Open rates are no longer a reliable measure of whether someone has read an email or not, and marketers must use alternative methods to track the success of their email campaigns, according to new research by the world’s biggest email marketing company, Epsilon International.

Epsilon’s DREAMmail Trends and Benchmarks report found that while recorded open rates for the UK fell by 14.8% for the first quarter of 2008 compared with the same period in 2007, click-through rates actually showed a dramatic improvement, up from 7.9% a year ago to 8.8% for Q1 2008, an increase of 11.4%.

Ian Hitt, managing director of Epsilon International, says: “It has become increasingly difficult to track open rates accurately, because of anti-spam measures taken by ISPs, ESPs and even in some email software packages on PCs. Open rates are tracked using single pixel images embedded in emails; unfortunately, more and more emails are being delivered with images suppressed, and when that happens, the tracking pixel won’t work unless the customer actively chooses to display pictures.”

That means that customers may be reading just as many emails as before, but the traditional tracking mechanism is no longer accurate.

Epsilon’s research suggests that open rates are becoming obsolete as an indicator of the success of a campaign. Luckily, more and more clients recognise this and are now looking beyond open rates and are using click-through rates to measure campaign effectiveness.

The 11.4% increase in click-through rates in the UK shows that clients are also getting better at targeting their emails and tailoring them to the individual recipient.

Hitt says: “Irrelevancy is the new spam, and our clients at least have taken this on board and are using increasingly sophisticated data analysis and segmentation to make emails more relevant.”

Epsilon International™ is the world’s largest email marketing company, and has been running the DREAMmail Trends and Benchmarks survey since the beginning of 2006.

Other findings in the report include:

UK penetration of BlackBerry mobile means delivery rates for text-only emails are far higher in this country compared with France and Germany. This demonstrates how the dominance of one particular device can skew results. Hitt says: “It will be interesting to see what happens with email formats once the new Apple iPhone has been widely adopted.”

Across Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), open rates for emails are down by 15.0% for the first quarter of 2008 compared with the same period a year earlier.

EMEA delivery rates have improved slightly, with bounce rates dropping from 6.5% to 4.6% for Q1 2008 compared with Q1 2007, but click-through rates for the EMEA region as a whole are down by 1.1% year-on-year to 8.7%.

Across the EMEA region, the media industry and the services industry both appear to have adopted targeting and segmentation to ensure their emails are more relevant to recipients, and have seen click-through rates improve by 11.6% and 8.2% respectively. But FMCG companies have seen click-throughs fall 9.4%, suggesting they have yet to learn that relevance drives action.


For more information contact Mark Terry-Lush, 07740 432 112 or email

About Epsilon International
Epsilon International (, is a leading provider of strategic, ROI-focused email communications solutions and marketing automation technologies. Through its combination of innovative technologies, professional services and vertical market expertise, Epsilon International helps marketers acquire, grow and retain profitable customer relationships through highly relevant and personalized email communications. The company's end-to-end suite of industry-specific products and services includes scalable email campaign technology, delivery optimization, marketing automation tools, turnkey integration solutions, strategic consulting, and creative expertise to produce email programs that generate measurable results throughout the customer lifecycle.

Epsilon International is an operating unit of Epsilon (, a leading provider of multi-channel marketing services, technologies and database solutions and has developed successful email programs for hundreds of companies, including Expedia, Northwest Airlines and The Washington Post/Newsweek Interactive.

Epsilon is an Alliance Data company with principle offices in Boston, Dallas, New York, St. Louis and Washington, D.C.

Published on: 12:00AM on 28th August 2008