We’ve discussed why you should send product emails, how you can design emails to convert, and how you can ensure your emails get delivered. Today, we’ll look at what you can expect from your product emails.
Understanding Open Rates
Open rate = the # of people who opened your email / the # of people who received your email.
The first thing to know about open rates is that they are an approximation at best. Open rates are typically measured by including a transparent image in the email. When the email loads, it requests the image from the server, and the system logs an email open.
This is a pretty decent solution except for the fact that many email clients turn off image-loading by default, which means your open rates will be under-reported.
A second issue is with the way many email clients split screens or auto-load email messages. For example, in most clients, if you archive a message it will automatically load the next message. This will record an open even if it doesn’t have the attention of the recipient. This behavior can lead to open rate being over-represented.
Despite these problems, open rate is the best we have. While it’s not 100% correct, it is good enough for comparing open rates and for trying to iteratively improve engagement.
So what can you expect? I’ve seen open rates as low as 7% and as high as 80%. They really can be all over the place. The best thing you can do is start measuring it, get a baseline, and work to improve it.
There are a few things that impact open rate. The one people talk most about is the subject line, and for good reason. A good subject line can dramatically improve your open rate.
However, the from address is often over-looked, and it too can impact your open rate.
And finally, the quality of your email list will dramatically impact your open rates. Do you have a bunch of avid fans who eat up all your content? You can expect fairly high open rates. Do you have people who signed up for your service over the last ten years and you’ve done little to clean out old addresses? You can probably expect a much lower open rate.
Click-Through-Rates and Conversion Rates
A lot of people confuse click through rate and conversion rate. So let’s define them.
Click through rate = the # of people who clicked on a link in your email / the # of people who opened your email
Conversion rate = the # of people who clicked on a link in your email / # of people who received your email
Generally, I don’t like to use click through rates. More often than not, it is misleading. Too many people think you are talking about conversion rates. And since click through rates are generally much higher than conversion rates you can unknowingly set the wrong expectation with people.
But you can optimize click through rate with A / B testing (more on that later) so I generally measure both, but only talk to stakeholders about conversion rates.
So what can you expect? Like open rates, click through rates can be all over the place. All the factors that influence open rates can also impact click through rates.
If your subject line promises something and the message delivers on that promise, your click through rare will be higher than if it doesn’t.
If your email template is designed to drive people to a primary call-to-action, your click through rate will be higher than if it doesn’t.
And so on.
Despite these fluctuations in opens and click through rates, conversion rates are pretty predictable. Most recurring emails, convert between 2% and 5%. A single email may do significantly better than this or significantly worse than this, but day-to-day or week-to-week this is the norm. Says who? MailChimp reports on conversion rates across industries. This is exactly inline with what I’ve seen over the last decade tracking product emails.
I know. I can already here you. You think you can do much better than this. And the truth is, you probably can. The key to improving these conversion rates is to know your audience and to A/B test your content. More on that in a future post.
How Many Unsubscribes Are Too Many?
And finally, let’s look at what to expect from unsubscribes. You may have noticed that MailChimp also reports on unsubscribe rates. Generally, you want to see less than 0.5% of recipients unsubscribing. If your recipient list is large, this could be a lot of people, especially when you first start sending email. But if you are under 0.5%, don’t worry about your unsubscribes. Remember, you only want to email people who want your content.
If your unsubscribes are over 0.5%, you probably want to reconsider your content. Do you really know your audience? Are you sending them content that matters to them as opposed to content that matters to you?
There is one exception. If you have an old email list that you haven’t sent email to in a really long time, the first or second time you send email, you might see a large number of unsubscribes. That’s okay. Consider it list cleanup. But if your rates stay high, the issue isn’t old email addresses, it’s your continent.
Next Up: A/B Testing
Of course, the next question that comes to mind is, how do you improve these rates. We’ll take a look at how to optimize your email content through A/B testing in future posts.
In the meantime, whats been your experience with product email conversions? What are your best practices for designing emails that convert?