Study also reveals delivery rates improved thanks to cleaner lists.
Both overall conversion rates and orders generated per emails delivered improved for email marketers this year over 2003. There was a slight decline in open and click-through rates, according to DoubleClick’s latest email trend report.
"The top-line summary is we’re seeing the continued evolution of email, with improvement in deliverability across the board, based on better list hygiene practices," said Kevin Mabley, DoubleClick’s senior director of strategic services. "It’s a sign of how clean and well-kept customer lists are."
The report is based on over 2 billion email messages sent by hundreds of DoubleClick clients using the company’s DARTmail service in Q3, 2004.
Average delivery rate (measuring emails sent minus number of bounces) improved 1.2 percent to 89.3 percent in Q3, compared to the same period last year. Average click-to-purchase rate, meanwhile, increased to 4.2 percent, a 25.5 percent lift over 2003.
While those numbers improved, open- and click-through rates showed a mild decline. The average open-rate fell 7.5 percent to 34.3 percent, compared to the same time period in 2004. The average click-through rate was 8.2 percent, a 10.9 percent decrease from 2003.
A reason for those declines is the number of new customers, who are generally more responsive to email promotions than established customers, are starting to account for a smaller portion of client lists, Mabley said.
"What we’ve found is that, while your average customers may not always respond, when they are in market, they convert," Mabley said.
The data also indicate a move away from the "blast" approach to email marketing to one much more akin to the logic of direct marketing, said Trevor Hughes, executive director of the E-mail Service Provider Coalition (ESPC).
"This report further supports and reinforces the need for good practices," Hughes said. "It shows how the carpet bombing strategies of the past are probably not going to survive in the end."
The ESPC endorses three basic practices for email marketers: customer consent; a guarantee the recipient has a relationship with the brand; and a consistent send policy.
"If you send too frequently, you will suffer. If you send too infrequently, you will also suffer," Hughes said. "You have to find the sweet spot. And it’s different for every marketer."
Looking forward, Mabley said leading email marketers will continue to trend toward greater targeting, using both more historic purchase information and segmentation in their campaigns.
"Looking back, the last year was about consistency and regularity in email campaigns," Mabley said. "Now, the better companies are focusing most on targeting and segmentation, closing the gap between delivery and response."
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