Email Click Rates Continued to Drop in Q2; Most New Subscribers Inactive

September 13, 2012

Email click rates dropped to 4.4% in Q2, down more than 6% from 4.7% in Q1, and marking the 3rd consecutive quarter-over-quarter drop, according to [download page] Epsilon’s latest benchmarking report. Click rates have now fallen 20% from from 5.5% in Q3 2011, and are down 15% year-over-year. The report also finds that 59% of new subscribers (who have been on file for less than 3 months, and who represent 11% of an email list on average) are not engaged, neither opening nor clicking on emails.

Email open rates also decreased in Q2, down slightly from 26.2% to 25.6%, the first quarter-over-quarter drop since Q1-Q2 2011. When factoring out triggered and real-time messages, average volume per client was down 6.3% quarter-over-quarter and 29.7% year-over-year. The report suggests this indicates a move by marketers to more triggered and real-time messages rather than business-as-usual (BAU) emails. Even so, in Q2, triggered emails represented just 2.6% of total email volume, though that was up 22% from Q1.

According to Experian CheetahMail’s 2012 Q2 email benchmark report, email volume rose 10.1% year-over-year in Q2, though the quarter-over-quarter rise was more muted, at 2%.

Triggered Email Open, Click Rates Move in Opposite Directions

Details from Epsilon’s “Q2 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks” indicate that triggered email messages ”“ deployed as a result of an action, such as Welcome or Abandoned Shopping Cart ”“ continue to vastly outperform BAU emails. Open rates for triggered emails hit 49.8% in Q2, jumping 8.5% from 45.9% in Q1, and almost 95% higher than the BAU rate. Click rates on triggered emails, though, dropped for the 3rd consecutive quarter, to 9.8%, on par with Q2 2011, but far lower than Q2 2010’s rate (13.7%). Even so, the average click rate for triggered emails was more than double the rate for BAU emails.

Triggered email non-bounce rates continued to be healthy in Q2, at 95.2%, only slightly below BAU emails’ rate of 95.9%.

Roughly Half of Email Lists Active

Further data from the report reveals that about half of an email list will be active – either opening or clicking on emails. Among new subscribers, 16% are dubbed “new clickers” (who have opened and clicked), and 25% are “new openers” (who have opened). The figures are slightly better among “mature” subscribers – who have been on a list for longer than 3 months. Among these, 51% have engaged in some way in the past 12 months, including 26% who have either opened or clicked recently.

Breaking down the overall performance of on an average list by behavior, the report finds that 23% are “super stars” who have opened or clicked emails within the most recent 3 months, an additional 23% are “nappers” (who have opened or clicked more than 3 months ago), and 43% are “dormant” (inactive for the past 12 months).

The retail apparel industry has the highest proportion of super stars (39%), followed by the business publishing/media general (34%), travel/hospitality travel services (31%), and retail general (30%) segments. By contrast, the consumer services pharmaceutical vertical has the highest average proportion of dormants (52%), followed by the consumer services general (49%) and business products and services general (49%) categories.

The analysis of subscriber behavior is based on more than 660 million non-bounced and opted-in email addressed contracted from July 1, 2011 through June 30, 2012, across multiple industries and approximately 150 clients.

Click-to-Open Rates Down For Most Industries

Breaking the BAU emails down by 11 industry segments, Epsilon reveals that click to open rates (CTORs) fell by more than 5% year-over-year for all but one segment (financial services general). Consumer products CPG sported the highest CTOR (39.4%), while financial services CC/Banks (11.3%) saw the lowest.

In terms of open rates, retail general (35.3%) and travel/hospitality travel services (34.9%) saw the best results, while consumer publishing/media general (15.4%) had the lowest. Consumer products CPG boasted by far the highest click rate (6.9%), followed by retail general (5.2%).

Other Findings:

  • In Q2, 63.4% of emails deployed through Epsilon’s email platform were characterized as marketing messages, up from 61.4% in Q1. The open rate for these emails in Q2 was 20.2% (compared to 21.8% in Q1), significantly behind editorial (31.7%) and service (49.1%) messages. Click rates also lagged at 2.6% (compared to 3.2% in Q1), also behind editorial (9%) and service (7.8%) emails. And CTOR for marketing messages in Q2 was 12.7%, down from 14.7% the previous quarter, and lower than all other email categories save for acquisition emails.
  • Marketing message CTORs were highest in the retail general (19.4%) category and lowest in the financial services general (5.4%) category.
  • The highest triggered email open rates were in the retail general (69.9%), consumer products pharmaceutical (69%) and travel hospitality (67.2%) categories. The highest triggered email click rates were in the consumer products CPG (18.1%), consumer publishing (16.1%) and consumer products pharmaceutical (15.8%) categories.
  • Consumer products CPG (+230.6%), retail apparel (+154.1%), and consumer publishing/media general (+122.5%) showed the largest disparities in open rates between triggered and BAU emails, for the second consecutive quarter.
  • The retail apparel (+291.9%), consumer services telecom (+258.6%), and consumer publishing/media general (+250) categories demonstrated the most significant differences in click rates between triggered and BAU emails.

About the Data: Epsilon’s Q2 2012 Email Trends and Benchmarks analyze performance trends by both industry and message type to provide an understanding of how the average company in each category performs. The study is compiled from 7.3 billion emails sent in Q2 (April, May and June) 2012, across multiple industries and approximately 170 participating clients.

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