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Thinking about Email Read Rates
John Landsman, Director of Strategy & AnalyticsWhat’s not to love about high email engagement? Strong read rates are the bright gateway to everything that’s good about the email channel. But our thought process goes beyond just read rates — to related metrics, and what might be driving great performance.

In the table below, eDataSource compares certain quarterly email engagement metrics across five somewhat similar retailers, based on our visibility into the email activity of 50,000 brands, and how their customers are engaging with those emails.

You can see that Victoria’s Secret is the clear engagement winner. Despite out-mailing the others by as much as 10 to 1, with much higher individual weekly contact frequencies (about 1.5 emails per day per customer), Victoria’s Secret still achieved a 25% average quarterly read rate, and the strongest relationship between average weekly read frequency and average weekly contact frequency.

How are they doing this? We can’t know for sure how Victoria’s Secret plans and deploys its promotional emails, but take a look at the Victoria’s Secret email below, which was their strongest performer for that quarter.

This email (Subject Line: “Our gifts to you”) produced a 35% Read Rate, having been targeted to about 57% of what we estimate as that brand’s email audience. Its content focused on clear financial offers, including free shipping, along with reference to specific merchandise items.

Granted, this content could not have driven its strong Read Rate. But content really does drive read rates.

Because if, over time, relevant email content can support an accumulating customer confidence that the next email they receive from that marketer will also be relevant — that is, focused, informative, fun, timely, persuasive, useful — then content does indeed drive read rates.The trick is being able to identify and understand the opportunity, the upside it presents, and how to achieve it.

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