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Email Marketing Analytics

Published by Charles Brodeur


Here's a wealth of hints, tricks and suggestions on how to increase the effectiveness of your email marketing programs. Before you start, however, it might make sense to get a good picture of where your campaigns are today by conducting an email marketing review. This review should include an analysis of key performance metrics, a look at any recipient feedback or surveys, a review of your website analytics, a comparison against internal and relevant external benchmarks and a review of your creative and content.

Once this is complete, you can use what you’ve learned to map out an improvement plan for your email marketing programs using the information in the guide. The steps for an Email Marketing Review are listed below.

Analysis of Key Performance Metrics

Your first step in the Email Marketing Review process is to develop a spreadsheet that contains your email marketing program results from the past 6 -12 months. The idea is to give yourself a broad enough sample size to extract meaningful information and to conduct deep analysis as easily as possible. Once this report is developed you should be able to calculate your overall averages and determine the best and worst performing message for each metric. What metrics should you include in your report? Depending on your business, we suggest inclusion of the following:
Conversion Rate – number of orders, transactions, down loads or actions as percentage of the total number of email messages delivered
  • Open rate
  • Click-through rate
  • Click-to-open rate – number of unique clicks divided by the number of unique opens
  • Bounce rate
  • Delivery rate – number of email messages sent minus the number of email messages that bounced
  • Unsubscribe rate
  • Referral rate (“send-to-a-friend”)
  • Net subscribers (number of subscribers plus new subscribers) minus (bounces plus unsubscribes)
  • Subscriber retention (number of subscribers minus bounces minus unsubscribes divided by number of subscribers)
  • Percent of orders, transactions, downloads or actions of emails sent or delivered
  • Total revenue generated as a direct result of the email program
  • Budget invested per email sent or delivered
Once you’ve pulled your metrics, take a look at them based on the following factors:

The Priority Based on Objective and Industry

What are the most important metrics for your email marketing program? If you are a retailer it’s probably things like conversion rate, number of orders, average order size, etc. For newsletter publishers it might be net subscriber growth, referrals and open rates. For companies sending corporate newsletters it could be click-through percentages on specific/recurring topics/links and subsequent conversions to information or demo requests. The key, however, is that you determine the critical measures of success for your unique email marketing programs, and not focus solely on generic open and click-through rates.


Were your key metrics consistent within a certain percent range? If your open rates varied significantly then you might have experienced delivery issues or used confusing “From” addresses or subject lines. Wide variances in click-through rates would likely suggest that the relevance of your article topics, products, offers or content varied significantly. Take a moment to look for spikes or valleys in your metrics. If the lows or highs vary dramatically, then there is likely a lesson – positive or negative – to be learned from this data. An off-the-charts conversion rate, for example, would suggest that a promotional email fired on all pistons – timing, subject line, design, offer/price, product relevance, website content, etc.

Message Metrics Variances

What if you have a combination of great and horrible metrics resulting from a single email marketing campaign? For example, you might have a low open rate, but a very high click-to open rate. This can happen when you have a subject line that didn’t appeal to the recipients, a delivery problem or if you recently changed your “From” address, for example, but still provided highly-relevant message content. If this is happening, test a new message that addresses the problem you identified, and see what results you get. This will help you confirm the issue and/or identify the real cause so you can continue to optimize results using data rather than guesswork.


Review of Recipient Feedback, Surveys, Website Analytics, Sales Statistics

If you have a way for your email recipients to provide you with feedback, review the responses you’ve received throughout the year and look for both positive and negative comments. If you receive little feedback, you may not be making it easy for readers to provide it or haven’t established enough of a “personality” to motivate your readers to respond.

Another good source of reader feedback is social media. Take a look at the last few months’ worth of posts about your company on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites where you have a presence, or where customers and prospects may be commenting about the types of products or services you offer. Is there anything you can learn from these comments? If you haven’t already done so, post a message asking for feedback and suggestions on how to improve your email campaigns.

If you’ve conducted subscriber surveys, now is a good time to review those results. What were the key actionable findings you can address in the coming year?

Last, analyze your website statistics. Which types of articles are most visited on your website? Which product categories are most visited and which products and categories produced the most orders and revenue? How can you use this information to improve email marketing?


Comparison against Internal and Relevant External Benchmarks

If your organization produces more than one email newsletter or campaign, see if other email marketers – partners, colleagues or vendors – would be willing to share their data so you can benchmark key metrics. Even if the information you receive is not detailed, there is often learning associated with taking a look outside of your company. You can also research any available “industry averages” to compare to your specific results. These are not precise, but sometimes it is helpful to look at where your company can improve compared to the market at large.


Review of Creative/Content

Next, pull together samples of the recent email messages themselves, including subject lines. Compare the email content to the metrics and see if you can identify which approach drove the best results. Look particularly at:

  • Subject Line – length, tone, style and whether you included a company or publication name
  • Layout/Format/Length – Did you change formats? Did you switch from full articles to teasers? Did you try longer, more detailed copy versus short, breezy messages?
  • Content Style – Do some newsletters or email messages have more personality than others? Is your style full of humor, just the facts or conservative in nature?
  • Segmentation/Personalization – Did you send special messages that had a higher level of personalization or segmentation than others? Were the results significantly different?


Review of Competitors and Best Practice Examples

Finally, pull together samples of email messages from your competitors as well as samples of your favorite newsletters and email campaigns, no matter what industry. What things knocked your socks off – subject line style, design, personality and style of writing, great approach to offers, etc.? Is there anything that you are inspired to try in your own campaigns?


    Taking the time to assemble all of this information, conduct your analysis and reflect on the “big picture” can be a big step towards increasing the effectiveness of email programs. That learning, combined with the suggestions in this guide, should put your email marketing campaigns on a positive and sustainable trajectory.

Charles Brodeur
eCommerce Consultant
BigTurns Professional Services Ltd 
Vancouver, BC V6E 4R1

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