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ARTICLE MarketingJune 26, 2014

Email series, part 4: How to track and analyse email campaigns

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Here’s how to use four key email campaign metrics – and how analysing and measuring these can help improve your future email campaigns.

You’ve worked hard on building your e-commerce website’s email database, creating engaging content and perfecting your send times. Now you need to track how your emails are performing so that you can make improvements to future campaigns.

Like most online measurements, there are a number of different metrics you can take into consideration.

Your email campaign provider, such as MailChimp or ExactTarget , will measure many different metrics and pull these into reports.

The level of detail that email campaign providers report is often dependent on different subscription levels, so if you need to really drill into specific details, you may choose to upgrade your reporting.

Monitoring email hard bounce rates

One of the most basic things you need to look at is whether your emails are reaching their intended recipients.

If there is a major difference between the number of emails sent and the number of emails delivered, there could be a problem with your database.

Issues could range from sending to email addresses that are no longer active (a hard bounce), your emails being blocked by an internet service provider (ISP) or an ISP routing your emails directly to junk folders.

Keep an eye on delivery rates and make sure you investigate and resolve any issues.

Four e-newsletter analytics to track

Once your emails have reached their intended inboxes, there are four key metrics you should monitor:

1. Open rate: this is how many people open your emails. To calculate your open rate, divide the number of messages opened by the number of messages delivered.

Your open rate really highlights people’s interest in the “from” and “subject” lines. If you are getting low open rates, try to make your “from” and “subject” lines more compelling.

It very much depends on your industry, but, on average, a good open rate ranges between 15 and 25 per cent.

2. Click-through rate: this is a percentage of how many people click through from an email to your website. It indicates how interested people are in the content of your email and can be calculated by dividing the number of click-throughs by the number of messages delivered.

According to MailChimp, the average click-through rate across industries is about 3 per cent.

3. Conversion rate: for most e-commerce business owners, this is really the key metric, as it is basically the number of people who go on to purchase something or make a booking on your website.

To calculate your conversion rate, take the number of desired actions (sales or bookings) and divide it by the number of messages delivered.

The average conversion rate for major brands is about 4 per cent but it can be much lower for less well-known brands.

4. Unsubscribe rate: this is the number of people who unsubscribe from your emails. It is worked out by dividing the number of unsubscribes by the number of messages delivered, and it indicates how interested people are in your business and what you are offering them.

If they are no longer interested or feel they are receiving too many emails, they will unsubscribe.

MailChimp recommends that the unsubscribe rate per campaign should be no more than about 1 per cent. If you are getting more unsubscribes than this, you may need to clean up your database, look at how email information is being collected or review your email content.

Measuring email analytics

When you create a campaign, your email provider will allow you to set up what information you want to track and have reported. It will then create reports, breaking down open rates, click-through rates and unsubscribe rates.

Most email campaign companies also offer advanced reports, integrations, and plug-ins that can help you learn even more about how your campaigns are performing. These might require a higher subscription level or an extra payment.

Reporting open rates and tracking clicks

In order to track open rates, most email service providers, including MailChimp, place an invisible graphic at the bottom of HTML emails. Each time the HTML email is displayed in someone’s inbox, the unique graphic is downloaded and tracked as an “open”.

While this sounds straightforward, many internet service providers now block images due to privacy worries. This makes it far more difficult for email service providers to accurately measure open rates, because their invisible graphic is often blocked. As a result, open rates can’t really be measured accurately and aren’t considered as important as they were in the past.

Tracking clicks is important, as it measures subscriber engagement, and this is automatically enabled with most email service providers. MailChimp alone tracks more than four million clicks per day from the 80 million–100 million emails it sends daily.

It is also possible to generate reports with detailed information on individual users, whether they have opened an email and what they clicked on. Knowing this allows you to send a modified campaign to a particular group, if you know, for instance, that they did not open the first email.

Integrating Google Analytics into email campaigns

While email campaign providers create powerful and insightful reports, you can gather even more insights by using Google Analytics to add campaign tags to links within email campaigns.

Campaign tags are easily integrated, and some email campaign providers – like MailChimp – automatically apply Google Analytics campaign tags to links in emails.

However, not all email campaign providers support automated link tracking, so this is something you need to check with your individual provider.

E-commerce tracking

Most e-commerce business owners are ultimately most interested in how many sales have been achieved through an email campaign.

MailChimp offers a free e-commerce tracking plug-in that allows users to see conversion rates, revenue generated and average value per visitor. This plug-in works by syncing with your shopping cart and then collecting non-identifiable data about the user’s order. This information is then aggregated and displayed in a MailChimp report, and it can also integrate with Google Analytics.

While it can seem overwhelming at first, measuring how people are responding and interacting with your emails can not only improve your email ROI, but also provide you with important customer insights that will allow you to make future campaigns even more targeted.

Related articles

Marketing Email series, part 1: How to set up an e-newsletter

Marketing Email series, part 2: How to set manage structure and content

Business Tips Email series, part 3: How to distribute marketing emails