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Email Metrics to Track Beyond Simple Opens and Unsubscribes

Email Metrics to Track Beyond Simple Opens and Unsubscribes

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Email marketers swim in constant data. While analytics often inform decision making, the flip side of that coin means your competitors also use data to do the same. To truly ensure campaigns remain fully optimized for engagement, conversions, and ROI, you need to look beyond the simple email metrics everyone tracks.

Simple statistics such as open and unsubscribe rates definitely have their place, but a deeper dive into what’s impactful and what needs improvement gives you and your teams the understanding necessary to drive effective marketing campaigns.

In this post, we look at two other advanced analytics you can use to further refine content. Then, we’ll dive into two ultra-advanced analytics that may be harder to source but offer practical, personalized insights on an individual subscriber level.

Email Metric 1: Complaint Rate

Unsubscribes tend to indicate when recipients find messages irrelevant, but when contacts mark content as spam it indicates major antagonism against your content. Measuring the complaint rate, or the percentage of times recipients mark your outbound emails as spam, ensures your team has a grasp on when content has become dangerously misaligned from consumer expectations.

Nearly half of all emails sent get classified as spam, so to hit the inbox marketers need to know how to differentiate between content subscribers will find valuable or irrelevant.

What Makes Spam Indications Unique?

Spam designations happen for many reasons, but some of the most common stem from a disconnect between the marketer and contact.

  • The recipient cannot easily find a way to unsubscribe (e.g., the link is in small font or a similar color to the background)
  • There is no option to unsubscribe (e.g., emails from sales reps marked as spam will affect the entire company domain)
  • Marketers do not respect unsubscribe requests and continue to send unwanted communications
  • Oversaturated contacts opt to skip an unsubscribe attempt and directly mark a message as spam

While some of these may not necessarily result from marketing decisions, the unique danger of spam designations rather than regular unsubscribes affect every team’s future campaigns. High spam rates discredit a brand and more importantly cause future emails to go straight to spam folders.

Overcoming Poor Email Deliverability

Marketers must keep the complaint rate low to maintain a good sender reputation and to avoid email providers marking content as spam. Email marketers generally accept a complaint rate of less than 0.1 percent, while a rate above 0.5 percent often indicates issues with email content or list quality.

To avoid this, marketers can take several steps to reduce complaint rates and boost deliverability. Here are some best practices to consider.

  • Permission-based email lists: Only source subscribers who have given explicit permission to receive emails through a confirmed opt-in process. Avoid buying email lists, as these often contain contacts who haven’t opted in to receive emails from your organization.
  • Segmented email lists: Personalizing email lists based on subscriber behavior, demographics, or interests provides recipients with relevant content they are more likely to engage with, reducing the likelihood of spam designations while boosting conversion rates.
  • Engaging subject lines and content: A/B test and experiment with email subject lines that accurately describe the content of the email while ensuring the content doesn’t mislead or come off as overly promotional. Engaging content typically includes useful tips, exclusive discounts/promotions, or relevant industry insights.
  • Professional designs and mobile-optimized emails: Seeing as how the majority of emails are now opened on mobile devices and younger consumers prefer mobile shopping and user experiences, brands need to give the right first impression with clean-looking emails optimized for mobile as well as desktop engagements.
  • Include an easy-to-find unsubscribe link: Sometimes it’s better to cut your losses rather than risk long-term damage. Make it easy for contacts to opt out with a noticeable unsubscribe link in the footer of emails, otherwise you incentivize spam designations. The good news – if you follow the above steps, the risk of unsubscribes is low.

Be sure to consistently monitor campaigns after the fact for further insights. When you do encounter feedback such as spam complaints, unsubscribes, and email replies, respond in a timely and professional manner to not only build trust with subscribers but also spot any developing issues.

Email Metric 2: Event Lag

In a utopia, subscribers receive communications and immediately convert. Unfortunately, that rarely does happen, so marketers need to investigate whenever a delay between send time, open, and click happens. Event lag, which measures the time between these milestones, provides marketers with insights into content effectiveness.

You can easily measure event lag: just subtract the time at which a contact took the desired action (e.g., link click, website purchase) from when the email was sent. For campaigns across time zones, adjust expectations to account for the difference. You can also swap conversion time for open time(s). With this data, you can understand whether content prompts immediate action or leaves an email wasting away in subscriber inboxes.

According to a Campaign Monitor study, the median click-to-open rate, which tracks how many subscribers who opened an email went on to click a link, across all industries clocks in at around 10.5 percent. Campaigns that perform below this benchmark should make good candidates for further speculation into event lag and supplemental analysis.

Creating More Actionable Emails

Improving subscriber response times is crucial to optimal engagement, conversions, and customer satisfaction. Here are some tips to improve response times in your marketing emails.

  • Scrutinize your offers: Event lag times vary depending on the type of desired action. For example, consumers often take longer purchasing high-ticket products compared to low-cost items or requests. Therefore, if lengthy event lag times hold back your campaigns, switch up your calls-to-action to encourage easier conversions. For example, a B2B SaaS company can lower the stakes of their email CTA by switching from a demo request to a product page that lets recipients make decisions at their own pace.
  • Adjust timing: Sometimes event lag stems from an easily determined source — timing. If you find most emails to certain geographies have extended lag times, then since the content clearly gets clicks, adjusting to more palatable local send times could be the necessary fix.
  • Automated emails: Implementing automated follow-up email campaigns to welcome new subscribers, encourage action on abandoned carts, or send personalized behavior-based recommendations take advantage of recent positive engagements to foster immediate action.
  • Segmented email lists and content: Again, sending personalized emails based on subscriber behavior (for example, see above) or preferences creates more relevant experiences, improving response time.

Ultimately, the most important factor is to track and analyze your event lag data regularly, using that information to optimize your email campaigns over time to improve engagement and conversions.

Now that we’ve established advanced metrics to determine who is most/least engaged, let’s take a look at how to apply insights to your most radical subscribers.

Email Metric 3: Most-Engaged Subscribers

Every brand loves their MVPs, but are you doing enough to truly maximize the value they bring to your organization?

The Pareto Principle notes roughly 80 percent of sales come from just 20 percent of customers. Knowing this, maximizing loyalty and upsell opportunities among your most-engaged subscribers becomes crucial for marketers.

How to Recognize

To determine which subscribers have the highest brand loyalty, aggregate the following metrics.

  • Open Rates: The subscribers who consistently open your emails clearly find value in the content you send. Look at how often contacts open emails (and when they don’t) at an individual level to gain future segmentation insights.
  • Click-Through Rates: Use a similar approach for click-through statistics. Subscribers who consistently follow calls-to-action trust your brand.
  • Conversion Rates: Identify the subscribers who consistently take the desired actions of your emails. You can further segment contacts based on what actions they take post-click (e.g., those who purchase a certain product).

Create a scoring system out of these metrics that ranks subscribers based on their level of engagement. To do so, assign a score to each metric, add up the scores for each subscriber, then rank subscribers based on their total score. Going forward, target the most-engaged subscribers with personalized content or special offers to encourage continued engagement.

Priming for Further Action

Once you’ve determined your most-engaged subscribers, foster further conversions and long-term brand loyalty with the following strategies.

  • Personalized content: Segment your most engaged subscribers and personalize your content to cater to their specific desires. Effective segmentations pull data from past purchase history, browsing behavior, and engagement to create more relevant content that drives repeat conversions.
  • Exclusive offers and promotions: Reward your most-engaged subscribers with exclusive offers and promotions, including early access to sales, discounts, or freebies. These can even become personalized, such as promos for birthdays or anniversaries.
  • Ask for feedback: Use your most-engaged subscribers as a focus group to gather feedback on new products or services, website updates, or other business initiatives. This feedback from your best revenue stream identifies pain points and areas to improve, and fixing these shortcomings minimize the risk of churning your other subscribers.
  • Encourage social sharing: Take advantage of strong brand loyalty to encourage word-of-mouth sharing through social media or conversations with friends and family. These campaigns expand your reach and help attract new subscribers who are likely to engage in a similar manner.

Engagement is a two-way street, so ensure you continue to engage your brand’s most loyal followers with creative and personalized communications. In the long run, these customers become your organization’s foundation.

Email Metric 4: Least-Engaged Subscribers

Finding ways to elicit just an open from your least-engaged subscribers, on the other hand, fills marketers with migraines. These contacts have high event lag (or no engagement at all) and are at high risk to increase your complaint rate.

Knowing this, marketers must discern when to retarget low-engaged subscribers and when to remove them from lists altogether. With email deliverability and brand reputation at stake, list quality trumps quantity.

Improving relationships with your least engaged subscribers is a tall task, but several strategies can reset the relationship.

  • Segmented email lists: Notice a theme? Build audience segmentations based on engagement levels, and use this info to create campaigns that target your least-engaged subscribers. Use data such as their past purchase history or browsing behavior to create personalized messages tailored to these groups’ interests that resonate and drive conversions.
  • Re-opt-in campaigns: A re-opt-in campaign involves sending an email asking if identified subscribers still want to receive your emails and allowing them to confirm their subscription. This measure helps clean up email database and ensures you only target subscribers interested in hearing from you.
  • Evaluate email frequency: If you’re sending too many emails to your least engaged subscribers, they may tune out or unsubscribe. If you see high unsubscribe or complaint rates, evaluate how to reduce email frequency, reprioritize campaigns, or change the timing of email sends to see if engagement levels improve.
  • Prioritize: Multiple teams sending multiple email campaigns to the same contacts in theory increase the likelihood of conversion, but in practice it leads to marketing fatigue and high unsubscribe rates. Develop a system for campaign prioritization to ensure subscribers do not disengage due to an overwhelming amount of messages.
  • Incentives and promos: For true holdouts, consider offering incentives such as personalized discounts or freebies to rekindle interest in your brand and increase the chances of future engagement.
  • Different types of content: Try experimenting with different types of content, such as videos, interactive quizzes, or infographics, to see what resonates with your least-engaged subscribers. This keeps your content fresh and encourages continual engagement.

Overall, re-engaging with your least engaged subscribers in email marketing can take time and effort, but by focusing on personalized content, segmentation, and incentives, you can increase the chances of them engaging more with your brand over time.

Final Thoughts

As with all things email marketing, knowing how each subscriber interacts with your messages informs how to best continue each relationship. To really understand who is at risk for dis-engagement, monitor in-depth trends like complaint rate and event lag, so you have an accurate and fresh view of which campaigns resonate and which ones alienate.

It all starts with audience segmentation. If you feel your emails lack the personalization that drives action and conversions, learn how DESelect Segment empowers marketers of all technical abilities to create complex, personalized audiences in half the time.

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  • Joe is a marketing leader with nearly a decade's worth of tales to tell about marketing best practices. Working for companies both family-owned and global, Joe forged a skillset for customer-facing communications in the brightest of fires. When not stressing over the logistics of an email campaign, you can find him preparing for the O. Henry World Pun-Off Championships.

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