Email Metrics that Matter.

4 Email Metrics that Really Matter


How are you measuring the success of your emails? Even if you optimize your campaign to the T (read: mobile-friendly, compelling copy, optimally placed CTA, etc.), the only way to know if you are achieving your goals is by identifying and analyzing the relevant data.

With a sea of data at your fingertips, it can be difficult to focus on the email metrics that impact your bottom line. In this blog, we’ll discuss what you should zero in on to achieve success with every campaign.

Top funnel metrics.

There will be times that an open is actually your end goal for a campaign. For example, you may be disseminating important company updates to clients and an open would be a significant metric to track to determine if your campaign was successful.

More often than not, though, your goals will be more complex and opens won’t tell the whole story. In fact, SmartInsights found that open rates wrongly predict success 53% of the time. Furthermore, Idealware points out that certain clients are blocking images by default, so some reads aren’t counting toward the open rate since the tracking pixel wasn’t triggered.

Since opens aren’t often a good indication of campaign performance, let’s take a look at four metrics that are.

1. Conversion rate.

Conversion rate is probably the most important metric to measure the success of your campaign though what you consider a conversion will differ depending on the goal of your email. If your goal is to get webinar registrants, the conversion rate would be the number of recipients that receive the email and sign up.

Do note: you’ll most likely need a third party like Google Analytics to track your conversion rate. ESPs can calculate opens and clicks, but to track more you’ll need to tag links in your email with Google Analytics. Then you can set campaign goals and calculate your conversion rate via Google Analytics.

To give you an ideal conversion rate to aim for, check out Marketing Sherpa’s average conversion rate by industry chart:

Marketing Sherpa statistics

2. Subscriber retention rate.

Your subscriber retention rate is all of your unsubscribes and bounces rolled up into one percentage, which tells you two things: If your email was relevant to your subscribers and if you are sending to a healthy email list. You can calculate this rate by using the following formula: Number of subscribers – bounce backs – unsubscribes/ number of subscribers.

Why should you care about these two components? Healthy lists improve your overall email metrics and, in turn, your sender reputation and inbox placement. And relevancy drives engagement in email. In fact, Ascend2 reports relevancy to be the most effective tactic to achieve email marketing objectives:

Ascend2 statistics

Aim for a high retention rate (85% or higher) to make sure your subscribers are sticking around. Once you have a solid list, then you can use the next metric to measure and improve your content.

3. Email engagement.

As we mentioned in the beginning of the blog, opens are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to email data. “Email engagement” is what happens between an open and a click.

One powerful feature of our analytics software is that it can track how long a subscriber has an email open. This offers context to your email open rates, because you can know whether someone opened your email only to immediately hit delete, or if someone actually took the time to engage with your content. Here are the ‘thresholds’ we have set to categorize a read, skim or glance:

  • Glance/Delete – Email open for 2 seconds or less
  • Skim – Email open for 3 to 7 seconds
  • Read – Email open for 8 seconds or more

This insight is invaluable as it allows you to determine whether or not the components of your campaign captured your audience’s attention. In the example below, 75% of the audience that opened the email had it open for 8 seconds or more. It’s safe to say that the email was highly engaging.

Engagement Summary statistics

In short, engagement metrics will paint a more detailed picture of why some campaigns were successful and why others weren’t. Once you have tracked your engagement metrics, it’s time to get a more granular look into what your subscribers email behaviors mean for your future mailing strategy.

4. Subscriber action rate.

While subscriber action rate does not have a simple formula like subscriber retention rate, this metric is about uncovering how your audience consumes your emails. For example, finding the optimal time/day to send to your audience. A simple way to track subscriber action rate is to look at the time of day or week that your emails are opened and clicked. GetResponse ran a study that analyzed 21 million emails sent in the US during Q1 2012 and observed that the peak of inbox activity was on Thursday. In fact, Thursday was the top day for all metrics: percentage sent, open rates and CTR. Check out the stats below:

open ratio statistics

CTR statistics

Every audience is different, though, so be sure to test different days/times and other factors (like CTA copy and placement) to find out when your audience is most likely to engage with your emails based on of opens, clicks and conversions.

Work smarter not harder.

As a marketer, you could drown in the amount of email data available. That’s why it’s important to analyze the data that directly impacts your campaign goals and bottom line.

Want to dive deeper into the metrics that matter? Try our advanced email analytics and reporting tools, free for 7 days.

Did we miss anything? Tell us how you measure your email success in the comments section below.

Author: Kyle Lapaglia

Author: Kyle Lapaglia

7 thoughts on “4 Email Metrics that Really Matter”

  1. An article written in May 2015 citing studies done in 2012 & 2013 is of very limited value. The email marketing industry and how our targeted audience interact with emails has changed dramatically since then. Less than 20% recommend optimizing for mobile as an effective tactic for achieving objectives ? We’ve reached the point where more than half the opens occur on a phone; if you’re not optimized for mobile more than half of your intended audience are receiving an inferior experience.

  2. Hey Jim,

    I hope you’re well today. Thanks for your comment. I definitely agree that the more recent the study, the better when trying to support opinions. I agree that the chart would look different today (in regards to marketers supporting responsive design) but I think relevancy would still be up there on the list. Time passing does not negate every past marketing finding or best practice. Sure, the landscape is ever-changing, but as they say, the past is prelude and some core marketing strategies may stick longer than others.

    In regards to responsive design, I whole whole-heartedly agree that email must be optimized for mobile. In fact, I push for responsive design in many of my articles. For example:

    I do appreciate your input, Jim. Have a great rest of your day!

  3. Hey Tim,

    Really appreciate those articles you added there. I do agree with you regarding the best time to send. There are just way too many variables that go into that mix and everyone audience is different. There can never be an absolute “best day/time” when you are dealing with a large group made up of unique individuals. You just have to test, test and test some more to optimize your efforts.

  4. Many ESP’s do offer conversion tracking. They have a conversion tracking pixel you add to the last page of the conversion process and these will get reported back via your ESP.

    I’m able to track sales conversions this way. Which is nice for determining ROI from sales type campaigns

  5. I would add measuring the tenure or length of time a person has subscribed as a key measure of retention. I also recommend dissecting the opt-outs by number of emails sent, open rate and click rate, and then trace it back to source of acquisition and campaign.

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