Email power: 2019 email and mobile benchmark highlights

What’s the average email open rate?

Marketers have been asking this and other metrics-related questions for 20 years. And as people keep plotting marketing program improvement, benchmarking your brand’s performance is only becoming more crucial.

With this in mind, Acoustic is excited to share the findings of our 2019 Marketing Benchmark Report. It examines email and mobile marketing messages sent by thousands of brands in 2018 to share industry standards on customer engagement, delivery, device and email client type, and subscriber churn. All of this data helps marketers understand how their programs stack up to competitors and the report’s analysis and tips provide insights to help improve performance and results. (You can actually see how your own metrics compare to top performers in our interactive tool.) So let’s dig into a few of this year’s highlights.

Slicing through the data

Open rates and click-through rates continue to grow: Since 2014, open rates and click-through rates (CTRs) have increased steadily each year — with the biggest jump in 2018. Open rates rose to 24% in 2018 from 21% in 2014, a 14% increase. And click-through rates increased 19% to 3.8% in 2018 from 3.2% in 2014.

This steady rise is likely a combination of two factors: one, brands are focusing more on list hygiene and high-quality subscribers, and two, messages are more relevant due to the increased use of behavior- and preference-based personalization and journeys.

Overall mean unique open rate and click-through rate chart

Privacy regulations such as GDPR and CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) that limit how data can be used and shared are rapidly changing the marketing landscape, forcing brands to find new ways to drive loyalty without jeopardizing the privacy of consumers. Because of these and other current and planned regulations, many brands are greatly increasing their focus on list hygiene, permission practices, and quality over quantity. As a result, with the denominator number in metrics improving (list quality), open and CTR metrics are rising and are likely will continue.

In addition to improving permission and data management practices, brands are using AI to personalize emails, dissect and analyze big data, and detect when campaigns aren’t performing well. They’re also increasingly incorporating behavioral data from web analytics solutions, point-of-sale, and CRM systems into their campaigns leading to more relevant messages being delivered at the right time.

Auto races to the top of click-through rates: This is the first year we have metrics for the Automotive industry, and the results were impressive. Emails sent by auto brands clearly click with recipients with a mean of 10%, far above the second highest industry, Computer Hardware and Telecommunications, which has 7.3%. Lowest performing industries include Hospitals, Healthcare & Biotech, Industrial Manufacturing & Services, and Retail & Ecommerce all at 3.0% and Nonprofits, Associations & Government with a mean of 2.8%.

So why are auto brands on top? They tend to send emails infrequently, but when they do, current owners and shoppers often click on recommended service information or browse a new model of interest. So lower frequency and high consumer interest and relevance are driving high CTRs.

On the flip side, Retail & Ecommerce brands tend to send emails at a very high frequency, increasing the total opens and clicks but decreasing rates on a per message basis. Other low-click-through rate industries might provide valued content within the email itself, rather than trying to drive people to take action and click-through to a website.

Mean click-through rates chart

Mobile email engagement declines: The percentage of consumers opening emails on mobile devices dropped to about 44% in 2018 from 49% in 2017, likely because modern consumers use mobile devices primarily for inbox maintenance.

Comparatively, the average percentage of consumers opening webmail (such as Gmail or Yahoo) increased to 40% from 33%. As consumers increasingly use mobile for general inbox maintenance, they can more quickly identify and delete messages.

Client and device usage from 2017 vs. 2018 in selected geographies chart

Transactional messages are top performers: Emails that are triggered by a customer’s behavior like order confirmations and shipping notices have average (mean) open rates 20 percentage points higher than non-transactional emails such as promotional offers or newsletters. Transactional messages sent in 2018 had a mean open rate of 47.6% versus 23.8% for non-transactional messages.

Transactional emails have always performed well because of their relevance and timing. Unfortunately, many marketing organizations neither own these messages nor are optimizing their design, content, and opportunities to cross- or up-sell customers or educate new buyers leading to greater customer experiences.

Mobile App Inbox Messages Outperform Push Notifications: Consumers open simple mobile push notifications about 5% of the time while mobile app inbox messages see average (mean) open rates of more than 22%. Push notification content — such as a flight delay, package shipping status, or breaking news — often doesn’t require further action from the recipient. Mobile app inbox messages, however, present a significant opportunity to create an email or web-like HTML experience for customers within the app inbox.

The data in the latest Acoustic Marketing Benchmark Report shows that email and mobile marketing continue to not only thrive but that marketers can expect to see improved results from these channels. See how you stack up by downloading our report.

Up next in this series, I’ll dive more deeply into the meaning and value of two email metrics: the click-to-open rate and clicks-per-clicker.