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  • Do You Know What Are The Most Important Email Marketing KPIs?
Andrea Serventi
26 June 2018
Reading time: 10 mins

Do You Know What Are The Most Important Email Marketing KPIs?

In this blog post, we’ll dive deep into email marketing KPIs, including definitions, formulas, and actions for improving results and creating data-driven strategies.

Marketing today is data-driven. This means that operations are driven by data, both in the strategy generation phase and when taking measurements.

What sometimes escapes marketers is that the two phases are continuous: the measurement of a recently launched campaign gives rise to a new strategy, which is then measured to calibrate the next, and so on in a continuous and coherent chain.

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We’ll analyze the second side of the data-driven world, that of measurement, to show you how to analyze your metrics and stop making decisions on the fly.

“If you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”.
Peter Drucker

The funnel of Email Marketing KPIs

Let’s focus mainly on on-mail KPIs, which are those that refer to a user’s interaction with the message itself: a set of data that could be imagined as a funnel.

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These are the “positive metrics” which express a positive action from the recipient. But inevitably there are also “negative” metrics, which are useful for measuring negative reactions or non-delivery. There are essentially two:

  • Bounce rate
  • Unsubscription rate

Let’s take a look at them in detail, one by one starting with the positive metrics.

1. Open rate

This indicates the number of emails opened compared to the total number of emails sent. Differences can also be detected between open rates, depending on whether the openings are related to:

  • Total openings
  • Unique readers, that is, recipients who have opened the email at least once (this is the most relevant metric).

The formula to calculate it

(Number of openings/Emails delivered) * 100

Actions for improving open rates

⇗ Write a specific and relevant subject line

35% of recipients open emails exclusively based on the subject line. It goes without saying that the more specific the information is in a recipient’s inbox, the higher the chances he or she will be intrigued and induced to open an email.

Data from a GetResponse study shows that the most opened emails are those with subject lines having between 90 and 119 characters. Why? Because longer subject lines are also more specific, precise, and detailed.

⇗ Don’t just think about selling: tell a story, suggest

Marketing increasingly bases its persuasive potential on narrating and storytelling. The subject line is the perfect place for outlining the story.

This means moving from a mere sales approach to a more narrative one. The subject line is like a business card: it’s best to avoid dulling it with an invitation to make a purchase.

Here are some subject lines from Monoqi emails that, rather than sell, tell: every email illuminates a type of design, a specific style for a room in the home.

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⇗ Make the preheader complementary to the subject line

The preheader is that short line of text that appears in the recipient’s inbox after the subject. It is copy that integrates information from the subject.

The preheader is a strategic element because it works within the marketing funnel threshold as an element used to convince recipients to open an email, thereby decidedly helping to increase open rates.

Our suggestion is to create a preheader that is complementary to the subject, offering additional meaning, more details.

⇗ Experiment with emojis

Emojis in emails let you express the content of the subject quicklyimmediately, and with a greater degree of expression.

According to a study conducted by Experian, 56% of the brands that used emojis in the subject line of their promotional campaigns found an increase in unique openings.

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⇗ Find out what works better with A/B testing

An A/B test means submitting two or more different versions of the same message to a sample of recipients, analyzing the reaction to each version, and determining which one is most effective. Testing is in the DNA of digital marketing.

It only takes a few steps to compare different subject lines in a campaign. Let’s look at some aspects of the subject line that can be tested to increase open rates.

2. Click-through rate (and click-to-open rate)

Every email contains at least one link to an external web page, be it a landing page or a website page. This is exactly what CTR measures: how many times recipients click on that link.

The formula for calculating CTR

(Number of clicks/Emails delivered) * 100

Alongside CTR there is another KPI that can be measured and is usually considered more reliable: CTOR, which measures the number of clicks with respect to the number of openings, and is thus the most accurate metric for measuring the level of interaction that messages can trigger.

The formula for calculating CTOR

(Unique clicks/Unique openings) * 100

Actions for improving CTR and CTOR

⇗ Create a modular structure

The essential technique to use is modular design, which means building an email according to non-fixed structures, through blocks of content that are reorganized based on a different grid that depends on the media query detected at a specific moment.

There are four large families of modular structures:

  • Inverted pyramid layout
  • Single column layout
  • Multiple column layout
  • Hybrid layout

⇗ Create a bulletproof button

The term bulletproof is used by email design professionals to indicate a graphic element written in HTML.

The benefits? Bulletproof design works, and is therefore displayed correctly in any inbox.

⇗ Creatively attract the click

Up to now we have focused more on technical aspects. Now let’s take a look at the creative ones that, after all, are the best incentives to click within an email. It is up to each brand to experiment with their own creativity.

Let’s look at an example of what may very well be the most creative email we’ve ever received. It was sent by MOO:

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3. Conversion rate

The conversion rate is a wide-ranging concept, a kind of container that every brand fills with its own objectives and strategies. While making an order might constitute a conversion parameter for an e-commerce company, the newsletter of a B2B brand might aim for blog visits or the number of white paper downloads.

We can define the conversion rate as the percentage of recipients who click on the link in an email and carry out the desired action.

The formula to calculate it

(Number of users who completed the action/Emails delivered) * 100

Actions to improve it

⇗ Adopt the double opt-in system

Double opt-in is a key factor in improving engagement and conversions. It refers to the system whereby contacts are asked to confirm their subscription to a newsletter by clicking on a confirmation link they receive via email.

⇗ Automate flows

What does automation have to do with optimizing the conversion rate? It’s simple: the workflows, i.e. automated flows, trigger follow-up emails which match the recipient’s behavior, and are consequently more relevant and more likely to lead to a conversion.

⇗ Create optimized landing pages

Why create a landing page and not send the recipient directly to your site? Because the landing page focuses on a very precise conversion goal: the recipient’s possible actions are delimited and circumscribed (which is more difficult to do on the site).

Many still believe that creating a landing page for every email takes too much time. This is not true, especially when you rely on a drag & drop editor like the one integrated in MailUp.

4. Return on investment

We’ve finally come to the metric which marketers hold most dear: return on investment, the indicator that accurately measures the economic effectiveness of campaigns, offering numbers and values ​​with which to compare the effectiveness and profitability of the email channel against other digital marketing channels.

ROI answers a simple and at the same time indispensable question: how much do campaigns “make” compared to the costs incurred to implement them?

The formula to calculate it

[(Value of sales related to an email campaign – Campaign costs)/Campaign Costs] * 100

Actions to improve it

⇗ Segment and profile sendings

Reaching recipients’ inboxes is not enough: to reach the goal of conversion, you must know how to engage users, taking into account the interests, habits, needs, and characteristics of each individual contact.

How? Through profiling, an activity that lets you convert information about the recipient into relevant and personalized emails that, according to a study by MarketingLand, have a conversion rate six times higher and a unique click rate 41% higher than non-personalized emails.

⇗ Integrate the SMS channel

The digital world is made up of micro-conversions: small and sometimes invisible, recipients are slightly persuaded and convinced with each one. This is why a multi-channel approach, especially one in which the email and SMS channels are associated, makes it possible to trigger a step-by-step conversion process.

This is very easy to do thanks to automatic workflows: choose the triggering event, select the messages, set the waiting times, and the stage is set.

5. Bounce rate

From positive metrics, let’s now move on to the “negative” metrics starting from the bounce rate, which indicates the percentage of email addresses that give an error following a sending.

The possible errors can be more or less serious:

  • Hard bounce (permanent): non-existent or invalid email addresses to which the message can never be delivered
  • Soft bounce (transient): full email boxes or temporary server problems, meaning the email will be delivered if the problem is resolved.

The formula to calculate it

(Bounced emails/Sent emails) * 100

Actions to improve it

⇗ Keep your database clean

Quality is better than quantity: this is the basic assumption. Taking care to keep your database clean means managing delivery errors in a timely manner.

MailUp assists brands in this task by analyzing billions of records to identify and resolve incorrect classifications. MailUp checks all outgoing email streams from servers to detect bounces, unsubscriptions, duplicate addresses, and incorrect addresses.

⇗ Do not buy or rent “prepackaged” databases

Not only is this unprofitable, but also counterproductive. The quantity of contacts in a database does not make the difference, the quality of contacts does.

The starting point of any email marketing activity is the collection of email addresses that are obtained with the recipient’s consent. Here are some tools for making this collection systematic and multi-channel:

6. Unsubscribe rate

Keeping track of subscription trends is important, but knowing how many users unsubscribe is equally important. A healthy unsubscription rate should stay at low levels, less than 2%, and the number of unsubscribed users should always be lower than the number of new users.

The formula to calculate it

(Number of unsubscribed users/Emails sent) * 100

Actions to improve it

⇗ Make unsubscription accessible and fast

Obstructing (more or less voluntarily) the unsubscription process is counterproductive. What is a contact forced to do if he can’t quickly unsubscribe from a newsletter? He will be forced to use the spam button, disadvantaging the brand as a whole.

Confirming this dynamic is the joint research by Litmus and Fluent, which found that 50% of the recipients who mark email as spam are pushed to do so because they cannot find a clear way to unsubscribe.

It is therefore essential that every email you send has an unsubscription link that is clear, easy to see, and brings users to an equally clear and functional page.

⇗ Develop a re-engagement strategy

A study conducted by Return Path estimates that on average, every database has a percentage of inactive customers that is equal to or greater than 25% of total subscribers. This is certainly a high number, but it has great conversion potential worth taking advantage of, especially if we consider that recovering a person who’s already subscribed in the database is much less costly than acquiring a new one.

How can you recover a relationship with inactive users? With specific re-engagement email campaigns.


Email marketing KPIs: wrap up

In this journey among the KPIs of the email channel, we alternated theory with practical ideas and tools, which are of course all available on the MailUp platform.

Our last suggestion is therefore to try it, if you haven’t done so already, by requesting a free 30-day trial. You will find all the tools needed for developing and fine-tuning a truly effective email marketing plan.

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Andrea Serventi

I was born in 1986 in Milan, where I graduated in Modern Literature and started writing for online newspapers, magazines and TV news programs. Having now converted to marketing and the digital world, I am a Content Editor at MailUp: I read, listen, collect ideas, and write about what email marketing is and how to use it strategically.

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