Email marketing software is one of the essentials in email marketing. Without it you cannot tell accurately enough what you are doing wrong and, most importantly, what you are doing right. If you have never used it then your first returns will be like driving along a road and suddenly having the fog lift. It is impossible to exploit the full potential of your email lists without it.
Despite this beatification of email marketing software, the first thing I will tell you about your open rate return is that it will not tell you the number, percentage or proportion of your emails that were opened by the recipients. This is not a fault with the system, it means that there is, unfortunately, no way of telling. So what is the point of it?
An open rate can be shown to you in various ways. The norm is as a percentage. Let us work to 1000 emails being sent. There were 12 bounces, leaving 988 emails delivered. Your email marketing software reported 242 of these as ‘opened’. Your open rate will be given as 24.5%. However, this does not mean that nearly a quarter of those on your email marketing lists opened the email, let alone read it.
To cover the technical side briefly, the email will contain a little bit of code which, when the recipient’s email client, such as Outlook, attempts to display the email it returns a message which is recorded as an open.
There are one or two points to consider in this. Firstly, and most obviously, the recipient might not have glanced at the email at all, let alone have read it. All that the return says is that it was displayed. If it is shown in a preview pane and the code requested, it is an open.
Further, in certain cases you will have no idea what happened to the email. The recipient will open the it fully but the default on their email client is to refuse pictures. This means that the little bit of tracking code is not requested either.
Similarly, some of your emails will have been opened in hand-held devices that display text only. Again your code will not have been requested so it will not come back as an open.
There are other situations which give what could be considered incorrect data. You might be wondering why you bother refining the records of your email marketing lists if the information is so crude.
The term open rate is just a title. It should not be confused by thinking that it specifies the actual number of emails opened. What it does is draw a vital line, a statistically precise figure, that gives you a base to work on.
Take our earlier example. You now have a figure of 24.5%. You know that it probably does not represent the actually percentage of emails opened but that does not matter. What you need to know, and what your email marketing software will tell you, is whether any changes you make in, for instance, the timing of your next marketing email, improved the open rate. In other words, your experiment worked.