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Email Marketing KPIs to Keep an Eye On

Key performance indicators (KPIs) are a quantifiable way to assess how well a strategy has worked and whether it’s achieved the desired results. In the world of email marketing, KPIs are the most objective way to answer the question, “Is this email campaign achieving what the marketer set out to achieve?”

Numbers in a vacuum don’t mean much, though. For email marketing KPIs to deliver insights, they have to be put into context. There are two main ways to do so–comparing your campaign with your other campaigns and comparing them with industry benchmarks.

Comparing the specific KPIs from one campaign to matching KPIs from similar campaigns is what allows marketers to analyze, for instance, whether this year’s holiday promotion emails had a higher or lower open rate than previous seasons, and what that might mean for the success of this year’s campaign.

Marketers are also quick to compare their email marketing KPIs with industry benchmarks—and for good reason. Knowing that a campaign’s bounce rate is far higher than the industry average, for instance, is a good indicator that it’s time to cleanse the email list of invalid email addresses, or potentially rethink the email service provider you’re using.

At a time when marketers have access to tools that can measure pretty much anything, it may be tempted to measure, well, everything. But that data deluge can sometimes make it even harder to glean insights. With that in mind, here are some email marketing KPIs to keep an eye on.

Inbox Placement Rate (IPR)

  • What it is: The percentage of emails that successfully land in a customer’s inbox, rather than getting snagged by a spam filter or bouncing entirely.
  • Why it matters: Even the most compelling email message won’t deliver results if it’s not getting to a customer’s inbox in the first place. Keeping an eye on this KPI is crucial, so you can spot any sudden dips. That might mean an uptick in customers marking your messages as spam, rather than unsubscribing. Or it could mean a delivery issue, such as being temporarily flagged by an ISP–meaning you might need to adjust your send cadence and focus on internet protocol (IP) warming to slowly but surely build trust with your user’s ISP.

Open Rate

  • What it is: The percentage of email recipients who open a particular email out those delivered.
  • Why it matters: Plenty of emails will hit someone’s inbox, and languish there, unopened. This email marketing KPI helps uncover how often people actually open that email (though keep in mind that things such as image-blockers may artificially suppress this KPI). If open rates on a campaign are low, it may be a sign that your subject lines need help. Low open rates could also point to the Apple iOS15 update in the fall of 2021 that drastically changed open rates – but don’t worry – marketers have many options to overcome the new changes.

Click-Through Rate (CTR)

  • What it is: The percentage of email recipients who clicked on a link in an email. CTR can be calculated using either total clicks or unique clicks, depending on which is more relevant. Just be sure to be consistent in how this KPI is calculated across campaigns.
  • Why it matters: This email marketing KPI sheds light on how many people are actively engaging with your content. CTR can also be useful for figuring out exactly where in an email message links should be placed. Through A/B testing, you might find that links at the top of an email yield a higher CTR than those placed along the right of a message. If your main goal is to encourage more clicks (and whose isn’t?), that insight might lead you to place more links in those high-performing spots. If your CTR is low, you might discover it has been impacted by the Apple iOS15 update and that you need to change your call to action (CTA) to an eye-catching image rather than plain text.

Conversion Rate

  • What it is: The percentage of email recipients who completed the desired action after reading your email. Conversion doesn’t always mean sale, of course. The desired action might be signing up for a webinar, downloading a guide, or reaching out for more information.
  • Why it matters: This is perhaps the most important email marketing KPI, when it comes to judging whether an email marketing campaign is achieving its overall goals. Because call-to-actions can be highly specific, it’s harder to compare conversion rates across industries.

Email Sharing/Forwarding Rate

  • What it is: The percentage of email recipients who clicked a button within the email to either post that content to a social network or forward the email to another person.
  • Why it matters: People are naturally more likely to open and engage with content that’s sent to them by a friend. And, when email recipients share brand content this way, it becomes a powerful opportunity to get in front of a new audience and potentially grow your email list.

List Growth Rate

  • What it is: Just like it sounds, this KPI measures the rate at which your email list is expanding. It’s calculated by tallying the number of new subscribers minus the number of unsubscribers and spam complaints, and dividing this total by the number of email addresses on your email marketing list.
  • Why it matters: Left on their own, email lists will shrink over time—as people unsubscribe, change email addresses, or lose interest. Actively acquiring new emails is the only way to maintain your list—and this KPI can help you track whether you’re maintaining or growing your reach.

Optimizing Email Marketing KPIs with Cross-Channel Marketing

Using a cross-channel marketing platform, like Iterable, can help you optimize your campaigns for the email marketing KPIs you care about.

By connecting with customers on a personalized basis, and integrating the content they care about on the channels they most frequently use, you’ll be able to optimize for higher engagement. For example, you’ll be able to automatically follow up unopened messages with a sequenced message on another channel, such as following up an email with an SMS message. That action might drive the customer to view the SMS message, and also go back to the email they’d previously missed.

Cross-channel marketing provides you with more opportunities to use personalized messaging to drive your customers towards action. By using personalized nurture campaigns to engage and re-engage your customers, you’ll be able to increase email open rates, click through rates, conversion rates, and other email marketing KPIs that are important for your brand.

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