One would think that as media gets more specific and measurable they’d get more efficient as well. One would think, but one might just be way off the mark. I say this after reading the results of the latest Harte-Hanks study on email. More details in a minute but while companies seem to be doing a better job of getting their messages delivered to their intended recipients, those recipients seem to read them far less often and aren’t reacting as conversions either. In my mind, this is just throwing it up against the wall to see what sticks, but let’s see what you think.
Here’s the headline:
Email open rates declined to an average of 17% last year, down from 26% in 2009, according to “Harte-Hanks Postfuture Index 2009-2010.” The report, examined metrics for roughly 3 billion email messages sent by about 100 companies in nine vertical industries using the company’s Postfuture email platform. Harte-Hanks data also indicated that delivery rates increased to 95% last year, up from 93% in 2009.
In other words, more of the messages are getting to the mailbox and fewer than 1 out of 5 of them actually get opened. Now, I realize that these rates might be low since many ISPs and email clients block images by default, or the recipient may elect to receive text-only versions of an email. With no image call being made, the open rate measure is understated. But that should be a consistent factor and I think the decline is real.
Here we have a case of the technology getting better – evidenced by better delivery – and the effectiveness getting worse. Think about your own email habits – are you reading more commercial messages? Even the ones for which you’ve signed up? I’m not, and I think it’s because the content is generally not engaging. As the volume seems to get higher, the usefulness gets lower. What a shame.
If we’re going to engage our customers or prospects in conversation, we can’t just babble. We can’t be the one at the cocktail party that everyone in the room is avoiding because we’re boring. The challenge now, as always, is to be relevant, timely, and important – people should want to hear what we have to say. This study shows me that we’ve got some ways to go.
What does it say to you?