Marketing Analytics: Email with a Purpose

January 26, 2017 | Alex Karei, Marketing Director, Webspec Design

Alex Karei, Marketing Director, Webspec Design

Marketing in the 21st century is all about one thing: the data behind it. Walk into any marketing conference and you’ll see at least one session dedicated to managing data, interpreting it, or implementing it. One large area of analytics that marketers deal with involves email. Whether you’re producing smaller email marketing campaigns or large-scale drip campaigns, there’s a lot of information to analyze and it can be hard to determine where to start.

Many companies employ email marketing as part of their overall strategy. Although results can be hard to predict, it’s also one of the easiest ways to get in touch with clients quickly (and at a low cost—who doesn’t love that?). While modern email marketing platforms provide a lot of information to users, marketers can find a lot of benefit in looking deeper into what these statistics mean.

You’ve probably seen a blog or two telling you the best time to send an email. The problem is, by the time you read that second blog, you’re reading a different statistic. At the end of the day, you can read about all the “industry standards” in the world, but if you aren’t looking at what time your users are reading the email you’re sending those statistics are meaningless. All user groups are different, and that includes those subscribed to your list.

Action item: Test sending your emails at different times and days of the week to find your optimal time frame. How do you measure this? That’s up to you. Some companies might want higher open rates, and some may want higher clicks within those emails. That metric is up to you, however, you can’t get clicks without opens, so that’s the best place to start testing. Make sure you’re only testing a single variable – don’t try to test time of day and day of the week at the same time. Once you establish one variable (day) you can establish the other (time).

The trick here? Finding your sweet spot can be pretty time consuming. You can literally test for weeks on end. Eventually, you’ve got to evaluate if this type of testing makes a large enough difference for your organization to matter.

Why does the time of day matter when it comes to email?

Finding the day and time that your readers are most likely to open or click through your emails will provide you with a greater return on investment (ROI) for the time you’ve put into meticulously crafting that email.

Email marketing programs not only tell you when emails are being opened, but how many times users are opening them. At the surface, you might be wondering “if they open them at least once, why would I care?”

Action item: Review users who are opening emails multiple times and identify action steps beyond email to follow up with these individuals. You can stop at opens, but looking at links being clicked (and the amount of time they are) will also clue you into possible motivations.

Why does it matter how many times emails are opened?

People can be indecisive. If they’re reviewing your email more than once, they’re likely still interested. If they had zero interest, it’s likely they would have deleted your email immediately. This system isn’t foolproof, but sometimes all these users need to move forward is a phone call to answer a question that’s preventing them from moving forward in the purchasing cycle.

It’s easy to see high click rates from your emails and get excited. The important thing to note about click rates, however, is whether your users are clicking on the things that you want them to click on.

Action item: Take a look in your email reports and analyze user behavior. Think about the intention of your email and where links are being clicked. If your call to action link isn’t being clicked, what is? If you include your call to action multiple times, which instance is the user clicking on?

Why does it matter where readers click in an email?

These observations can give you advice on ensuring your next send is the best that it can be. If buttons get clicked more than in-line text, use buttons in your next email. If people responded to photography, keep using it. After all, everyone likes to be able to tell upper management that your email success is on the upswing!

Once you’re comfortable digging deeper into some of your more basic email analytics, it can be useful to look beyond those reports.

When you send an email, there are many different ways to segment the recipients. However, a list’s overall health is not to be ignored; if there are issues in the list, your segment is likely to have issues as well.

Action item: Review your email list to evaluate overall behavior of your users. What device are they opening your email on? What browser are they using?

Why does list behavior matter?

Devices and browsers can heavily affect how you’re able to utilize design in your emails. If your audience is primarily checking email on mobile, you’ll want to think mobile-first in your email design. When reviewing browsers, keep in mind some industries have a large majority of recipients using Outlook – a major letdown when it comes to support of fun things like GIFs within emails.

Content isn’t something that’s easily filtered into a report within email marketing platforms (none that I’ve heard of, anyway), but it’s important to track nonetheless.

Action item: Keep records of the type of content (long form vs. bullets, for example) that you write within an email and how users responded. You’ll need to track this yourself, but a simple Excel spreadsheet will get the job done. Other things to keep track of include things like subject line length/format, headline use, and calls to action.

Why does the type of content matter in emails?

If you don’t try and identify the forms of content readers respond to, you’re not improving email strategy. It’s true that different types of emails should be written differently, but if you’re consistently sending sales emails, you should be able to identify some trends to follow for optimum performance. Also, if you can identify trends, you can also cut down the time it takes to put together a new email.

What kind of analytics are you tracking in your email marketing?

This column first appeared on the Webspec Blog.