Mobile e-mail makes open rates less relevant

By APSIS

2011-10-28

To measure, to test and to understand what makes e-mail marketing work is essential for anyone working professionally with email. But since more and more people read email on a mobile device, one of the most widely used metrics has become increasingly difficult to use.

The most obvious way to find the best time to send newsletters is to measure the open rate. I know for sure – I have done it myself for years.

But now, it is probably time to think differently – and a little further.
The open rate is a rather blunt metric since many recipients do not view images in the newsletters they get. This means that about 30 – 40 % of all opened email messages do not register as “opened”.

The statistics for opened email messages will never be totally accurate. Recipients who do not view images will not be registered and recipients who simply preview their messages (with images) are registered – but they have not necessarily read the contents of the message.

But even if the statistics are a bit flawed, there is still a lot to be learned from open rates. If you spit your mailing list into two randomly selected groups to test different subject lines, you may learn a lot – as long as you do not jump to conclusions on the basis of the open rate.

A high open rate does not necessarily translate into more clicks or purchases. This has always been the case. A great offer in the subject line will get your messages opened – but if the content is not as good as the subject line, nothing else will happen.

The fact that more people read e-mail on mobile devices makes it difficult to say how valuable the open rate is. The main reasons for this is that a mobile device regularly is used to scan incoming messages, to give quick responses when possible and to delete whatever you do not intend to act upon.

If the message that we send is not highly relevant, there is a risk that it will be deleted quite quickly. The right time to send is not necessarily when most people read your messages. Instead, focus on the effect and measure clicks and purchases, since that is what you want, after all. Having great, relevant content is increasingly important – both from this point of view and when it comes to finding your way into the new Priority Inboxes. And while we are at it: forget the notion that there is a single day of the week that is the best day to send email messages on. We hear a different story, one where it is obvious that different products and services benefit from totally different dates and times. If you want better results, consider a segmentation of your mailing list and “filter” the send time. Then, your recipients will get newsletters based on when they usually open them – and do something. If you know things like times for log-ins, times for purchases or times when recipients click, you know how to start segmenting.

Test, measure, improve – and become number one!

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