Open Rates and Click Rates Are Declining

July 29th, 2010 | By Anthony Schneider | No Comments

Recent studies show a clear and steady decline in email open rates and clickthroughs. According to MailerMailer’s metrics report released earlier this month, email open rates have dropped around 20% from over 14% in 2007 to just above 11% in 2009, while clickthrough rates have fallen 40% over the same period.  Calamity? Marketing catastrophe? Not really.

Inevitable Evolution, Not Bad News

While we’d love to see research that shows open rates are increasing, the news that opens and clicks are declining is not surprising. More emails are sent to more people across more channels and devices than ever before. We’re more likely to read email on a mobile device; we open fewer emails and scan them more quickly. At the same time, we’re using better, harsher spam filters, so fewer emails reach inboxes in the first place. As for click decline, it’s largely attributable to how (and if) links are rendered. In order to thwart phishing, many email clients deliver messages without making the links clickable. The recipient must take an action to enable the links. (One of the reasons for the “add this sender to your address book” prompts). Emails viewed with images off or in text-only format also result in fewer clicks. So, a combination of list fatigue, technology, the end of the thrill of the new are among obvious reasons for open rate and clickthrough declines.

Smart Marketers Score

Smart marketers are responding to these trends by making their emails work harder. Better segmentation, customization, email production, customer service, copywriting and design help emails break through the clutter. The more relevant, timely and targeted your email, the more likely it is to succeed. Culling email lists and reducing transmission frequency can also help move email marketing efforts from quantity to quality, while checking emails acrosss multiple clients before transmission allows marketers to ensure the email works for all users.

Silver Linings

Don’t despair. There’s a lot of good news out there as well.  Email  remains a consistently  cost-effective communication channel, and continues to drive revenues for both B2B and B2C marketers. While click-to-purchase rates may be declining a bit as well, their decline is considerably lower than the declines in open and click rates (around 3.2% a year, according to an Epsilon study). Moreover, experts agree that the drop in click-to-purchase rates  can be attributed to the economy in general as much as to email user behaviors.  Similarly, while the percentage of adults who make a purchase because of an email (80% back in 2007, Epsilon) or share promotional emails via email or social channels (32% in 2009, Pace/IDM) may be dropping as well, those are promising numbers. Even if there’s been a decline, more than half of us make a purchase because of email and nearly a third of us share advertising messages we receive by email. Meanwhile, social marketing is opening new channels and doors. A 2010 study found that 20% of Facebook, MySpace and/or Twitter users posted or shared something from permission email to their social networks (Merkle).

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