EEC: Better E-Mail Reporting, Standards Needed

A white paper published by the E-mail Experience Council (EEC) finds discrepancies in how e-mail service providers (ESPs) report e-mail metrics, and suggests the e-mail industry needs to better standardize its lingo.

The study, based on separate surveys of ESPs and mailers, found little consistency in the core metrics that drive e-mail, said Dave Lewis, VP of alliances and market development at Strongmail, a co-chair of the study along with Pivotal Veracity. The core metrics include delivery rates, open rates and click rates. “The overarching conclusion is there is very little consistency in the way those conversions are calculated,” he said.

Discrepancies emerge when clicks are counted as uniques, total clicks, opened or delivered. “You can come up with at least six different answers, all of them are purportedly right,” said Lewis.

Mailers often don’t know what the statistics mean, or how to compare results among different ESPs or in-house results. “One alarming statistic had to do with the fact that many mailers were uncertain or guessed how delivered was calculated,” said Deirdre Baird, president and CEO of Pivotal Veracity.

ESPs and mailers were each given separate surveys online, though some of the questions, including those about bounce management, overlapped. Respondents reported high levels of concern about how bounces are handled: 88 percent of ESPs and 80 percent of mailers feel bounce management is important. A gap was observed between the importance mailers place on bounce management, and how important ESPs think the issue is to mailers.

“Now that ESPs know that mailers think it’s more important than what was assumed, ESPs might spend more time educating, and share more detail on how to handle those complexities,” said Baird. “We will see more effort by the ESPs to share with their clients what they are doing.”

While Baird sees bounce rates as one of the bigger issues, she said the industry first needs to hammer out definitions and even re-label existing terms to standardize its lingo. “Before we even get to how we deal with bounces, I’d love to see… us striving to identify or re-label the metrics we use every day and to clearly delineate those metrics,” she said. “So when a mailer talks about a click rate… they have a clear sense of what that metric is.”

The priorities resonate with Strongmail’s Lewis. “Coming out of this, that’s almost an inescapable type of action we can take as an industry,” said Lewis, who went on to call for a need for transparency in labeling.

The white paper’s other participating project members include Datran Media, e-Marketing Strategies, Listrak, and Return Path.

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