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Why open rates can’t be trusted in 2018

11 December 2017
by Adam Oldfield

It may sound like an odd statement to make – that you can’t trust an open rate.

And we’re not suggesting marketers purposefully rely on skewed, inaccurate, or unreliable stats.

But we are encouraging the profession to think a little more carefully about what open rates actually reveal.

Open rates have long been an important metric within a marketer’s toolbox, particularly when it comes to evidencing the popularity of an email campaign. However, with a continued rise in bot activity, to ensure emails are spam-free for example, ESPs find themselves having to make an awkward decision:

  • show strong stats that include bot opens and clicks, or
  • strip out the bot activity but deliver a far weaker open rate.

If the ESP chooses the first option, the marketer may feel a little more reassured in the performance of a campaign. However:

  • the ambiguity of the stat simply hides the fact that performance will have been weaker than it seems at first glance
  • it is highly unlikely that this open rate has any direct link to the bottom line of the business.

So, if open rates ‘can’t be trusted’, what now?

Of course, we’re not suggesting marketers forget metrics altogether. Far from it. We’re just recommending that they focus on slightly different stats.

Marketers need to report solely on the actions of users, not spam checker bots. And the metrics that reveal far more meaningful insight relate to the engagement of the base. In our experience, lead scores are inextricably linked to ROI. So, a 3% uplift in the average lead score of a segment will excite a brand’s senior management team far more than a 3% rise in open rates.

Gone are the days when open rates are the only piece of ‘evidence’ we have. If we follow the engagement, not the clicks, we’ll have far more insight at our fingertips…

‘Open rates vs engagement stats’ is just one topic covered in Force24’s new resource – The ultimate automation guide for marketing professionals. Download your free copy here.

Photo of Adam Oldfield
Adam Oldfield
Managing Director & Founder

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