The Most Interesting Email Marketing Statistics of 2012

A look at email marketing statistics you must know

Email is the cornerstone of your audience development and product selling goals. An online editor’s primary responsibility is to reuse, recycle and repurpose premium information product content as free email newsletters and website posts. If you’re a Mequoda System editor, your main goal is to build the largest opt-in list of subscribers possible. These subscribers will ideally buy lots of premium information products from your organization.

At the end of every year, most email companies and research firms put together a list of the changes in email marketing. With the above goals in mind, here’s a curated list of some of the most interesting email marketing stats we could find:

Email Isn’t Dead, Stats Are Up

Here are valuable insights on popular email metrics from the Epsilson Q3 2012 North America Email Trend Results, published December 2012. This reports consists of tests focused on hundreds of billions emails sent.

  • Average open rates are up more than 14%  from last year to 27.2%.
  • Click rates average 4.5%, which is up almost 3% overall.
  • Triggered messages are yielding 75.1% higher open rates and 114.8% higher click rates compared to normal mailings. Triggered messages result from smart automation such as emails about related products, thank you emails and other loyalty-inspired messages.
  • Approximately 28% of subscribers in an average email file had opened or clicked in the most recent three months.
  • 66% of new subscribers in an average list had no opens or clicks.

Mailers Still Struggle With Delivery

The Email Intelligence Report Q3 2012 from ReturnPath concludes, “Email continues to deliver. Email marketing continues to provide the highest ROI, and people continue to sign up for email marketing offers. Email intelligence gives you the tools you need to get the greatest impact from your email marketing program.” These were their key findings:

  • ISPs and mailbox providers struggle with spam and abuse from their own networks, as well as from other ISPs, with internal spam complaints comprising 5% of all complaints, and 22% coming from other ISPs and mailbox providers.
  • Marketing emails account for most “this is spam” complaints, 70% in fact, which explains the scrutiny some marketers see applied to their emails.
  • Marketing emails account for only .03% of all unique domains seen by ISPs, but 18% of total email volume.
  • Consumers give marketers permission to send them a lot of email. In fact, 29% of the email that reaches a user’s inbox is newsletters – nearly the same amount seen from direct messages and replies (“conversational” email).
  • Less spam in the inbox is both a blessing and a curse for marketers. For emails that are delivered to the inbox, marketers overwhelmingly receive the most complaints– more so than dynamic IP addresses and compromised email accounts.
  • North America saw inbox placement rates decline 3% to 82% in third quarter compared to the same time period last year. Europe experienced a 5% decline with inbox placement rates dropping to 84%. Latin America saw rates drop 11% to 69%, the largest decline in any region.

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Advanced Features of Email Service Providers Are Being Underutilized

The Email Marketing Industry Census 2012 was based on a survey of 800 digital marketers in early 2012 to determine how the usage of email for marketing has changed over the last five years. These were the highlights from the report:

  • Only 40% of responding companies use their email service provider (ESP) for anything more than the basic broadcast of email. Given the wealth of tools to measure, optimize and improve this channel, it seems that few are taking full advantage of these services.
  • Only 31% of companies surveyed regularly test their email marketing campaigns. But 81% of companies who do regular testing for email marketing say their ROI from email is excellent or good, compared to 72% for those who do “occasional” testing, 65% for those who do “infrequent” testing and only 37% for those who “don’t test.”
  • Only 3% of company respondents and 5% of supply-side respondents state they (or their clients) have adapted their campaigns on account of priority inbox features.
  • Only 31% of companies operate welcome programs and only 28% send out emails triggered by a site visit or sign up. More than a third (37%) said they use none of the triggers listed to send out automated email.

Mobile Gets an Impressive Number of Opens, Not Actions

In Knotice’s Mobile Email Opens Report, we learn a little more about mobile email marketing and they give us some really convincing evidence of why we must design for mobile:

  • 36.01% of all emails were opened on a mobile device (phones and/or tablets), which is an increase of 32% from late 2011 numbers of 27.39%.
  • iPhone and iPad represented 29.34% of all email opens, compared with less than 5% of all opens occurring on Android phones or tablets.
  • iOS and Android, the two dominant mobile operating systems in the US, account for 99.19% of all mobile email opens.
  • B2B businesses saw approximately 14% of email opens through phones, 2.5% on tablets and 83.5% on desktop.
  • Compared to other industries, they saw a dismal number of clicks through smartphones, only 4.5%, and 1% on tablets – the rest were clicked on their desktops.
  • Consumer products and financial services were the two industries that fared the best on CTO (click to open) rates on both phones and tablets.

People Still Like Email, They Read it Too!

The 2012 Blue Kangaroo Survey on Marketing Emails was a smaller survey that asked people about their email habits. The results offer insight on how and why people sign up for emails, and proves that people don’t hate email as some marketers say they do.

  • 78% of respondents sign up for marketing emails with their personal email address.
  • 40% said they enjoy getting emails sent to them by their favorite brands.
  • 37% said that more than 20% of their inbox comes from marketers, and 53% said they’re happy with the number of marketing emails they get.
  • 42% said they open and read most of their marketing emails, but 48% said that it can be a chore sometimes.
  • 35% said they acted on a promotion in an email within the last week, and 33% said they did in the last month.

Are there any interesting stats that you’ve discovered from your own analytics you’d like to share? Any you care to disagree with? Let us know in the comments!

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    Chris S.

    I think the main point behind the mobile statistics is that there is an increase in mobile email usage. Scott, you mentioned formatting in your response – if an email is not easy to read on mobile devices, a user will likely lose interest.

    With the increase in mobile email usage it’s important to design emails to render well on mobile.


    You mentioned that “Mobile Gets an Impressive Number of Opens, Not Actions”. It shouldn’t be surprising that a large number of mobile users will open a message, but do nothing further.

    For example, on my iPhone I frequently receive promotional emails, which I have no desire to read. I also don’t like having a lot of “unread” messages in my inbox (I use the read/unread message feature sort of like a to-do list).

    To keep my to-do list uncluttered, I will often times open, and immediately close an email on my phone to clear the unread message notice. If there are more than one unread messages that I don’t intend on reading, I will use the built in “mark message as unread” feature as you can select multiple messages and mark them all at once.

    To the marketers sending me emails, in the first instance where I open, then immediately close an email it artificially inflates the open rate (technically yes I opened it, but never read what was in the email). In the second instance, the marketer does not see an inflated open rate.

    Regardless, I have to assume that mobile users who receive marketing emails will either (a) open it and immediately close it if they’re not really interested or if it’s not easy to read (formatted for mobile devices), (b) open it, read it, and not click because they don’t want to go to a “desktop” site, or have to fill out forms that are much easier to fill out on their desktops, or (c) be one of the 4.5% who click through.

    The fact that mobile open rates are high is not really that impressive. If few people click through to purchase a product, sign up for a program, or whatever the CTA is in the email then the email likely didn’t get the message across successfully.


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