Emails lack compelling content as click-through rates from consumers decline

Email marketing delivery rates remained high during 2016, whilst click-through rates (CTRs) fell, according to the latest Email Benchmarking Report from the  Direct Marketing Association UK (DMA UK). The reason for the drop in CTRs is simple: consumers aren’t finding the content compelling enough.

Overall delivery rates were 98.3% for email campaigns, whilst open rates were 14.2% in 2016 – a slight increase from 2015 (13.5%).

Interestingly, these figures are far below consumers’ own estimates of their opened emails, according to a DMA survey in November 2016. Consumers said they opened between 28% to 50% of their emails – at least double of their actually opened email rates.

The survey also found that smartphone usage to read emails rose to 39% (from 33%) in 2016, whilst opening emails on smartphones increased to 40% (from 25%). In addition, nearly a third of consumers said they used their mobile devices to click-through and make a purchase after viewing email ads.

Although consumers stated that they were generally happy to click-through on an email promotion (up from 48% in 2014 to 65% in 2016), CTRs fell to 1.56% in 2016, from 1.80% in 2015. Click to open (CTO) rates decreased by a similar amount – from 13.3% to 11%.

Much of that appears to be due to content. 68% of consumers agreed that the majority of branded emails they received were not interesting to them.

The study also found that the top most opened emails in 2016 included travel (21.1%), utilities (15.0%) and retail (14.9%) brands. However, overall, utilities may be seen as the most important sector by consumers as CTRs and CTOs are higher for utility emails.

Jenna Tiffany, a member of the DMA UK research hub, explained:

“To add context a large percentage of utilities emails sent are energy statements or bills for the month or quarter, and as a result generates a high open & click rate as customers click to check their bills. Talking more generally, offers do still play a key part in B2C email content which typically drives a higher open & click rate, especially with more frequent purchases unlike in B2B where the purchase cycle is longer.”

Among the least opened categories were Not For Profit (NFP), publishing and finance emails.

In terms of CTR, utilities remain the top-performing sector with 2.5% of clicks, followed by travel at 2.4%. The lowest CTRs were documented for publishing (0.77%), NFP (0.83%) and finance (0.88%) sectors. This may point toward these emails being poorly targeted or presenting with a higher rate of irrelevancy.

Indeed, a similar pattern holds true for CTOs, with utilities leading (16.8%) and finance lagging behind (9.3%).

The DMA also collected data on B2B and B2C emails which shows that B2B emails are more likely to be opened (22%) compared to B2C (18.7%). However, B2C emails are getting 57% more unique clicks compared to their B2B counterparts.

Tiffany explains that usually a greater number of B2B emails are follow-ups to previous conversations. These emails tend to not attract or require any consumer action.

The findings suggest that if marketers can provide compelling content and interesting offers or features as part of their email campaigns they stand a better chance at reaching consumers on mobile devices and desktops.