email marketing best practice guide (subscriber only)

Important response measures

First of all it’s important to know which metrics you should be measuring in order to determine the effectiveness of your campaign. 

These are some of the most important response measures that will be reported for an email campaign by your email service provider.

  • Bounce rate: this can be split into hard bounce rate (the recipient does not see the email due to invalid email addresses or domain failure) and soft bounce rate (the email address is valid but the recipient does not see the email because of a temporary delivery problem, inbox full, server down etc.)
  • Conversion rate: the number of ‘take-ups’ resulting from the email activity. For instance the number of completed transactions from a cart or the download of a document. 
  • Deliverability: there are two main ways in which deliverability should be measured – returned email deliverability (volume of emails sent minus the number of bounces received) and inbox deliverability (volume of emails delivered to the inbox as opposed to the spam folder or not delivered). 
  • Average unique open rate: unique opens divided by number of emails delivered. 
  • Opt-out: when a recipient unsubscribes or opts out of further communications. There’s more on this in our post on tips for managing email unsubscribes.
  • Response rate: the number of actual responses made as a result of the email campaign. 

In the planning stages of any campaign it’s vital that specific goals are considered for each one depending on its desired outcome. A conversion can mean anything from a product purchased to the downloading of a white-paper to simply directing the recipient to a new social channel. The above examples are just a small band of metrics that you can use to measure performance.

Here’s an example of a model showing the best and worst case scenarios from an email marketing campaign. Obviously this is quite optimistic.


Blowing email’s trumpet

As an email marketer you may find yourself under-recognised, as many companies fail to accurately attribute success in an increasingly multichannel world.

Email agency Alchemy Work set out to help a retailer who wanted to better understand the true contribution of its email marketing strategy. In particular the influence email has on conversions from other channels.

Alchemy Worx was able to demonstrate that even unopened emails were driving brand awareness and sales in other channels. It was also able to prove that open rates were a very poor indicator of email’s value to its business.

Here you can see that sending an email results in revenue uplift across all channels and clearly demonstrates that email engagement is not limited to conventional open and click 

The charts also show the impact of the ‘nudge effect’ of email on other channels. The additional revenue generated as a result of the email being received shows the brand impact of email. 

So whilst open rates for emails may have declined over the past few years as the channel has matured, this study highlights that in terms of revenue generation it’s still an absolutely vital tool. 

Email marketers however should not be relying on open or click-through rates as the sole gauge of success, but rather looking at conversions and finding a way to relate their activity to revenue generated across all online marketing channels.

Stats from third party email service providers

I’m including a few studies from a variety of email providers to highlight the differences in open-rates and click-throughs by industry.

This first lengthy list is from MailChimp. It’s based on a selection of its clients, which have at least 1,000 subscribers, with hundreds of millions of emails scanned and tracked.

Click image for the full list

This is from a 2014 survey by, it shows the average open and click through rates for UK SME campaigns. It’s fairly similar to the MailChimp study.

Finally here is Silverpop’s email marketing metrics benchmark study for 2014. There’s lots of data in the linked Pdf but here for your pleasure are the tables for unique open rates and click-through rates.