Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The importance of analytics on email: It's more than just opens and click-throughs

You've spent time and money on your product, time and money on your message and time and money on your online presence. Now, when you work on getting the word out to your market, how do you know if your product, message and online presence are being well received?

Too often, we hear from clients and sales staff that leads are down, phones aren't ringing, people aren't walking through the door and your eCommerce site is inactive. As a result, sales are down and people look to marketing to find out why. Is it the product? Pricing? Message? Is your call to action resonating with the market? How can you even begin to determine how to solve this "problem" if you don't know what the problem is in the first place? Enter, your analytics.

  • Open rate

  • Click-through rate

  • Click-through to open rate

  • Using your metrics

All the money in the world, spent on your website, blog, social media presence, email content, design, segmentation and delivery system might as well be flushed down the drain if you don't have the proper analytics, or worse, aren't taking advantage of what you do have.

As email delivery tools become more and more advanced, and reporting and metrics become second nature, how do we know what they really say? We know about deliverability rate, open rate and click-through rate. But, what are these really telling you?

Open rate

If someone doesn't allow for images, and your email analytics requires a 1 pixel image to be displayed in order to give you an "open", you have no idea if they opened or not. If someone has the preview pane open in Outlook, and they scroll past your email, that image may very well have been displayed, giving you an open, but they just scrolled past it and deleted.

Click-through rate

Statistically speaking, click-through is the number of people who clicked on a link in your email, divided by the number of delivered emails. So, if you delivered your email to 1,000 people, 236 opened the email and 35 people clicked on a link, you're looking at a 23.6% open rate and a 3.5% unique click-through rate. However, the real story may be in that seven of those people clicked on an "unsubscribe" link in your email, so what your standard report isn't telling you is that your click-through rate is actually 2.8%. One could make the assumption that your message was poorly received. Or was it?

Click-through to open rate

Further analytics are required to truly get a feel for what the customer base thinks of your message. You know that 28 people clicked on at least one link in your email your call to action. However, you still have seven people who unsubscribed and 201 people who "opened" your email, but did nothing. In reality, when evaluating your message, your call to action, you could not care less what the 764 people who didn't open your email did. You lost them on either the from: address or the subject line (more about subject lines and open rates in the future). So, we're looking at 236 opens, 7 unsubscribes and 28 unique click-throughs. You are now ready to analyze your click-through to open rate. This is a much more powerful metric in evaluating your message and call to action.

Your click-through to open rate is the number of unique click-throughs divided by the number of people who opened your email (yes, I know open rate isn't perfect, but it's the best we have currently). So, 28 unique click-throughs, 236 opens for a click-through to open rate of 11.9%. This is the powerful metric for determining how your message is being received. Why did 28 people click-through, but 201 people abandoned? How are you missing those 201 chances for sales?

Using your metrics

Once you get someone to open your email, your ROI for a campaign is won or lost by these unique click-throughs. You have 236 chances to get someone to take action on your email. 236 chances to deliver your lead to the sales staff, guide someone to an eCommerce site or to get them further into your funnel. You have the people, if you have the right analytics package, you know exactly who they are, now take advantage of it. You've already delivered 28 people for prospective sales, use them. Send them a follow-up survey, ask them why they took action.

You need to qualify your leads anyway, craft a couple questions to help you in your efforts to bring in more leads. Then, use your resources to hit the other 201. Send the next phase in your campaign. I'm assuming your email campaign doesn't use just one batch and blast message, right? You're already on the right path with your analytics, now take the next step. After you've found out why those 28 prospective sales took action on your email, use those results to craft your test. If you don't have multi-variate analysis software or techniques at your disposal (though it would behoove you to), do a simple A/B test.

  • Was your initial call to action too low in the content?

  • Which links did the 28 click on? Highlight those.

  • Was it obscured by your design? Did you set it apart from other informative content?

  • Did you give away the milk, so they didn't need to buy the cow?

  • Is your content dynamically created to fit each individual's profile?

  • Try two or more different phrases for your call to action

Using a simple A/B test on a percentage of your follow-up email can offer you the ability to really make the most of the audience you already have. You have the data in front of you, now it's time to use it. It takes some work to get the data to tell you what it really means, but without looking into the data itself rather than relying on the numbers a generic report provides, you can't make the most of your campaigns.

Next time: Integration with your CRM


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