Reports of E-Mail’s Death Greatly Exaggerated

The average email delivery rate grew to an all-time high of 90.6 percent, and average orders per delivered email hit 0.35 percent in the last quarter of 2004, according to DoubleClick’s Q4 “Email Trend Report.” Bounce rates, meanwhile, were down to a record low of 9.4 percent for both hard and soft bounces during the quarter:

E-Mail Bounce Rates, Q4 2003 and 2004
Sector Q4 2004
Q4 2003
Business products
and services
13.0 16.7
Consumer products 10.8 15.0
Consumer services 11.9 16.4
Financial services 12.7 16.3
Travel 6.6 14.8
Retail and catalog 7.9 9.3
Publisher – business 8.1 9.3
Publisher – consumer 7.1 10.7
Note: Q4 2004 average was 9.4%;
Q4 2003 average was 12.7%. This is a change of 26.0%.
Source: DoubleClick DARTmail Internal Benchmark Statistics, 2005

The quarterly report aggregates data based on over 2 billion messages sent using the company’s DARTmail delivery technology.

Not all email news was so rosy. Open rates declined throughout 2004, from a Q1 high of 38.1 percent to 32.6 percent in Q4. The company attributes the decline on the rising number of email clients and applications that block HTML, which mailers use to track open rates.

“The fact is that customer subscriber files are aging,” Kevin Mabley, DoubleClick’s senior director of strategic services, told ClickZ Stats. “Response tapers off over time. Customer files on average are getting older. The content may not be as compelling to people. A few years ago, it was all about growing your lists as fast as possible. Now, people are focused on core customers.”

News of lower open rates is tempered by Q4’s very robust click-to-purchase rates, which rose from 3.3 percent in Q1 to a healthy 4.8 percent in Q4, a 14.3 percent year-over-year increase. Though average order size declined to a new low of $89.00 (an 11 percent year-over-year decline), increased conversion rates drove return on investment (ROI) up to $0.26 per message from an average $0.23 at the beginning of the year. The company believes the average order size drop-off is attributable to consumers’ increased comfort level with making routine purchases online.

DoubleClick email trend line
Click on graphic to view chart

“Our best customers who are bucking some of the downward trends in open rates are moving from blast mentalities into customer contact mentalities,” Mabley added. “It’s not about a blast every Monday, but something based on an event or a trigger.”

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