Be Open to SegmentationSubmitted Thu Oct 07 2010 15:21:00 GMT-0400 (EDT)
I get a lot of questions about “unread” email, low open rates, and how that affects deliverability. There’s a lot going on here and many parts to this rather complicated issue:
What is an open?
Salsa counts emails as opened if they download a (virtually invisible) 1x1 pixel image. So, this means folks have to have images enabled to register an email “open”.
Sadly, there’s not really a better way to handle this sort of tracking. What that means is your “open rate” for emails counts fewer people than have actually viewed the email.
Among those that most likely won’t be counted are people who read emails on their Blackberry, iPhone or Android and people who don’t have images enabled in email clients (gmail, for example, automatically disables images).
As more and more people use smart phones, expect more and more undercounting.
What does this mean for you? Aka “Why it’s a bad idea to re-send to people who don’t open”
First, this makes it risky to target people who didn’t record an email open for a duplicate follow-up. Many of these “non-reader” recipients will have actually read the email.
And beyond those recipients’ individual irritation, re-mailing could hurt your open rates in the future.
- People who received and deleted the first email are more likely to see the second email as spam -- and mark it as such. Enough “this is spam” clicks, and your reputation as a sender will suffer overall, making future emails more likely to go straight to the junk folder.
- On top of that, Gmail and Hotmail are implementing delivery based on an individual email account holder’s previous behavior with a sender. If someone reads a lot of your emails and clicks or responds, your future emails will be delivered with a higher priority. If someone doesn’t read your email or just clicks delete, your future emails will receive a lower priority. Everyone is keeping an eye on this new system (already working in Gmail) to see how it shakes out.
In simple terms, people don’t read or open your email because they’re either not interested or don’t have the time. Sending repetitive follow-up emails is not the answer.
What are your Open Rates for Active Users?
Every email list has a proportion of inactive users, who hang around the list but rarely engage. These folks can make open rates look discouragingly low.
However, you’ll probably find that your open rates for the core of active users are much better than expected.
There’s a couple ways of finding this metric, but the easiest is a handy function in the “Email Summary” that allows you to look at email stats for particular groups.
Notice a drop in open rates after a recent influx of new users? Isolate them into a group and see how they do themselves. You’ll often find that certain segments are dragging down your stats. Scoring is another great way to find how active people are when opening emails.
This All Leads to Segmenting
The example just mentioned is a perfect case of why different supporters need to be engaged differently. Those new individuals should get introductory emails to ease them into your email program. There needs to be follow up and a planned engagement, as opposed to just dumping them into your list and emailing away. A “welcome series” of emails can do wonders.
Also, instead of emailing to those folks who didn’t open, focus on those who did open but didn’t convert. I find emails need to be grouped in threes and you’ll convert more individuals with each engagement and slightly different, but similar messaging. I’ve had great success with this. Think of email as a branching story and “choose your own adventure” based off of actions. Opening an email but not taking action takes you one way, while not opening or taking action right away take you in other directions.
This simple thing will greatly increase your delivery as it targets your active users and also up your conversions and get you closer to your goal.