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The problem with email engagement

There's a problem with email engagement. It can be a really great channel through which to build engagement with customers. Yet evidence proves that the majority of recipients aren't engaged by what they receive. We've looked at the numbers captured by an annual benchmarking survey done by Silverpop over the past three years. On the whole companies have done a pretty good job getting people to open emails. It's quite straightforward to optimise this through split testing subject lines and send times. But what's in the email is leaving the recipient cold.

The problem with email engagement

Click-to-open rate (CTOR) is a good indicator for whether the content of an email is engaging (click here for a definition). The best companies at email marketing have improved their CTOR year-on-year. But the median CTOR is dropping. This means that the majority of companies which do email marketing are getting worse at engaging their customers.

click to open rate across selected industries
click to open rate across selected industries

Retailers continue to have higher CTORs than other industries we analysed, but their rates are still dropping. Financial Services have a tougher job to engage customers with what they sell compared to retailers, which is why we think their CTOR is lower. But there's less of an excuse for Travel & Leisure businesses.

What needs to happen to improve email engagement

Companies need to work harder at increasing relevancy and personalising content and using their customer data to do so. Generic promotions won't cut it. None of us want to receive messages about things that don't interest us, yet the majority of businesses continue to treat email as a volume game. In other words they grow their list and send out emails as often as possible in the knowledge that a proportion of subscribers will buy. Growing an email list is fine (as long as it's done properly), but irrelevancy isn't. We appreciate that sales targets need to be hit but the way the majority of companies go about this today is only going to make it harder and more costly in the future. More costly because of the margin given away on mass promoting to acquire or re-acquire customers who haven't been nurtured.

How to get started.

  1. If you feel you don't have time or capability to increase the relevancy of your email marketing campaigns and personalise them, then seek the help. There are good, affordable software tools out there like ours, which can really help your team.
  2. Start simple. Take one of your weekly newsletters and split your list into best customers and everyone else. Best customers can mean many things, but it usually boils down to who's spent the most with you over their lifetime. Say thanks to these best customers, acknowledging the fact that they're important to you. You may wish to offer them a thank you reward, conditional upon spending a certain amount. For everyone else you can continue to execute your regular email newsletter campaign. Test the difference in engagement metrics.
  3. Sketch out the other campaigns that you could personalise and figure out what data you would need to collect to do a really great job at delighting your customers. Think about the type of products you'd want to showcase to different customers based on their purchase and browsing history.

Of course data is the enabler in all of this, so having a good single view of your customer and all their data in one place is key.