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E-mail Marketing Industry Benchmarks: Highest Open Rate in Q1 2013 Since 2006

  |  November 15, 2013   |  Comments

The first quarter of this year saw the highest average open rate (31.3 percent) since at least 2006. It was also the largest quarter-over-quarter jump (14 percent) in open that we've seen. Columnist Jeanne Jennings shares these insights and more.

The Q2 2013 E-mail Trends and Benchmarks Report was released by Epsilon earlier this month and it showed some interesting trends.

The first quarter of this year saw the highest average open rate (31.3 percent) since at least 2006. It was also the largest quarter-over-quarter jump (14 percent) in opens that we've seen. In second quarter, the open rate dropped but it's still the second highest we've seen (28.5 percent), suggesting that the upward trend in open rates will continue.

The real surprise for me here was the click-through rate. After reaching 5.1 percent in the first quarter, a boost of 13 percent over the fourth quarter of last year, it's down to 4.3 percent. This is a 16 percent loss over first quarter and the lowest click-through rate we've seen since at least 2006. Prior to 2012, the industry average was consistently 5 percent or higher. I was hoping the click-through rate would stabilize, but the slide continues.


I know that benchmarks are somewhat controversial. I don't look at them as a measure of success or failure; you can have a very profitable e-mail program even if your metrics are below industry benchmarks. You can also blow away industry benchmarks and be losing money on your e-mail program.

However, industry benchmarks give you a view into what other organizations are seeing from their e-mail programs. They show you trends in the industry you can use to gauge your own performance.


The click-to-open rate, after being relatively stable, has also dropped to 15.1 percent, an 8 percent decrease over last quarter and first time it's been below 16.0 percent.

So is this it? Is e-mail marketing dying? No. It's still the highest ROI channel out there, according to the Direct Marketing Association. 

There's a divide between organizations that are taking a strategic approach to email and those that are just sending. By employing segmentation, targeting, relevance, testing and other best practices, successful email marketers are seeing their opens, click-through and click-to-open rates improve quarter-over-quarter and year-over-year. They're also seeing their revenue per email sent (RPE), conversion rates and Return-on-Investment (ROI), which are truer measures of success or failure, grow.

If your organization's performance is in line with industry benchmarks, that's good.The goal, though, should be to buck the industry trends to:

  • show improvement when industry averages fall and to grow faster than industry averages are, 
  • consistently test to improve your all-important bottom line metrics, like RPE, conversion rate and ROI.

The columns here on ClickZ, both past and upcoming, are a great place to get ideas to help you.

Until next time,


Jeanne Jennings

Jeanne Jennings is a recognized expert in the email marketing industry and managing director of digital marketing for Digital Prism Advisors. She has more than 20 years of experience in the email and online marketing and product development world. Jeanne's direct-response approach to digital strategy, tactics, and creative direction helps organizations make their online marketing initiatives more effective and more profitable. Digital Prism Advisors helps established businesses unlock significant growth and revenue opportunities in the digital marketplace; our clients learn to develop and implement successful digital strategies, leveraging data and technology to better meet bottom line goals. Want to learn more? Check out Jeanne's blog and Digital Prism Advisors.

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