Statistics are becoming more and more important in the world of business. We routinely track the metrics of our social media and websites and take action when they are not up to expectations, but how many of us pay the correct amount of attention to the behaviour and impact of our emails through the targeted use of email tracking?
In this article, we’re going to give you a complete introduction to email tracking: what it is, why you need to use it, what you should use it for and how email tracking can help you to develop insights to improve your marketing strategy.
What is email tracking?
Email tracking allows the sender to measure the performance of individual or mass emails and collate the collected data into useful form. Using email tracking, a sender can determine whether or not the email has been received, the time and date it was received or opened, the recipient’s IP address and whether or not links in the email have been clicked.
Email tracking is important because it gives us the information we need to inform our sales process and hone our campaigns. This information might include demographic statistics, customer preferences and successful sales, all of which can be analysed to inform future marketing material content and ensure that we are delivering what the customer actually wants, when they want it. The metrics generated by email tracking can also be used to measure progress and justify improvements in your sales process.
What email tracking solutions are there?
Tools like Ebsta and Yesware are built specifically for sales teams.
To be sure that you are choosing the right package for you, look for a solution that will integrate with the other systems you are using, enable the intelligent scheduling of emails, achieve high deliverability rates, notify you of required actions (including opened email, replied email, click-through etc), and provide clear and precise analytics.
How does email tracking work?
The most common method of email tracking is the use of a pixel ‘beacon’. A tiny image which is 1 pixel by 1 pixel in size is embedded in an email and when the image is downloaded it can be assumed that the email has been opened. From this download it is possible to tell the time and date, how many times and from which type of device an email has been opened, giving you greater insight into how your potential customers are reacting to your email marketing activities.
Despite all of the sophisticated tools available for tracking email metrics, 74% of Marketers only rely on open rates to measure their email marketing success”
The fundamental difference between mass email tools and email marketing tools for individuals is who sends the email.
With tools for sales people like Ebsta or Yesware, the email is sent via your own server – whether that’s Gmail, Exchange or Office365. Individual email tracker tools offer a number of benefits, including the ability to develop detailed insights into the intentions of certain users (are they likely to buy again? If not, why not?) and to automatically suppress replies (this is a specific feature in Ebsta).
Mass emails tools like Pardot and Mailchimp are specifically built to send large amounts of emails at once – and as a result need to send emails from their own servers. Mass email tools can give marketers more detail when it comes to their audience as a whole, such as geographic patterns and age demographics.
One draw back for sales people using mass email tools is that each email must contain an unsubscribe link. The trouble with this is most emails with unsubscribe links get lumped into the Promotions tab in Gmail or filtered out with other marketing emails. Whilst we don’t advocate SPAM or want disobey data protection laws, we’re also sympathetic to the fact that those laws were not devised to tackle individual sales reps and it’s not helpful for your leads and customers to miss your emails.
Can I measure email open rate?
Email open rate refers to the percentage of emails within a given campaign that have been opened by the recipient. This calculation does not include in the percentage any emails that bounced back due to an email address no longer being active. Measuring open rate is not a 100% accurate way of deeming an email or campaign’s success, because it depends on the recipient’s email client being able to display HTML images and does not include emails viewed in a preview. Link clicks also indicate an open. Ideally, an email campaign should attract 20% to 40% opens to be viewed as successful.
Why is email open time a useful metric?
The time that an email has been opened can also be recorded by email tracking software. This metric is useful because it gives an indication of the most successful timings for email campaigns.
A Co-Schedule report from 2016 found that Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays were the best days of the week on which to send emails, while users were more likely to open messages at 6am, 10am, 2pm or late at night, after they have finished work. These findings came from data generated from email tracking and paints a general picture of the population, but individual companies and teams find their own optimum times to send out messages by crunching their own data.
What is email engagement reporting?
While knowing the percentage of email opens is a useful metric, it only paints a tiny proportion of the picture. As with web pages, the amount of time a recipient spends viewing your email can indicate how well engaged they are with the content – if they glance at it for a second, they’re not going to take in what you’re trying to say. Email engagement tracking is generally available in mass email marketing tools and was pioneered by Litmus.
What can I learn from email engagement reporting?
The amount of time needed to adequately engage varies according to the purpose of the email, an email that gives a simple message with a click-through can be thoroughly engaged with within three seconds. However, one that gives more detailed information cannot. Duration of engagement should always be considered within these parameters.
What additional information can my email tracking give me?
Sophisticated email trackers can give location information via IP addresses allowing you to target further recipients in a particular area. It can also give you valuable insight into which devices have been used to open your emails. This might not seem important but the more detail you can add to the picture of your client, the more you can customise your email templates to suit. For example, a campaign that is more likely to be opened on a desktop computer can include more content and graphics than one designed for mobile opening and the subject line can be longer. Depending on where your client is in the world, you can also adjust the timings of your emails in accordance with when they are most likely to be opened and read.
Which email tracking solution do I need?
Segmenting your database
If you send bulk marketing emails, you need a solution that will enable you to track and analyse success. Mass email tracking tools can work with emails in the tens of thousands and will deliver you accurate and usable metrics. Mailchimp is perhaps the most popular mass email tracking tool but Pardot and Dotmailer are also great examples. One of the great things about analysing mass email results is that it allows you to segment or organise your database so that you can send more specifically directed content in the future.
Ensuring spam box avoidance
There is no point sending an email if it is going to end up unseen in the recipient’s spam box. One way to prevent this is to ensure that you choose an email tracking solution that has been placed on ISP whitelists. Another way is to check that your email tracker is working within spam compliance parameters, for example an email should include an opt-out option in the form of an unsubscribe link.
An email tracking system that offers a WYSIWYG editing facility will reduce the need for user training and allow your staff to quickly produce effective and tailored content, without the need for in-depth coding knowledge. Your choice of email tracking solution will reflect your need for flexibility. It is important to remember that your metric requirements will change with time and that you may well need to add additional levels of analytics in the future.
Which emails should I track?
Sales and marketing emails are the obvious candidates for email tracking. After all, if companies didn’t know what happened to their emails after they sent them, they wouldn’t be able to measure their return on investment or follow up on leads – it would be like having a conversation with someone who never responds! Email tracking can also be advantageous to track renewal reminders (to ensure ongoing sales) and appointment and meeting emails (to protect against missed time slots).
How do I measure my email tracking success?
The key to email tracking success is working out which metrics are the most useful to you and which eventually improve your email campaigns. The best way to do this is to take a long-term approach and measure the success of a series of campaigns over time. It would be a mistake to take just one metric, for example open rate, into account because this only gives a two-dimensional view. Understanding your demographic is vital in email marketing so use a variety of metrics in combination, such as open rate and reply rate against subject line construction.
Marketing performance can also be measured by ROI (return on investment) or pipeline contribution (the extent to which the initial email contributed to stages leading to a sale). Of these two, ROI is the easiest to quantify, whereas pipeline contribution perhaps gives the most usable information as it allows you to clearly identify where in the sales process you are succeeding and where you are falling short.
There can be no doubt that email tracking offers a useful range of metrics with which to measure the success of your email marketing campaigns. The true strength of email tracking, however, comes when these metrics are created, analysed and reacted to in ways that reflect individual needs. In other words, using email tracking is only part of the solution, making intelligent business decisions based on findings over time is the other piece in the email marketing puzzle.
What other tools might be used in conjunction with email tracking?
You can have the most sophisticated piece of email tracking software in the world, producing whole spreadsheets of data on open rates and geolocation, but if you’re not using it in conjunction with other tools during the sales and marketing process, you’re missing a trick and – potentially – sales.
Providers such as Salesforce will enable marketers to see where in the sales process a lead is. Email is a significant part of this and most CRM software providers will include email plugins which send and track emails to leads at varying stages of the sales process. For example, when someone signs up, an email may automatically be sent out to welcome them to your site, with further marketing materials sent out as and when necessary.
Follow-ups and sequencing
What do you do if an original sales email, or a follow-up isn’t acted upon? Follow-up tasks and email sequencing should be integrated with your email tracking, so you can keep tabs on where your customer is at in the buying process. If you offer an e-book that customers can download, automate your follow-up by sending out a sequence of emails that asks them to take a certain action – such as to sign up to your site or to activate a free trial for a certain piece of software. If they’ve made an enquiry, you’ve got back to them and they’ve not followed-up (by not opening or responding to your email) then follow-up tasks and email sequencing can allow you to send out scheduled reminders at optimum times.
Despite alternative methods of online communication being available, we still live in a world where around 2.4 million emails are sent every single second. Email tracking, when used correctly, allows marketers to cut through the noise, helping businesses to pinpoint their email marketing in order to build and maintain successful relationships with both potential and existing customers.