How does your email performance stack up to others in your industry?

Postfuture.com, an email service provider (ESP) owned by Harte-Hanks, has released a benchmarking tool for consumer and business-to-business emailers. One of the more useful findings is the comparative click-through rates by industry, ranked best to worst:

  • Restaurants: 57.5%
  • Publishing: 55.6%
  • Pharmaceutical: 23.8%
  • Travel and hospitality: 23.4%
  • Conference events: 14.2%
  • Financial services: 11.0%
  • Technology: 10.9%
  • Government: 9.5%
  • Insurance: 9.5%
  • Consumer packaged goods: 8.6%
  • Entertainment: 8.1%
  • Retail: 6.0%
  • Automotive: 5.7%

As you look this list over, it shouldn’t be a surprise that all of the business-to-business (b2b) emails are at the top. Business people are paid to, among other things, keep abreast of news and opportunities. The emails they opt-in to receive help them fulfill this duty.

On the other hand, consumers will be less willing to open a typical email and dig deeper with a click. Overall, emails in the b2b sector had clickthrough rates and open rates of 19.9% and 78.9% respectively, while those sent to consumers generated 11.2% clicks and 67.7% opens.

This is all according to Harte-Hanks, mind you.

As with any secondary research, you’ll want to use the figures cautiously. For instance, I suspect that the company excluded many unsuccessful campaigns from their findings, in order to sweeten the report. It is, after all, a report card of sorts.

What if this ESP was instead selling weight loss programs? I imagine we’d be seeing their customers, of all stripes, dropping the pounds to a degree that might make you concerned for their collective health. (Note: Melinda Krueger thought these figures seemed high as well. Her Comment below explains what she learned when she followed up with them).

But for the sake of comparison, these figures can help. Tempered with a degree of skepticism and your own email track record, they can show you how your enterprise compares with others in your industry, and with the medium of email marketing in general.

2 thoughts on “How does your email performance stack up to others in your industry?”

  1. These rates seemed inflated to me, so I did some checking. Per Liz Bross at Postfuture, the published response rates are for all activity, not individual activity. That means that if someone scrolls past an email in Outlook, and it opens in their preview pane, every open is counted. Similarly, if a single user clicks on an email more than once, every click is counted. Most email marketers measure individual activity.

    This is a good example of why you need to be careful when comparing your results to published standards. The most important standard against which to judge your program is your own previous results. Use your data to enrich your understanding of what clicks with your email audience.

  2. Bravo. It’s an ideal situation when your previous results are used as the benchmark for measuring campaign success as well as areas in need of improvement.

    My question then is, how do we seperate the wheat from the chaff (short of verifying each report, article, or whitepaper that offers numbers that are “too good to be true”)?

    What methodology can be used to measure whether your campaign is in line with the rest of the marketplace or out of line (for better or worse)?

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