I should be mailing on Saturday.
Neither of these is true.


The report suggests that large lists are getting lower click and ‘read’ (read ‘open’) rates and that overall response is higher on Saturday. But based on the composition of the lists they are using as a basis for this argument this is akin to determining which is juicier between an orange and a banana.
The smaller lists they say clearly in their report are high value business-business lists, easier to manage and deliver very clearly targetted messages to. As the lists get larger, they are composed more of consumers, retailers in fact, which accounts for the spike in weekend response, and a trend to lower response overall as those lists are more general.
Another herring to watch is terminology. EROI actual classifies their stats as ‘Read’ and ‘Click’. Unless you are looking over your recipient’s shoulder, you can’t know if your email has been ‘read’ vs. opened in passing or glanced at quickly before being deleted — this is just an ‘Open’ stat, which One Degree readers know not to rely on.
What they do do, and I wish had done more openly, is provide some hints on how the small list owners have achieved higher response: by having closer relationships and more easily maintaining their list. You, too, can do this if you have a large list simply by segmenting it into smaller groups that are easier to manage, understand needs and communicate with.
In fact, if you have not browsed the list of subscribers and responders on your list in a while, I urge you to do so. At the very least, it will get you curious and at most will provide some ideas on how to determine your list segments.

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3 thoughts on “Be Wary of Email “Trend” Reports

  1. carey

    June, I agree with your note on caution and context as important when reviewing these studies. These data are released for marketing and credibility above all else. I would propose that a company should try to “know” everyone on their list no matter the size, with at least someone in the company knowing each list member to some degree. Striving for that level of awareness means a lot more active and profitable list!

  2. Stefan Eyram

    June, you are soooo right! Often we will see two reports, done similarly, come out with different results. Here are a couple of points:
    1. The bigger the list gets the bigger the need to segment and target. As your databse grows the lowest common marketing denominator gets more difficult to find. Therefore, a one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing will most likely erode your response and ROI. If you are not ready for dynamic content based on profiles, preferences and behaviour, segemnt your database into “buckets” of similar people and send then as relevant content as possible. This will certainly increase response rates of a big list. Just like the small “boutique” that has a small list of very similar targets.
    2. THERE IS NO BEST DAY TO SEND EMAIL. At least not a best day that works for everyone all the time. Check out http://www.email.exacttarget.com/pdf/Best-Day.pdf (free registration may be required). Morgan Stewart , ExactTarget has written an excellent white paper that basically says everyone needs to do their own testing to see what works for them and their own database. My experience tells me that if you segment your list you are likely to find different segements will behave differently and, therefore, you are likely to see each segment have their own “best day”.

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