Study: Financial Services Strongest Sector for E-Mail

Bigfoot Interactive finds a constantly evolving email landscape, but no wide-reaching upward trends, in its benchmarking and analysis of key vertical email campaigns.

Collected in retention-based mailings and aggregated from Bigfoot Interactive’s automated email technology platform, the data encompassed the automotive, B2C, financial services, media, and retail verticals and their respective editorial, service, and promotional components.

The overall unique open rate has exhibited a year-over-year decline, dropping from 28.7 percent in Q2 2003 to 22.3 percent in Q2 2004, largely due to changes from email providers, Bigfoot’s DiGuido said.

“This year’s open rates provide a more valid and more accurate picture of how much email is read. This is the result of all the changes that the ISPs/email clients have implemented over the past year in regarding to rendering email. Many leading ISPs/email clients now block images by default, the occurrence of a false open reading based on a preview window,” said DiGuido.

The financial services industry remains one of the strongest categories, boasting higher deliverability and consistent click-through rates (CTR) amidst a year-over-year surge in the number of messages sent.

Fueled by “balance transfer” enticements, Bigfoot Interactive found that the financial services vertical sent 61 percent more permission-based email messages in Q2 2004 than the year prior, with 92 percent successfully delivered. The overall industry deliverability rate in Q2 2003 was just over 85 percent.

The additional financial services messages barely impacted CTR, Bigfoot Interactive found. The rate neared 17 percent for Q2 2004, compared to just over 17 percent the year prior.

A significant drop was noted quarterly, with the Q1 2004 CTR hovering at 22 percent, which DiGuido attributed to high first-quarter interest in major banks and credit card issuers’ year-end statement alerts.

Open rates for the service messaging component of the financial vertical increased 11.7 percent to 47.6 percent, while CTR dropped slightly from 17.35 percent to 16.7 percent. Open rates are likely skewed higher by banking and billing alerts, which recipients don’t often need to click-through.

“In addition, increasingly service alerts with intuitive subject lines as ‘payment received’ or ‘payment due 9/29/04’ require no action and therefore do not include a specific call to action,” DiGuido noted.

Other vertical sections also fared well, according to Bigfoot Interactive’s measurements. Media promotional email campaigns, driven by activity among job-seekers, pushed unique CTRs up nearly 109 percent, from 2.17 percent in Q2 ’03 to 4.5 percent in Q2 ’04.

The service messaging component of the media vertical also experienced a year-over-year CTR rise, growing from 4.89 percent to 8.9 percent. Bigfoot Interactive attributes this lift to job alerts via email.

A small 1.8 percent bump in the overall automotive industry’s CTR drove Q2 2004 to 19.8 percent; editorial automotive email remained flat at 19.3 percent; and automotive promotional messages swelled from 19.76 percent in Q2 ’03 to 20.1 percent in Q2 ’04. Deliverability for the overall automotive industry was up from last year’s 76.49 percent to 79.6 percent.

The retail vertical showed marked improvements in year-over-year deliverability. Just 72.55 percent of messages were successful delivered in Q2 2003, compared to 90.5 percent in Q2 2004.

Looking forward to Q4 2004, DiGuido expects spikes across the retail and consumer package goods verticals as promotional and value-oriented messaging kicks into full gear for the holiday season.

“With the increasing attention to more contextually relevant email communications we expect to see increased performance and perhaps more importantly conversion as a result of these efforts. Given the efficiency of email this should have a huge impact on marketers overall ROI for the holiday season, as email becomes an increasing portion of the marketing mix,” DiGuido said.

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