Monday, May 27, 2013

why open rates aren't a good measurement of success

you spend hours putting together the perfect email - creative, message, coding, uploading, execution. everyone agreed this was the be all end all of your campaigns but it failed...why?
two words - mobile readers.... recently my twitter feed and my inbox has been filled with articles and webinars about designing for the mobile inbox, so if you're like me you know how important this is and how smartphones and tablets are changing the way we have to address our readers. part of this is adaptive design, and the other crucial component is designing for images off. how can we trick readers into giving us the data we crave to determine success?
lets start with the one thing that has guided us for years, the open pixel. but when you boil down a pixel to it's basic construct it is an image. it dawned on me this morning as I was looking at my smartphone that a lot of the messages I get, look like they don't include images, even the simplest of branding, but yet my phone is asking me to download images. i can click links, I can view landing pages, so why download the image and sacrafice more of my limited data? guess what, that image that my phone wants to download is the open pixel, the one thing so many of us have used to determine as a success metric. by producing non-branded emails, we're producing failure.
on the flipside of that, we're producing conversion failure too. how can that be you ask? well look at it this way, my phone renders the message fine, if the message is appealing i decide if I want to look at the link now or later... i may even decide to click on display images and then come back later to view the click. if that's the case then since I've already downloaded the images the open pixel fires again when I go view it again - two opens and a click thru... in this simple example you just got a 50% ctr, not bad...on the opposite side of the equation is the habit of looking at the email and just clicking through to your offer... 1 click divided by 0 opens is still a zero-percent click through, or if you determine your ctr by clicks divided by sent/delivered, you get that sinking feeling that something is wrong. because lets face it, we get caught up in opens and clicks, the data we readily have...very rarely do we have access to the sales numbers, so we don't tie clicks to total sales and we think the numbers are wrong or that it's a failure.
as mobile becomes an ever more important part of our customer's lives and bridges the digital divide, we have to rethink our success metrics. open rates will still be important, but they'll also be a "symptom"...of you're ability to write a good subject line and of deliverability, but the diagnosis of success is going to be the ability to close the loop, get all if the information and tie conversions to clicks.
the take-a-way here?
1. brand your messages, give the consumer a reason to download the images to get a better indication of open rates on mobile devices.
2. design for images off display, use engaging goofy alt image tags, i'm going to start using tags like "come on you know you want to download me" and "really, stop looking at the world in black and white"... personality-filled alt tags will make the reader engage and want to know what the image is.
3. when you're designing the campaign, define your success - if that's 700 clicks, design for success and build those relationships with sales and information tech to get the data you need to verify your success.
4. know you're audience...not just from a shopper habit point of view, but also from a platform point of view...use a sending tool that can tell you how many mobile users you have and what kind, and design to that.
5. analyze your current data, if campaigns that have worked for a while aren't getting good open rates, you could be experiencing deliverability issues or an explosion of mobile users.


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