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Say bye to open rates as a useful metric

June 16, 2021

What happens if you can no longer track email engagement with open rates?

Email marketing is still an important method of driving conversions, but that’s only if we weaponise them properly. If there’s one thing we’ve learnt from producing our own newsletter, it is the importance of tracking engagement analytics.

Open rates are a metric that most email marketers, ourselves included, rely on. After all, what is the point of having over a thousand subscribers if not even a single one of them open your emails?

That said, such a metric may no longer be as useful in time to come.

The end of open rates

Privacy concerns are not new, and it seems like after much debate, Apple has decided to introduce a new change in the iOS 15 update that might just render open rates useless.

For Apple users who rely on the Mail app, a new feature prevents senders from using tracking pixels to monitor whether recipients have opened an email. These pixels are typically embedded in the email itself and it’s a common technique used across the internet to determine whether a user has accessed some content on the web — in this case, a newsletter.

This new feature has serious implications on newsletter engagement metrics by skewing your data. Now, every Apple Mail user on your newsletter subscriber list will automatically count as an ‘open’ even if that didn’t actually happen.

Now what?

While this is a blow to newsletter creators everywhere, it’s not the end of the world. At their best, open rates can only broadly gauge engagement — they don’t actually tell you anything more. In fact, they barely scrape the surface of what your audience thinks and feels about your content.

But if you’re feeling unsettled because you need that kind of data, here are some alternative quantitative metrics you can rely on instead that might be a better indicator of the quality of your content.

Delivery rate

Delivery rates help you determine just how many emails you’ve sent out successfully to the subscribers on your mailing list for a single campaign, by accounting for the emails that bounced. As a universal benchmark, you should be aiming for a delivery rate of 95% or more.

This is a good way for you to determine the quality of your mailing list. By noting the bounces and checking the email addresses they were sent to, you’ll be able to see which are invalid domains. Purge them from your list so that they don’t skew your data.

Click-through rate

Another metric to measure your email engagement is the click-through rate (CTR): the number of clicks made on your newsletter after it has been delivered.

Basically, it measures activity. The clickthrough rate demonstrates that recipients actually read at least a part of your newsletter and are interested in what you have to say.

By clicking the various links embedded in your newsletter, they will be directed to the relevant end pages. This could be your website, product landing page, or external sources.

The average clickthrough rate stands at 2.6%, and if you have exceeded that, well done to you!

Unsubscribe rate

As the name implies, the unsubscribe rate refers to the number of people who have decided to unsubscribe from your newsletter.

This can happen if you send too many emails, or your content is just not quite hitting the mark in terms of appealing to these subscribers.

According to the 2021 Campaign Monitor Email Marketing benchmarks, the average email unsubscribe rate is 0.1%. If yours is any higher, it might be a good idea to put yourself in your subscribers’ shoes and take another look at your content. What are possible turnoffs? Evaluate how you can improve these points so they better speak to your subscribers.

Flipping this logic over, what are some unique points of newsletters you subscribe to yourself, that you can incorporate into your own newsletter? So not only should you be focusing on all these points, you should be aiming to see your subscribers grow as well.

A different perspective on tracking engagement

While there are alternative metrics left to be used for data analytics, the demise of open rates is a signal that we need to have a larger conversation about managing audience engagement.

Numbers are good and fairly straightforward to compute. They are also much easier to understand and track, but we can’t rely on them entirely. At the end of the day, while they quantify what’s working and what isn’t, they don’t shed much light on how things can be improved from a content standpoint. Neither do they give direct feedback from your audience about what they like or not about your newsletter.

Perhaps it’s time that we expand the way we track audience engagement to include something a bit more qualitative. If you are trying to build a more personable brand, why not engage directly with your audience?

Asking for feedback in an email, or putting out an Instagram Story Question or survey lets your audience respond freely about what they like or didn’t like about the content you put out, or what they want to see more of. And if you don’t know what other content types or topics you should cover that might speak to them, why not let them tell you?

Ask and you shall receive. Sometimes, it’s really that simple.

Want to create engaging newsletter content that speaks to your audience? Let us help you. Reach out to our editorial content director Michelle Cheong at [email protected] today.

Read more from Click2View:

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  3. Why you need a content calendar

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Click2View is Southeast Asia’s premiere full-service independent B2B content marketing agency servicing clients like Microsoft, Google, Visa, Prudential, and the Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy.