Email Engagement Metrics: Elements that Create a Killer Campaign

Mallory Mongeon | 2014-06-18T15:00:51+00:00 | email on acid logo

What an engaged reader really looks like

In the second installment of our series on Email Engagement Metrics, we are going to break apart 8 campaigns we deployed, piece by piece, to uncover what really engages our subscribers in our email campaigns. As we sift through our analytics and campaigns with a fine-tooth comb, we will focus engagement around what happens between an open and a click. To track this seemingly elusive metric, we are harnessing the read, skim and glance rates we’ve generated through our state-of-the-art analytics software.

In case you need a refresher or missed Part 1 of our Email Engagement Metrics series, our analytics software can track how long a subscriber has an email open. This offers context to your open rates because you can uncover whether someone opened your email only to immediately hit delete, or if someone actually took the time to engage in your content. Check out the standard ‘thresholds’ we have set to categorize a read, skim or glance:

  • Glance/Delete Rate – Email open for 2 seconds or less
  • Skim Rate – Email open for 3 to 7 seconds
  • Read Rate – Email open for 8 seconds or more

We already examined how our read, skim and glance rates are affected based on where our emails are being opened (web client, desktop, or mobile). This time around, we are uncovering which campaigns had the highest and lowest read, skim and glance rates. These rates may not seem important on the surface, but are actually invaluable because they’ll allow us to isolate the marketing elements of the campaign and theorize what email tactics helped and which hurt. In short, it will paint a more detailed picture of why some campaigns were successful and why others weren’t!

Want to skip ahead? Check out all three parts of this series in a jiffy:

Let’s get a bird’s eye view of campaign engagement to begin…

Before we zero in on the campaigns individually, we wanted to get the lay of the land in terms of how many people are keeping their eyeballs on our emails after they’re opened. In the first installment we looked at read, skim and glance rates based off of clients and devices. Now, we want to uncover the average read, skim and glance rates from our 8 campaigns to assess our overall engagement.

Take a look below:

Overall, we are crushing it when it comes to read rate because 3 out of 4 people that open our email are engaging with the content for 8 seconds or more. As we mentioned in our previous article, the average attention span in 2013 is ONLY 8 seconds, so we gotta be doing something right with our email strategy!

However, there is always room to improve as we can see that 13% of our viewers are ONLY opening our email to trash it, while 12% only check out our email for 3-7 seconds. It is important to note though, a higher skim rate is not always a bad thing! If someone opens an email and the text is concise and the call-to-action is crystal clear, they may only need to read the email for 3-7 seconds before taking action and clicking through. That is why we will also be pulling our click-through rates into our analysis when deciding which campaigns engaged our readers, and which fell flat. So, sit back, relax and watch as we dissect our campaigns to see what marketing elements made the emails soar or sink.

Highest Read Rate

On average, we had a 75% read rate but the whole is only as good as the sum of its parts. So, without any further ado, let’s take a look at our reads per email campaign.

From the graph above, we can see that Campaign 3 came in with a killer read rate of 83%. For context, below is a brief description of Campaign 3 and a picture below!

Campaign 3

Audience: Agencies interested in white-labeling our services (API Prospects)

Goal: Keep potential API customers updated on our latest advancements and encourage them to get in touch with our Director of Client Relations.

Offer: Sharing our Latest API Features and Updates

Sales Pitch? No

Subject line: 5 HUGE Updates to our API

So, what makes this campaign so engaging? Off the bat you could chalk up the long read rate to the length of the email, but this may not be the most accurate conclusion. Just because an email is long, doesn’t mean it will keep someone engaged.

First things first: what was the subject line used? Our opener was “5 HUGE Updates to our API.” According to MailChimp, subject lines are most successful when they are 50 characters or less. They also recommend that you TELL what’s inside your email, instead of SELL what’s inside your email. These are two very basic principles we applied and from what we can tell, two principles we should continue to employ. If you need some more tips on crafting compelling subject lines, check out our article on 5 Tips to Create a Killer Subject Line!

List segmentation also seems to have played a critical role in the engagement of this campaign. A one-size-fits-all approach to email marketing doesn’t work when you are speaking to a diverse audience. At Email on Acid we have many different audiences. Each audience is at a different point in the sales cycle.

In this specific email, we had a highly segmented list targeting only people who had expressed interest in white-labeling our services. This group had opted in to our list when they requested more information about our API.

Because our list was so segmented, we were also able to highly personalize our message since we knew exactly who we were speaking to and what their interests were. We also used their first name in the salutation of the email by pulling the “first name” field from our ESP. A word of caution though, ensure you actually have the “first name” field populated for every contact you are sending to before using this tactic. Egg on your face if that column is blank and you hit send!

This campaign was also the first time we utilized a more personal “from name” and “from address.” The email was directed to API prospects, so we used the name and email address of our point-person for all API related issues. It seems our list, or at least our API prospects, prefers to receive company updates from an actual employee of EOA rather than just seeing the generic “Email on Acid” displayed.

Now that we have patted ourselves on the back with what we did right in this campaign, it is time to see where we missed the mark in our email with the lowest read rate.

Lowest Read Rate

Campaign 7 came in with a read rate of 67%. While that rate is not completely awful, it still made me as a marketer cringe. Take a look below to see a breakdown of Campaign 7.

Campaign 7

Audience: Members who do not have an active subscription

Goal: Inform the audience of our new feature we released called “Email Preview Notifications,” and offer them to take this feature and our platform for a test drive.

Offer: 7 Day Free Trial

Sales Pitch? Yes

Subject line: New Feature: Email Preview Notifications

If our email results were a test, we would be getting a D+ with a 67% read rate (queue Nelson laughing). The first element indicating why we might have had such low engagement was the audience this message was being sent to. This audience is a group of subscribers who have never used our free trial or purchased a subscription. Let’s call these people our hibernating members.

Once we noticed that our hibernating members had the lowest read rate, we wanted to see if there was any correlation between the low read rate and a low CTR. We pulled the CTR of each of the 8 campaigns we were studying. Lo and behold, Campaign 7 came in with the lowest CTR of .7%. Check out the graph below:

After we picked apart the CTR of the 8 campaigns in this study, we wanted to look at the total picture of overall opens and clicks from all of the email campaigns we sent in 2014. We found that the hibernating member audience has the lowest open rate and CTR across the board. From these overall metrics, it is safe to conclude that hibernating members are our LEAST engaged audience.

Another aspect of this email that could have made it less than appealing is the relevance of the content to this audience. In this particular email, we laid out new features/updates we had made to our platform. While this is directly relevant and beneficial to current users, our hibernating members who have very limited access to our service may see this message as unrelated to their lives and needs.

Not only did the body of the message alert the reader that this was about a new EOA feature, but our CTA was also linking to instructions on how to enable this new feature in the EOA platform. Someone who uses our product on a limited basis does not have any motivation to click through. We can now predict an email regarding new enhancements may be a little stale to non EOA users.

Highest Skim Rate

Now that we covered the top tier of what we define as engagement (having our email opened for more than 8 seconds), it’s time to take a look at which email campaign had the highest and lowest skim rate. For a quick reminder, we consider a skim as someone who opened our email for 3-7 seconds. Keep in mind when you are reviewing the stats below, a low skim rate may not be the worst thing in the world. It could very well indicate that your text is scannable and your CTA is powerful. Check out the skim rate by opens per campaign below:

Campaign 7 claims the spot for the highest skim rate at 15%. We have already discussed the elements of Campaign 7 but here is a refresher.

Unsurprisingly, the campaign with the lowest read rate also takes the spot for highest skim rate. The #1 factor that we believe caused the high skim rate goes back to the relevance of the email to the hibernating audience. The very first sentence in the email is, “We’ve added a new notification option to our testing suite.” All a hibernating user would have to do is read the first sentence to know that it’s a feature they probably will not utilize.

The layout of the email itself is also highly scannable. The design layout of an email is very important. This email was constructed so that you can skim it and get the gist of the message in a matter of seconds.

Also, considering that our hibernating audience is the least engaged, it’s not a surprise that this message did not resonate.

Lowest Skim Rate

Campaign 3, had the lowest percentage of skims across all 8 campaigns with a skim rate of 7%. We’ve already picked apart its marketing elements since it took the crown for highest read rate, but check out Campaign 3 here if you want another looksy.

Since Campaign 3 pulled in the highest amount of reads, it only made sense it had the least amount of skims. We haven’t touched on glance/trash rate yet, but Campaign 3 had the second lowest glace rate as well. The more people that you can keep on your email for 8 seconds or longer, the lower your skim rate and glance rate will be! Campaign 3 also took second place for highest CTR so yeah, we kinda crushed it with that email.

So what kept our audience reading and clicking through? We have already covered these elements previously when we discussed why campaign 3 had such a high read rate, so skip ahead if you like. If you want a recap, below is a breakdown of the tactics that helped this email take the cake for engagement:

  • Subject line: The subject line was “5 HUGE Updates to our API.” It was effective because it followed best email practices by being under 50 characters or less and it TOLD what was inside instead of SOLD what was inside.
  • List segmentation: We created a highly segmented and targeted list of subscribers comprised of people who opted-in to our list, solely so they could get API updates.
  • Personalization and Relevance: Since we honed in so granularly on who we were sending it to, we were able to tailor or message specifically to the wants and needs of this audience. We also were able to start off each email addressing them by their first name.
  • From Name and From Address: We generally use our support email as our from address and our company name, Email on Acid, for the from name. This time around we used the name and email address of our point-person for all API related issues.

Now let’s dive into glance rates and what those numbers mean to us.

Highest Glace Rate

Campaign 7 rears its ugly head yet again, taking the reviled spot of highest percentage of deletes/glances.

This campaign received the least amount of reads and highest amount of skims, so it being trashed the most makes perfect sense. The same reasoning that contributed to the many skims and the low read rate can also apply to why it was trashed the most. To recap, we believe the following marketing elements contributed to campaign 7 getting the most deletes:

  • Audience: Our hibernating members not only have the lowest read rate and highest skim rate, but also the least amount of opens and CTR’s compared to our other audiences.
  • Lowest CTR of .7%: Out of the 8 campaigns we observed, this had the lowest CTR by a long shot.
  • Content Relevance: This email was not relevant to hibernating users that had no intention in testing out our service again.
  • CTA: The call to action was taking the readers to instructions on how to enable the new feature in their account. Since hibernating users have a very limited account, only a small percentage of users would have motivation to click-through since they do not use our product regularly.

Lowest Glance Rate

Campaign 2 had the lowest glance rate of 6%.This email is similar in style, tone and design to campaign 3 that garnered the highest read rate. Below is a brief outline of the campaign and the actual campaign text itself.

Campaign 2

Audience: Marketing Event Attendees

Goal: To touch base with fellow event attendees and get them in contact with the Director of Client Relations at EOA.

Offer: 7 Day Free Trial

Sales Pitch? Yes

Subject line: Cheers to a great MarketingSherpa Email Summit!

Personalization, personalization, personalization! Everything from the subject line to our CTA was highly personalized. We did this by honing in on a very specific audience; marketers who attended the same marketing event as us the month before. Our subject line contained the event name and we were able to address this segment on a first name basis. Heck, we had even chatted with some of these people face to face! From this personalization, we were able to craft a very relevant message, perhaps compelling our audience to hang on to it.

This campaign also passed with flying colors when it came to read rate and CTR. Campaign 2 had the highest CTR and claimed second place for the highest read rate indicating that the glance, read and click-through metrics are very much intertwined.

It seems that from all the marketing elements we dissected above, the best way to create compelling content is by knowing your audience and uncovering their motivation. For example, hibernating members don’t care about new EOA features, but our current subscribers do. Relevance in your content is key and once you figure out what spurs your reader to take action, captivating content will be close behind.

Applying what we’ve learned

So… what now? Having a big pile-o-stats is nice, but if you do not analyze and formulate lessons and strategies from them, they’re worthless. That’s why our final installment is going to apply what we’ve learned to our email campaigns moving forward. The read, skim and glance rates above have invaluable lessons behind them, so stay tuned to see how we integrate these lessons into our overall marketing strategy.

As William Shakespeare said, “What’s past is prologue.” It’s critical to a marketer’s success to learn from your past campaign failings, so you never make those email mistakes again. Stay tuned!

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