Email Metrics 101: Establish Your Baselines

Steve DuBois, Professional Services Manager

Author Bio

As a professional services manager with over a decade of experience in digital marketing, Steve DuBois leads a team of consultants that onboards new customers and provides personalized strategic advice that leads to higher engagement, list growth and revenue. He and his team help clients pair the right services and products to maximize marketing efforts. DuBois joined Oracle’s Bronto Software in 2011 as a Marketing Strategist, working with clients to optimize campaigns and find more ways to drive revenue. In previous positions, he advised clients on where to direct their marketing budgets by analyzing attribution models and cross-channel analytics.

I can’t tell you how often I get the question, “How do my metrics compare to everyone else?” As an email or multi-channel marketer, it’s a natural question to ask. We’re driven to rate the success of our work against benchmarks within our industry. However, this simple question has a bit of a complex answer, so let’s address this in a couple of blog posts, starting with “Establish Your Baselines.”

Back in 2010, we discussed the pros and cons of benchmarks with a video post entitled “Add Some Salt to That Margarita: Benchmarks and Their Value.”  These points still hold true two years later. But this is an ongoing debate, and there are many variables to take into account when measuring against benchmarks.

Variables include, but are not limited to:

  • Sample Size
  • Subject Line
  • Send Time
  • Email Creative
  • Industry
  • Product Offering
  • Market Positioning
  • Sales Cycle
  • Promotions/Discount Offered
  • Seasonality
  • List health/hygiene

So, the first strike against measuring against using benchmarks to rate your own success is the sheer number of variables that prohibit fair comparison between your results and industry benchmarks. If you are starting a program from scratch and have no baseline metrics to evaluate, then you could look to industry benchmarks to help jumpstart your program analysis. However, if you have any amount of data collected from your marketing program, then it’s time to establish your own benchmarks and goals. 

There are two key steps in creating your own analyzing your metrics:

  1. Focus less on others
  2. Set goals based on your past performance

So how do you get started? What metrics should you look at to start analyzing your data?

Compile past results using the following metrics and be sure to collect/record these for future mailings.

  • Messages Sent
  • Messages Delivered
  • Total Email Opens & Unique Email Opens
  • Total Email Click-Throughs & Unique Email Click-Through
  • Email Forwards
  • Social Shares

These metrics are great for looking at engagement, but let’s also look at revenue as well:

  • Total Conversions & Unique Conversions
  • Total Revenue

And last but not least, you will want to focus on your contact loss metrics:

  • Total Unsubscribes
  • Total Complaints

We can then take these raw numbers to come up with some important rates that we’ll use to establish our baselines.

Performance

Engagement Metrics

  • Open Rate = Total Opens / Messages Delivered

Keep in mind: Open Rate is a great formula to measure the rate by which emails are being perused. The open itself is recorded by an invisible pixel being fired. Opens, in general, are a somewhat flawed metric because an open will only register when someone either displays images in the email or clicks on a link. Therefore, if someone views a message with images disabled, the open is not recorded. The open rate is still important to evaluate because you can measure how effective your subject line/offer is, whether your preheader text is making a difference and even whether you may be having some deliverability issues.

  • Click Through Rate (CTR) = Total Clicks / Messages Delivered
  • Click Rate = Total Clicks / Total Opens

Revenue Metrics

  • Conversion Rate = Total Conversions / Messages Delivered
  • Adjusted Conversion Rate = Total Conversions / Total Clicks
  • Average Order Value (AOV) = Total Revenue / Total Conversions
  • Revenue per Email (RPE) = Total Revenue / Messages Delivered

Contact Loss Metrics

  • Delivery Rate = Messages Delivered / Messages Sent
  • Unsubscribe Rate = Total Unsubscribed / Messages Delivered
  • Complaint Rate = Total Complaints / Messages Delivered

For more details behind engagement, revenue and contact loss metrics take a look at a 3 part series that Kristen Gregory wrote, “Data: Jump on it!” Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

Market Analyze If this is your first time doing this, start recording your metrics and find the average of your sends to determine your baseline metrics. If you are a seasoned vet, then take the average of your past sends and use this as your new baseline. One thing to note when taking your own averages over the last x months of mailing is to take the overall average by summing all the sent, delivered, opens, clicks, and conversions… then calculate the average overall rates. DO NOT do an average calculation of all the rates from the last x months.

Once you have your numbers, start to think outside the box, test, take a risk and try something new. You want to improve from your benchmark and remember there is always room for improvement! Need some ideas check out “8 Key Ways to Keep Subscribers Engaged.”

Next post I will be covering more on revenue and contact loss metrics, in the mean time create those benchmarks and let me know if there is something in particular you would like me to cover for next time.

Steve DuBois
Marketing Strategist at Bronto