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You never get a second chance to make a good first impression. And when it comes to email, you only have a couple of seconds to make a good impression.

That's according to Litmus, a provider of email marketing and analytics solutions. Using its Email Analytics service, it looked at "4 million opens across hundreds of different email campaigns" and what it found should both frighten and encourage email marketers.

The bad news: over half (51%) of the emails that were opened were deleted within two seconds. That's obviously not entirely surprising. It has long been known that individuals make rapid judgments about websites when they load, and it would be foolish to expect that email is any different. But quantifying just how short a time span email marketers have to get recipients interested adds some perspective.

There is, however, some good news for email marketers: good email campaigns can deliver impressive results. For instance, in "the best email campaigns" Litmus tracked, 77% of the recipients who opened the email read it in its entirety. In a coupon-based campaign, 4% of opens produced prints, and in another campaign, 9% of the recipients forwarded the email to others.

Given how important email is to many businesses, and the role it can play in driving sales, Litmus' data is a good reminder compelling creative and copy should are a priority in the inbox, just as they are on the web. Additionally, I would also argue that given the fleeting opportunity email marketers have to make an impression, techniques such as segmentation and multivariate testing will in many cases be prerequisites for successful email marketing.

Photo credit: Fletcher Prince via Flickr.

Patricio Robles

Published 14 July, 2010 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

2419 more posts from this author

Comments (7)

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Corporate photographer London

It would be interesting to know the stats on html emails as I tend to delete them directly rather than plain text ones. Grant

over 6 years ago


Joakim Ditlev

Email marketing is becoming just like TV-spots: It's too common, people are filtering and in the end nobody cares. Sets the lever high for marketers - they need to think outside the box.

over 6 years ago

Marc Munier

Marc Munier, Commercial Director at Pure360

For me this re-enforces the things you need to remeber when doing email marketing:

1. Keep it to the point - marketing emails are flyers not letters

2. Email metrics in isolation are poor indicators of success

There is no limit to the quantity of data you can get from email marketing (evident in the fact that litmus has now got a whole host more analytics for us to pour over) but the only one that matters is conversions.

Nice summary Patricio 

over 6 years ago


Felix Hemsley

Those do appear to be startling stats, but email stats on their own need a very large handfull of salt, as Marc says. Assume you had a very broad subject line, there is no indication of what the topics contained are, thus a large proportion who open it will deem it irrelevant and delete it. Use a more appropriate subject line and the proportion who open it and then delete it are reduced... A simple fix to sway the stats shown here.

over 6 years ago


Miriam O'Flynn, Project Manager at esus Web Services

I agree with Marc, the important thing is the bottom line, albeit it the intermediary measures are useful for making marketers think more carefully about their email campaigns. I wonder do Litmus have stats on the average CTRs in their large study, plus the overall conversion rates and finally the ROI provided by email marketing compared to other channels?

Headlines like this (Half of emails deleted within 2 secs after opening) will be seen by many to as a reason to ditch email in favour of social media, something which Ben and Gerrys have already done.

 eConsultancy's email Marketing Survey / Census provides far more useful and balanced statistics on email marketing. At the end of the day, it's much like your website, outdoor advertising or your shop window - if they look a mess / are unappealing, do not contain the right message, are not targetted at the right people or are all about hard sell, they will only get a passing glance.

over 6 years ago

Remiz Rahnas

Remiz Rahnas, Head of Production at WebCastle Media Pvt LTD

It is so true that half of emails we receive every day is unwanted or not worth spending time on. 

But as far as the data is usable, like newsletter models, email id collection and many other resources are there in it, I never press delete.

I archive those emails so that I can access it later when I want or have some free time to explore. Got Gigs of extra space from Gmail and no worry about it :)


over 6 years ago


Natalie Evans, Marcomms Manager at Econsultancy

Interesting article! I attended a Communigator seminar yesterday that said the same thing. However, this is the norm but if you have an email campaign with a catchy subject line, clear and relevant message (this is more a text based element than visual), call to action you can overcome this 2 second barrier.

over 6 years ago

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