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Seven ways to measure the performance of your email campaigns

6 minute read

Zoe Brown
Zoe Brown

Email marketing is still one of the most effective methods of digital marketing for small businesses and is more prominent than ever in a world where brands are having to connect with their customers virtually.

In fact, 78% of marketers have seen an increase in email engagement over the past year and 59% of marketers say email is their biggest source of ROI.

We’ve written before about creating successful email campaigns and how small businesses can reach their audiences through the various types of email marketing. However, the part which comes after you’ve sent a campaign is just as important to your email marketing success.

By measuring the performance of your email marketing campaigns you’ll be able to gain valuable insights into your customer’s behaviour, top performing content and optimum times to send your emails to name a few, all which can help you optimise future campaigns to improve your reach and engagement.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at seven useful and popular metrics your small business can monitor to help understand and analyse the performance of your email campaigns and optimise your future sends. It’s worth noting you’ll need to be managing emails from a CRM platform or through online email software (like Mailchimp or HubSpot) to access the metrics we’re talking about today.

Before we get stuck in, let’s just take a quick look at the importance of understanding your objective when measuring an email campaign.

Why is understanding your email marketing objectives so important?

From newsletters to promotional sales, company announcements and welcome emails, email marketing can be used to support many business activities. While the below metrics can be valuable to help monitor and analyse the performance of any email campaign, it’s important to keep in mind what you want to achieve from your campaign as this will be unique to your business.

For example, if you’re sending an email announcing changes to your business’ opening hours, the objective might be getting as many recipients as possible to open and read the email. Whereas if you’re telling subscribers about your latest special offer, you might want to measure click-through rates or conversion rates too.

What’s important here is to remember that your benchmarks, which metrics you pay most attention to and what success means to you are all unique to your business goals. This is why it’s important to understand what you want to get out of an email marketing campaign before focusing on particular metrics. It’s also key to keep in mind how you’re comparing your email campaigns against each other.

With this is mind, there are a number of email marketing metrics which are likely to be useful in most campaigns. Let’s take a look at seven of those now.

Top email marketing metrics 

1. Open rate

One of the most common email marketing metrics to look at after sending a campaign is open rate. Your open rate is a measure of the amount of email recipients, often displayed as a percentage, who opened your email.

A ‘good open rate’ really does depend on a number of factors, such as the industry and quality of the email database. Recent benchmarks from Campaign Monitor put the average open rate for 2020 as 18%, although open rates can be affected by factors such as the sender’s name, subject line and time of send so is individual to a business.

Comparing open rates across your campaigns can help you begin to analyse:

  • The best time of day to send your campaigns. Does a particular day or time of the week see your open rates increase?
  • Which emails your customers find most engaging. Do promotional emails typically have a higher open rate than newsletters for example?
  • Best performing subject lines. Have any recent subject lines caused a spike in open rates? The best way to analyse this is through A/B testing which we explore in more detail later

2. Click-through rate (CTR)

Another popular email marketing metric is click-through rate (CTR) and is the measure of the number of recipients, again often displayed as a percentage, who clicked on a link within your email campaign.

Similar to open rates, a good click-through rate depends on a number of factors from industry to the theme of the content, number of links and call to actions. In the same study, Campaign Monitor suggests the average click-through rate for last year was 2.6%.

If the objective of your email campaign is to encourage people to visit your website, perhaps to read a blog or visit your online shop, then CTR becomes an important metric.

3. Conversion rate

This leads us onto the next email metric which is conversion rate. You may have heard the term conversions mentioned when it comes to e-commerce, but it’s an important metric when measuring the effectiveness of your email marketing campaign too.

Conversion rate is a measure of the amount (percentage) of email recipients who completed or took a desired action in your campaign. This could be clicking through to read your blog, completing a purchase or downloading a whitepaper or ebook.

As we mentioned at the beginning of this article, every email campaign will have an objective and conversion rate can be an effective measurement of how many people achieved that goal.

4. Bounce rate

Bounce rate is a measurement (percentage) of the number of emails which weren’t successfully delivered to your recipient’s inbox. There are two main categories when it comes to bounce rate:

  • Hard bounces: where emails were delivered to invalid, closed or non-existent addresses and it’s unlikely they will ever be delivered successfully
  • Soft bounces: indicates a temporary problem with an email address although it is often still valid, for example someone with a full inbox

Your bounce rate is a good indicator of the quality of your email database. Campaign Monitor suggests your bounce rate needs to be kept at 2% or under, so it can be a good idea to monitor this metric to keep an eye out for any sudden peaks. It’s recommended to remove hard bounces from your database as they could end up harming the reputation of your IP address.

5. Unsubscribe rate

Your unsubscribe rate is the percentage of people who unsubscribed following your email campaign, so those who clicked the unsubscribe button commonly found in an email footer.

Optinmonster suggests anything under 0.5% is a good unsubscribe rate for an email campaign, although this may vary depending on a number of factors from industry to the quality of the database.

While it’s natural to get some unsubscribes from an email campaign, a sudden peak could indicate:

  • Content which didn’t resonate with the audience very well
  • Quality issues with the email database; perhaps a new lead generation activity isn’t bringing in relevant leads
  • It’s been a long time in between email campaigns or not long at all
  • The email isn’t displaying correctly across all devices or in email clients (e.g. Outlook and Gmail)

It’s important to remember that a smaller high-quality email database will be more beneficial to your business. Even if your audience is smaller, the ultimate goal is to deliver relevant and quality content which gets engaged with.

6. Spam complaints and forward rate

There are a number of actions recipients can take when they’ve received your email campaign. It can be a good idea to keep an eye on a couple of these to notice any trends or sudden peaks.

One of these actions is spam complaints and measures the number of people who reported your email as spam in their email provider. While you hope none of your email campaigns are marked as spam, it can be helpful to keep an eye on these numbers in case a particular email campaign, topic or subject line results in a sudden rise of complaints.

Another of these actions is forward rate and is the measurement (percentage) of the number of people who forwarded your email onto a recipient or shared your email campaign. Monitoring this metric can help you see whether any content or specific campaign has really resonated with your audience, enough for them to forward it onto friends, family or colleagues. For example, you might find an email promoting your latest sale has a higher forward rate than your monthly e-newsletter.   

7. Results from A/B testing

A/B testing or split testing is an effective way to test particular elements of your email campaigns and works by sending two variations of an email and comparing the results.

This is most effective when only one element of a campaign is tested, for example sending the same email campaign with two different subject lines or sending an email campaign with the same subject lines but a different call-to-action (CTA) button. You can find out more about A/B testing in email marketing here.

If you are split testing an email campaign, you’ll gain access to insightful metrics which you can directly compare against each other. For example, you might be able to see a change in open rates for a particular subject line or an increase in click-through rate for a particular CTA button.

These seven metrics are just some of the insights you’ll be able to access when sending campaigns from email marketing software and can be an effective way to measure the performance of your email activity to help improve future campaigns.

If you’d like to learn more about measuring email campaigns or how to get the most out of your email marketing, you may find these resources helpful:

Zoe Brown

Zoe works as a Content Marketing Executive at the UK Domain. Previously working in advertising and the sporting industry, Zoe has over four years experience in marketing.

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