A question came up this morning on one of the Infusionsoft support pages about email ‘open’ rates. This is an important and confusing subject, so I thought I would write more here.
Unfortunately, ‘opens’ are one of the worst named and most confusing email marketing metrics. To a marketer, it seems on the surface to be a valuable metric. After all, who wouldn’t love to know how many and which customers were opening your messages?
The problems are due to the technical limitations of how this works. Here’s how it’s supposed to work:
- Before your email is sent, your email company puts a small invisible image in each HTML email.
- When the recipient displays the message, the image is retrieved from the email server.
- Each image has a unique name, so the email server knows which recipient got and ‘opened” the message.
But, this doesn’t work very well in actual use:
- Many mail readers have images turned off. The default for Outlook is to turn images off, same with Thunderbird, Google’s gmail service has images off by default, etc.
- The recipient might open and read the message carefully, but never show up as an ‘open’ because their email reader has images disabled.
- Many email readers have a Preview Pane that will automatically retrieve images. So, the recipient could click the message to delete it, and still show up as an ‘open’ even though they ignored your message.
- There is no tracking for plain text messages as you can’t put an image in a plain text message.
- Common open rates are in the 10 – 15% range. Even though a higher open rate can indicate more reader interest, all the noise from the above issues obscures what is really happening. You can easily end up going off in the wrong direction or wasting a lot of time trying to improve the wrong things.
So, ‘opens’ only provides a very rough measure of how your audience received your message. The main practical use for the ‘open’ metric is to look for a sudden variation in messages sent to the same list. If there is a sudden change, it can indicate a deliverability problem.
How to Really Measure Engagement
Fortunately, there is a way for marketers to find out which customers engaged with their message!
What you really care about isn’t whether your customer ‘opened’ or even read your message. What you really want is for them to take an action and engage with you. That’s how you know your message connected with them.
So, use links and link tracking. If a customer clicked a link, they actually responded to you. This is what matters. This is what you care about and should track.
The trick is to create links that customers want to click. This is part of the art of email marketing!
Here’s an article that covers Tracking User Responses with Infusionsoft trackable links. Similar approaches can work with other email providers.
Please leave a comment below and let us know how this works for you!