Why are the numbers different? Email Marketing Open Rates

why are the numbers different

Why are the numbers different? This is what a customer asked me last week after getting their monthly reporting email for their monthly newsletter. They were comparing their June reporting email to May and April reporting emails and noticed that the numbers reported for the two previous months were different.

OneMinute Report – Email Performance at at Glance

As part of our full service email marketing, we send your email newsletter at an optimized time and day. Then in the next 48 hours, send you a OneMinute Report – a detailed report and a summary analysis of how the email performed, the email addresses who opened it most and the most popular links that were clicked that gives you all the important information you need about your email campaign, in one minute or less.

Because email newsletter performance is relative, we always compare the current month numbers to the two previous months. For example if the open rate on your email newsletter (or email blast) this month was 42% and your click rate was 6%, those are nice numbers by themselves. But the next question you’d ask as a savvy marketer is “how’d we do last month?” – so we give the trailing two months as a comparison and to show some basic trending. Below is an example sentence from a OneMinute Report:

“This month your open rate was 38% which is up from 34% in May and 30% in April.”

Back to the Question: Why are the numbers different?

But back to the question they asked “why are the numbers different?” In their case for April and May’s reporting we’d told them their open rate for that month was 30% for April and 34% for May and 38% in June.

So they were expecting the following information in their report:

38% in June, 34% for May and 30% in April.

But instead the report showed:

38% in June, 39% for May and 35% in April.

Can you spot the difference? Both May and April’s numbers increased by 5%. They were quite surprised, and wondering why our numbers were off as they compared them between three separate emails, hence their question, “Why are the numbers different?”

The Answer

Here’s why they got different numbers in their reporting emails, when we pull the email performance report we are really looking at the open rate at a snapshot of time when the report is pulled. The first time we pulled the report it was 24+ hours after the send, and we got an open rate for May of 34%.

Then one month later in June when we pulled the report again, it is 5% higher at 35%. So over the last month, 5% more people have opened the email. The numbers aren’t wrong, they just have changed since people on the list are opening the email after our initial reporting. Most of our customers have an open rate that is 1-3% higher a month later.

For the most part we’re concerned with how an email initially does – our experience and anecdotal interviews show that the majority of an opens of an email happen within 24 hours after the send which is why we do the reporting after that point. In actuality, on a list without time zone differences, a very large percentage of the opens happen within the first couple hours of the send time as you can see from the chart below.

 24 hour email performance

Which if you think about your own email reading behavior makes perfect sense. We’re constantly on our phones, tablets or computers checking our email – in a quest for inbox zero or keeping an eye out for the next fire that needs to be put out.

Additionally, many email newsletters may contain information that is time sensitive, talking about an upcoming trade show you are attending, or a lunch and learn your firm is hosting, or perhaps on the retail side a coupon that must be redeemed in a time frame. We write the content with the expectation the email will be read before those things happen.

Getting back to the original question, “Why are the numbers different?” and the answer is because numbers of email opens (and clicks, unsubscribes, etc) are always dynamic – we are just taking a snapshot view. Is it a big deal that they change? Most of the time, no way. As I mentioned earlier, most of our customers see an increase in the open rate of 1-3% a month later. 5-6% of later opens needs to be monitored for additional changes. In the range of 7-10% is an area that needs further exploration to see what we can find out about the segment that is opening later. It’s possible that we may need to adjust the content, sending schedule or variables to better address this segment.

It’s not about the numbers – they are just indicators and we need to use them intelligently to make the most of our email marketing.

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