When it comes to engagement, marketers can appreciate a good email. After all, for decades, email has remained the single-most powerful channel for connecting your brand with its audience. To get the most out of your email marketing program, your team likely relies heavily on metrics—like open rates and clickthrough rates—to gain insight into what’s working and what’s not.
Email open rates, the percentage of contacts who have opened a message, have long been a go-to gauge for email campaign success, often serving as a baseline for the performance of your brand’s subject lines and email previews. The salt to open rate’s pepper is the clickthrough rate (CTR). CTR is the number of recipients who clicked the links in your email compared to the total number of subscribers who received the email, as a percentage.
These metrics are closely related—it makes sense that if you have a high open rate, the chances for a high clickthrough rate increase, and vice versa. Which begs the question, when should marketers look at each of these metrics? Are there better options?
A Difference in Metrics
Email Open Rates
There are many variables that could influence an email’s open rate—the day and time of sending, audience segmentation, send frequency, as well as the north star of cross-channel marketing: personalization. Plus, an email open doesn’t necessarily mean that the true end goals—conversion and retention—are being accomplished. So, to understand the full customer journey and experience, brands need to evaluate their email messaging on more than just open rates. But, is just adding clickthrough rate enough?
Email Clickthrough Rates
Ultimately, brands want to know more than if an email was opened or not. Did the email drive traffic to your website? Did it open up conversation with your existing customers? With these questions in mind, your marketing team should include clickthrough rate as a KPI and be constantly iterating to improve this metric.
For example, while text-based call-to-actions may have been the norm in the past, teams should look towards using call-to-action (CTA) buttons instead. These eye-catching, clickable images are geared towards leading consumers to your brand’s site. In one test, Copyblogger, a content marketing blog, saw a 45% increase in clicks when using button CTAs. When it comes to evaluating your campaign success, both of these metrics should be included in your marketing toolbox. You may, however, be limiting yourself if your analytics begin and end with just these two data points.
The technology landscape is ever-changing, however. It’s important to define how your team measures success and start collecting benchmarks now. With constant privacy and data updates on the horizon, you’ll need to be aware of how your data may change over time and rethink how your team utilizes it.
Apple iOS 15 Update
Earlier this summer, Apple announced new objectives for its fall iOS 15 update. And, while most of the new improvements have been met with optimism, a specific set of updates have raised some eyebrows—especially those of the email marketer.
Under iOS 15, Apple users are given the option to disable open tracking, hide their IP addresses, and even withhold their email addresses. With this, email marketers have begun to ask questions regarding one of their biggest benchmarks for success: what about our open rates?
How the New Features Impact Metrics
Due to the nature of the update, not all of your users—and the resulting data from them—will be impacted. That said, users of the Apple Mail app will be more impacted than those on other mail applications. If a user has a Gmail address but uses Apple Mail to view their messages, it could impact opens. Opens are generated by the reporting of tracking pixels–invisible images that are embedded within an email. However, with the new Mail Privacy Protection feature, these embedded images can be beat by pre-loading their script data upon receiving your email, as opposed to when first viewing them.
To complicate things further, the new Hide My Email option lets users readily create randomized email addresses, allowing easy access to your online content without having to receive further engagement. The feature will only be applicable to emails in Apple Mail, but that still makes up 46% of all emails opened across both desktop and mobile, a significant uptick to those shielded from your important open-rate insights.
If we refer back to the previous iOS 14.5 and its app tracking update, 96% of users opted to leave tracking disabled. Experts are expecting a similar adoption rate for iOS 15. This is especially relevant today as Apple holds nearly 58% of the email client market share, with a whopping nine out of ten mobile emails all happening on Apple devices.
Open rates aren’t dead, of course, but these changes should be considered when evaluating your email performance and metrics moving forward. To adapt to these new changes, however, teams should be using this time to figure out what messaging is and isn’t working when it comes to getting your audience to open your emails.
What You Can Do Now
For those unsure how to adapt to these new changes, fear not! Here’s a quick look at what your team can do to prepare for the new wave of cyber circumvention.
- Rethink your CTAs with email personalization—get creative and leverage image-based CTAs and participatory clickthrough’s such as surveys and gifting.
- Leverage your A/B testing in new ways by placing an emphasis on other metrics, such as the aforementioned CTR.
- Push for more segmentation in your outreach and get more personalized with your messaging.
- Review your subscribers ahead of time to identify who is using Apple Mail.
- Fine-tune your marketing automation to move away from open rates as email trigger points.
- Share how your metrics may change with the broader team, to make sure everyone is privy to the potential impact.
- Incorporate progressive profiling to leverage clicks as a way to build customer profiles.
- Consider other channels (SMS, push, etc.) for outreach
As with anything else in the changing marketing landscape, your team should aim to be adaptable and flexible. By thinking about how to tackle these problems before they arrive, you’ll find yourself on track to continue growing your engagement, and even improve upon it, by diversifying your messaging.
Open to Change
All in all, both open and clickthrough rates are not dead, but with a considerable amount of users falling into a bucket where open rates aren’t as accurate as they once were, the way marketers approach open and clickthrough rates must adapt.
You don’t have to ignore open rates for email, but rethink the way they fit into your strategies. Maybe open and clickthrough rates for your mobile channels are a more accurate engagement identifier. The goal has always been to see engagement at the individual level to personalize the experience. With these changes and further updates to privacy regulations, creativity in messaging and data interpretation are growing in importance. Take the time now to hone in on what is resonating with your audience. Your future selves will be better off as a result.
To learn more about building a cross-channel marketing strategy, schedule an Iterable demo today.