Publishing lags behind other industries in email open rates
Do publishers have a harder time enticing readers to open e-mails than companies in other industries? A quarterly look of North American e-mail trends by marketing firm Epsilon found open rates for business publishing and consumer publishing continue to sit on the lower end of the spectrum compared to brands in other markets:
|North American industry||Q1 2010 open rates|
|Consumer Publishing/Media General
|Consumer Services General||17.0%|
|Business Publishing/Media General
|Business Products and Services General||20.3%|
|Consumer Products CPG||21.9%|
|Travel/Hospitality Travel Services||23.4%|
|Consumer Products Pharmaceutical||24.2%|
|Consumer Services Telecom||26.4%|
|Financial Services General||31.9%|
|Financial Serviced CC/Banks||34.9%|
Within the publishing industry, e-mail open rates have increased since 2008:
|Open rate||Q1 '10||Q1 '09||Q1 '08|
|Business publishing/media general||18.7%||17.8%||16.2%|
|Consumer publishing/media general||16.6%||16.7%||15.9%|
While open rates are lower than in other industries, click rates for publisher emails are in line with other sectors (the low being 3.6% and the high being 7%, both in the financial services industry). However, click rates saw a slight drop the last two years, particularly for consumer publishers:
|Click rate||Q1 '10||Q1 '09||Q1 '08|
|Business publishing/media general||5.7%||6.3%||6.3%|
|Consumer publishing/media general||6.9%||6.5%||8.6%|
Across all industries, Epsilon found that open rates increased 1.1% from the same time in 2009 and click rates were down slightly to 6% from 6.1%. Interestingly, editorial content in all industries actually has a better open rate (about 23%) than marketing e-mails (about 18%), but service e-mails have the best open rate (about 41%).
Challenges to Open Rates
It's hard to explain why publishers generally have lower open rates, but one reason could be the amount of e-mail publishers send. Because of the higher volume of e-mails, "it gets a little bit harder to consistently have high open rates and click-through rates," said Shannon Aronson, senior director in the Strategic and Analytic Group at Epsilon.
Particularly in B2B publishing, Aronson describes readers as typically "heads up versus heads down," meaning they are looking to read quick information rather than study it. Newsletters tend to be very heads up; during a business day, a reader might only be able to skim three out of the four newsletters in her inbox. Readers also may receive the information from another delivery method, such as RSS feeds or social media.
Furthermore, publishers, especially on the business side, have filtering challenges, as editors can only do so much to present newsletters to hypersensitive filters, Aronson noted. The good news is that deliverability, or the non-bounce rate, improved slightly for publishers in Epsilon's latest study. Publishers showed above-average non-bounce rates of 97.4% for consumer publishing and 96.8% for business publishing. (Across all industries the non-bounce rate increased to 94.7%.)
The Epsilon report concluded that the e-mail channel remains a valuable means of communication, as long as you listen to the preferences of customers and understand their preferences, behaviors and wants/needs. As businesses, including publishers, continue to use e-mail as an information-delivery channel, they must also integrate with other sources, keeping in mind the viral effects of e-mail and new ways people view e-mail, Aronson said. “You have to continue to look at other opportunities within the e-mail source itself and be aware of all the new technologies and ways people are viewing e-mails,” she said.