Vanity Metrics: Email Opening Rate

Email Marketing continues to be a key tool in the marketing strategy of any online store. This is logical, given that in many eCommerce stores email is one of the channels that generate the highest sale volumes, particularly in flash sale websites, virtual outlets, etc. However, Email Marketing, like any other technique, is not magic and will not obtain sales if you don’t do it right.

It is interesting that, when you talk to some eCommerce Managers about their Email Marketing strategy, they say that their reference metric is the email opening rate. Even though this metric is important and should be taken into account, it is rather deceiving if you don’t compare it to other variables. A newsletter with an interesting subject line can lead to a high email opening rate, but if other key items in the email, such as its contents, promotions, products, etc. don’t live up to the subject line, the final results will be poor. What matters here is not to be deceived by this metric and analyze it as the first step in an email sale funnel.

What role does email play in your global strategy?

In order to give more or less weight to the email opening rate as a key metric in your business, you should consider the role played by emails in your marketing strategy. As you can send different types of email, let us first see them in order to examine their roles:
Purely transactional emails such as the emails sent when a new user registers: they can include order data, messages sent to users when the order leaves the warehouse, etc.

Emails sent by your email retargeting system, aimed at complementing your personalization strategy, which are triggered by various behaviors. These include shopping cart recovery emails and emails containing a personalized selection of products by each user. They can also be triggered by other user actions, such as viewing a product or category and purchasing nothing.
Newsletters sent periodically to your customers and subscribers, with a selection of products and contents which may interest them, to generate engagement, so that they will keep you in their “top of mind” and attract sales.

Leaving a side purely transactional emails, given their merely informative nature and the fact that they may be opened or clicked or not by users depending on their needs (in most cases, those emails are deleted or filed away), let us take a look at each type of email, and thus at the metrics that should be associated with them.

The role of email retargeting

In the case of emails sent by your email retargeting system, their ultimate goal is selling products. Thus, it’s interesting to find the email opening rate (mainly to optimize message subject lines), but the main metrics should be the sales generated by those emails.

The role of newsletters

Their role may vary, depending on the strategy of your store. In some cases, when your newsletters are aimed at branding or at keeping in touch with your customers/subscribers, or when they are basically not emails aimed at pushing sales, the opening rate can serve as the main metric. But if your emails contain links to contents and/or products in your website, you should regard the click rate as an even more important metric. If your click rate is very low, it will mean that the contents you are sending to your users are poor or of their interest, and so you should consider changing the type of contents, or possible designing a better customer segmentation strategy, so that you can sent the contents that most interest each segment.

In the case of sales-oriented newsletters, the key metric, as in the case of email retargeting, is the sales generated by those newsletter. You can use the opening rate and the click rate as metrics to find the reasons for low effectiveness, but what really matters in this case is finding how many sales are generated by your newsletters.

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