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Ask Kara: Why are My Click-to-Open Rates Down?

By Kara Trivunovic
Click-to-open rates (CTOR) are typically a strong forward-looking indicator for email marketers.  This metric helps brands understand what percentage of subscribers who opened an email message actually found it engaging or relevant enough to engage, or click through. It is a good indicator of relevance and context and can also project a reasonable expectation of conversion. 
Today, more than ever before, we as marketers have the insights and tools to deliver more contextually relevant email messaging but brands are seeing depressed click-to-open rates.  
According to Epsilon’s Q1 2015 Email Trends and Benchmarks report, click-to-open rates increased for only five of the thirteen industries analyzed including: Business Publishing/Media General, Consumer Products/CPG, Retail Specialty and Travel/Hospitality, Travel Services. 
What is the cause of this trend and how can you shift the tides? While unique to each brand and program, there are global trends that could be attributing to lower CTORs. 
As more consumers open email on mobile devices many brands are not seeing a proportionate increase in click-through activity on those devices. Your mobile experience could be attributing to lower CTORs.
For example, if the shopping experience from a mobile device is negative the first time, the subscriber may not click from their mobile device again. But these lower rates could be cause of a larger trend – the fact that consumers are engaging differently with email.
Some believe email is trending toward the measure of an “impression” on the consumer. For example, (s)he may open your email on a smartphone in the morning and engage with the brand further (via a different channel) later in the day – as a result of the initial impression that occurred when scanning the inbox. While this shift may be reflected by lower CTORs it isn’t necessarily a sign of irrelevance in your email program. 
If you are seeing a change in CTOR, the first step to correct it is to verify that one of your leading indicators of program success, such as revenue, also shows negative performance. Then begin assessing the root of the problem. After all, if you fail to recognize the downward trend of your CTOR to begin with, you won’t be able to affect your revenue or other key performance indicators. And you may find that your email program is contributing to conversions in other channels. 
Kara Trivunovic is vice president, digital solutions for marketing-services provider Epsilon. If you have any questions about email marketing you would like Kara to answer, email them to her at You can remain anonymous.

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