Email Open Rate Accuracy Remains a Hot Button

Email marketing has been around for 10+ years now, but email open rates remain a point of contention among marketers. Some consider them irrelevant, others live and die by their open rates. Some marketers disregard them as pointless. Like anything there’s a happy medium to be found somewhere.

Methods to track open rates remain basically the same.  Most vendors insert an invisible image, usually a 1X1 pixel, the pings back to the delivering server when the email is opened.

But there are definite flaws to this method and as email security measures tighten they’re likely to become even more pronounced:

1. Many popular email clients such as Outlook and web-based email services like Gmail, block images by default.  So unless the recipient chooses to download the images, nothing would ever be reported.  As a side note, our software also tracks opens when a recipient clicks on a link in a marketing piece.

2. Email clients that automatically download images can cause an email to be marked as opened even if the recipient never looked at it.

3. Aside from link clicks, text only emails have no mechanism to report opens.

As you can see with these flaws it’s nearly impossible to pinpoint an accurate open rate.  But that doesn’t mean this statistic has no value.

For example, trends in open rates are solid indicators of your message’s subject, list quality, and the content inside. If your subject fails to grab your reader, your open rates are going to be subpar regardless of how accurate the open rate is.

So how does one know how their average open rates stand in comparison to others?  Well, first of all we offer line charts which show your mailings’ open rates over time vs the avg open rates of our entire user base.  Depending on what research you read, one might say 14% is the average for the insurance industry where another might say 22% is the average for the financial industry.  Over the last 8 years, our average open rates for all users sending insurance email newsletters have hovered around 20-21% consistently, so that’s likely your best barometer available.