E-mail performance declines in Q2

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By Kate Maddox

E-mail click rates, open rates and revenue per e-mail declined in the second quarter of 2004, according to DoubleClick’s "Q2 Email Trend Report."

The report, based on data from DoubleClick’s DARTmail e-mail delivery service, found that click rates dropped from an average of 8.3% in the second quarter of 2003 to an average of 7.7% in the second quarter of 2004.

Open rates declined from an average of 38.8% in the second quarter of 2003 to an average of 36% in the second quarter of 2004, a 7.2% decrease.

Average revenue per e-mail delivered in the second quarter of 2004 was 20 cents, down 33% from average revenue of 30 cents per e-mail in the second quarter of 2003. Also, the report found that the average order size declined from $98 in Q2 2003 to $93 in Q2 2004.

The only area of improvement in the second quarter was e-mail deliverability, which increased to 89.5%, up 1% from the second quarter of 2003.

"At the macro level, by and large, e-mail has remained pretty consistent in terms of performance as a marketing communications channel," said Eric Kirby, VP-strategic services at DoubleClick. "Companies that are carefully investing in e-mail programs are able to maintain and in some cases improve performance."

For example in the second quarter, while the average click-through rate declined overall, the click-through rate increased by 48.3% in the financial services category and by 17.1% in the business publisher category.

Click-through rates declined for business products and services (down 33%), consumer products (down 29%) and consumer publishers (down 18.9%) in Q2.

Kirby said several factors may have contributed to declining open rates and click rates.

One factor possibly affecting open rates is a new setting in the most recent version of Microsoft Outlook that blocks images in the preview panel, Kirby said. "If the images don’t fully load, it can impact the open rate," he said.

Another factor that could possibly affect open rates is the aging of companies’ e-mail lists, Kirby said.

"List growth has slowed down, and that impacts performance overall, because the newer names tend to perform better," he said.

"In the b-to-b context, when someone signs up for an e-mail newsletter or white paper, they usually do so when they are particularly interested in a product area and may be in a buying cycle," Kirby said. "If new names have declined, the response can decline."

His advice to e-mail marketers that want to boost e-mail performance is to continue to add new names to e-mail lists, carefully manage ISP relationships to make sure e-mail is getting through and use a measurement and tracking system to find out where problems may exist and take corrective action.

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