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Stats and Damned Stats: The Opens-To-Opener Rate


By Ken Magill

I think I’ve been at this too long.

Amid all the various benchmark stats Silverpop published in its 2012 Email Marketing Metrics Benchmark Study yesterday—open rates are around 20 percent as they have been for years; average click rates are between 4 and 5 percent, and so on—one stat jumped out at me: opens per opener.

How often are emails that record an “open” opened again?

According to Silverpop, the average median opens-per-opener rate across 12 industries is 1.6.

The travel-and-leisure sector had the lowest median opens-to-opener rate at 1.4 and computer hardware, telecom and electronics had the highest median opens-to-opener rate at 1.71.

I’ve always figured people open an email once, give it about two seconds and either act on it or leave never to come back.

That on average, once an “open” is recorded, there’s a about a 50 percent chance the message will record another was an eye opener—to me at least.

However, Dave Walters, product evangelist, Silverpop, said the stat shouldn’t necessarily be a surprise.

“Part of what you’re seeing there is multiple devices,” said Walters. “My big take away from this opens-to-opener number is that in most cases you’ve got one crack at getting someone to that call to action, and for people who aren’t down the road with email optimized for mobile, it’s going to get pretty painful.

“As a marketer you’ve got one, one and a half cracks at somebody and the risk is the email was built for desktop and it just got opened on an iPhone or an Android and the call-to-action button is a third of the size of your fingernail and you’ve got to side scroll to get to it,” he said.

Open rates are one of emails more imperfect metrics. An “open” is recorded when the receiving machine calls for graphics from the sender. As a result, emails opened with the graphics turned off will not record as having been opened. Also, emails on platforms that render graphics in the preview pane will register as having been opened when they may have not.

Still, open rates are a good barometer/in-house benchmark of user engagement. High open rates tend to mean high recipient engagement. Likewise, plummeting open rates overall or at a particular ISP, such as Gmail, are a sign of trouble.

In any case, the opens-to-opener rate could simply be barometric and nothing more.

And, yes, the fact that I found the metric interesting enough to have a discussion about it and then subject my readers to it means that, indeed, I have been at this too long.

Access Silverpop’s full study here.


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Terms: Feel free to be as big a jerk as you want, but don't attack anyone other than me personally. And don't criticize people or companies other than me anonymously. Got something crappy to say? Say it under your real name. Anonymous potshots and personal attacks aimed at me, however, are fine.

Posted by: Tim Watson
Date: 2012-07-25 11:46:32
Subject: Its not multiple opens on multiple devices

Total opens is always a good margin higher than opens. Before the days of mobile even. From analysis its not true that there a lot of opens over multiple devices. The only people who open on two devices are those who intend to act, so much less than the click rate.
Posted by: Kelly Lorenz
Date: 2012-07-25 03:20:40
Subject: Hmm...some thoughts

I use this total open metric when reporting success metrics to clients. I find it more telling and important than the open rate, which as we know doesn't really mean much at all. To me, a second open is expressed interest because oftentimes someone who's opened more than once has left the message in their inbox and either keep coming back to it because it's the most recent in their inbox or to serve as a reminder to themselves. Either way, they've held on to the email for a reason. Also, if someone forwards the email within their email client, all the opens of the recipient of the forward will be registered under the original recipient. It's important to use the total opens as a kind of benchmark for true forwards because many don't actually use the FTAF link and people that receive the forwarded message are significantly more likely to open the email than an original recipient. I'm skeptical now of the opening-on-different-devices theory due to the recent stats that came out from...I want to say Litmus but I'm not 100% sure...that only around 3% of the openers that occur on a mobile then subsequently also open on another device. To me, those numbers don't equate to the 1.3-1.7 total open rate. I think it's a small contributor to the picture.
Posted by: Roanne Parker
Date: 2012-07-24 20:03:10
Subject: A-bloody-men

Oh my god i harp on about total opens all the time. I think it's a really under used way of measuring engagement. I always point out that open is a flawed stat but if the re-open or forwarding rate is really good, at 1,2,3 times the original open rate, that shows that people who opened the campaign felt it was worth looking at again, or forwarding to colleagues. It's all 'eyeballs' as our display friends like to say, and they do count.