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After Dip in Email Performance, Marketers Focus on Data

Each year brings a bevy of new tools and tactics designed to enhance email marketing performance. Yet according to multichannel marketing services provider Epsilon, both the email open rate and the clickthrough rate (CTR) in North America were down slightly in the second quarter of 2012. While the open rate in Q2 was still the second-highest seen in a two-year period, CTR reached its lowest level.

The data suggests that email marketers are still effectively capturing consumers’ initial attention. However, companies most often see the greatest return on their email spend when they can incite the audience to click through—the catalyst for conversion.

In the next 12 months, US marketers will look to boost email performance using a variety of tactics and technologies. In an August 2012 study from marketing consulting and research firm The Relevancy Group, conducted on behalf of email certification and reputation monitoring company Return Path, 35% of US marketers said they planned to enhance their email deliverability, with 32% hoping to take advantage of predictive analytics to identify future customer trends to improve overall customer relevancy.

Other tactics marketers expected to use to boost email relevancy included centralizing email, mobile and social subscriber data (30%), investing in dynamic content (29%), and leveraging lifecycle marketing across channels (27%), the latter of which will likely include the use of triggered messages where applicable.

Triggered emails—automated emails sent based on behaviors, customer status or other data-driven factors—saw significantly higher open and CTR rates than marketing emails in general, according to Epsilon’s Q2 2012 data. However, they accounted for less than 3% of all emails sent that quarter. Epsilon reported that triggered emails saw almost double the open rate (49.8%) and more than double the CTR (9.8%) compared to the average for all emails.

The timeliness and relevancy of triggered emails is one likely cause of their high performance. Yet even triggered emails saw an overall decline in CTR during this timeframe. As marketers push to increase email relevancy in the coming year, CTRs may see a revival. In the interim, marketers should consider some of the larger forces at play, such as the growing influence of mobile.

From the second half of 2011 to the first half of 2012, US mobile-based email opens on smartphones and tablets jumped from 27.4% of total opens to 36%, according to direct digital marketing solutions provider Knotice. Could mobile device usage be helping email open rates but hindering CTR? Time will tell.


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