Guide: measuring your emailing strategy

Part 1. Performance indicators: from opening rate to conversion rate

I am not going to talk in this guide about measuring the effectiveness of an emailing strategy of deliverability rate. Obviously, it must be followed, we have written a white paper dedicated to this. In general, when the advertiser's reputation is good, this rate remains stable over time.

You have just pressed the "Send" button on your campaign. It is absolutely normal to rush to the statistics of your campaign. Well, obviously, only a few minutes after having sent your great campaign, the only relevant information you will find is whether the campaign is well underway and whether there are already some openings.

Let's take a closer look at what you need to analyze in order to measure a campaign's performance... and what those numbers mean.

The opening rate

This is one of the most viewed rates in an email campaign. However, this indicator is absolutely unreliable.

Understand how aperture is calculated in routing tools: To know who opens an email, campaign management solutions introduce a tracking pixel in the emails sent. This is a small image of a square pixel that is automatically introduced in each campaign sent. In the link of this image, we will find an identifier that allows us to know who is the recipient and what is the campaign in question. When the recipient of the email will open it, the tracking pixel will be downloaded at the same time as the images, which will send a "signal" to your campaign management tool. The latter will then know which email was opened, by which recipient, at which time, by which IP address and possibly by which "user-agent" (web browser, application, ...). This means that :

  • if the images in your mailbox are not loaded by default (which happens for example in the Outlook application), the user can browse the email and read it but he will not be considered as an opener since your email router does not know that the email has been opened and cannot deduce any of the above mentioned information.
  • if the images load by default, the user can scroll through his emails (so the images load) without reading them but he will be counted as an opener...

Plus! Since the arrival of the MPP (Mail Privacy Protection) feature in iOS15, emails opened from Apple Mail and Mac OS Monterey are no longer trusted. This new feature prevents from knowing when a person opens an email. In addition, it hides the IP address of the person, which makes it impossible to link it to their online activity or to determine their location. More info here.

Since then, most platforms have adapted their dashboards (but not all!) 3 possibilities:

  • Either, the tools exclude the openings detected with iOS15 MPP enabled. Considering them unreliable. In this case, we should expect opening rates to be lower than before September 2021.
  • Either, the tools differentiate between traceable and non-traceable openings. They display the traceable opening rate, thus "excluding" Apple Mail. Then, they extrapolate the open rate by applying the trackable open rate to the total number of delivered emails.
Sendinblue campaign report
Sendinblue campaign report
  • Or, nothing is done. In this case, we should expect opening rates to increase compared to before September 2021.

Nevertheless, the opening is supposed to measure mainly the attractiveness of your object and the commitment of your recipients with respect to your communications.

It is measured by dividing the number of openers by the number of emails delivered:
% opening = number of openers / number of emails delivered.

Attention, in some platforms, we distinguish the unique opening rate (or opener rate) of the absolute or cumulative opening rate (multiple openings from the same recipient are then counted).

In the big lines: We are used to say that beyond 30% of opening, we have a good result whereas below it would not be terrible. This is a bit of a caricature, but not far from the truth, even if some sectors of activity easily cross the 35/40% opening rate and others hardly reach 15%. Also, we often see better open rates on editorial newsletters than on promotional emails. (I'm not talking about automated emails where you can easily reach 60/70% of opens).

The click rate

This is the most reliable indicator in email marketing.

The click-through rate summarizes the overall performance of the email: the attractiveness of the object, the commitment of the target as well as the relevance and effectiveness of the message.

It is measured by dividing the number of clickers by the number of emails delivered:
% click = number of clickers / number of emails delivered.

Again, be careful to distinguish between unique click-through rates and absolute/cumulated click-through rates. If the second figure can be interesting to look at to measure the impact of the different CTAs of your email, it is especially the first one that should be followed to measure the effectiveness of your campaign. Also, we will make sure that it is the rate of "satisfied" clicks, i.e. excluding clicks on the unsubscribe link. Today, most routing tools exclude clicks on the unsubscribe link, but not all. It's a good idea to make sure. Some also exclude clicks on the online version.

In the main lines: It is difficult to tell you what is a good or a bad click rate as it is so volatile between the different targets and activities. Nevertheless, we usually say that in BtoC for editorial newsletters, a good click rate is around 3/4%. For promotional emails, it's more around 1.5/2%. On the other hand, in BtoB, we can easily reach 7/8%. And this rate varies even more according to the target: active customers, ex-customers, prospects...

Reactivity rate

The reactivity rate can be a good indicator to measure the design, the interest of the content and the tone used in your message. It is also called CTOR, or Click-Through-on-Open-Rate. But it is not 100% reliable since the ouveurs are not reliable...

It is measured by dividing the number of clickers by the number of openers:
% responsiveness = number of clickers/number of openers.

Again, care must be taken to distinguish between unique openers and clickers from the total number of opens and clicks.

In broad strokes: In general, a reactivity rate under 10% will have to be optimized by changes in the content: message layout, block structure, information hierarchy, content, communication style...

The conversion rate

Conversions are used to measure the profitability of a campaign. The expected action is different from one sector of activity to another. It can be: the number of products or services sold, the number of respondents to a form, the number of appointments made, the number of subscriptions....
It is often complex to get these conversions directly into the routing tool. In this case, you will have to open a nice Excel spreadsheet, import your campaign statistics and get the number of conversions in another tool and fill in your Excel file :-)

In short, that's a lot of manipulation, that's maybe why this rate is not well followed.

The conversion rate is most often measured as = Number of goal achievements / Number of emails delivered.

It is preferable here to follow the conversion rate per campaign and not the volume of conversions because the number of conversions depends strongly on the number of emails delivered. Or we can follow the evolution of the number of conversions per 1000 emails sent.

Get a grip on the other email KPIs

If the indicators seen above are those that will allow you to judge the pure performance of an email, there are others that can help you optimize the usability of your emails.

The hot zone map

The idea is to have a visual overview of the areas of your email that triggered the most clicks.

For example, in the email above (the hot zones are purely fictitious), we can see that the Openclassroom logo takes 30% of all the clicks in the email and the call to action "I register" only 20%. This is probably because the latter is placed too low in the message (below the waterline). We will also note that 15% of the clicks go to unsubscribe. This is an important score and highlights dissatisfaction of the recipients regarding the message received (we will come back to this notion of dissatisfaction below).

The heat map allows you to understand a little better the behavior of the clicker, and therefore to start planning optimization actions on your email designs.

The opening environments

This is NOT to be confused with sending domains! It has absolutely nothing to do with it. An article to understand the difference here.

Each opening environment has its own rules for displaying emails and understanding HTML for email. For example, an email opened from Live webmail will not render the same as the same email opened from the Gmail mobile application on my mobile.

It is therefore important to know the opening environments of your contact base in order to optimize the design and integration of your emails. It is possible (except for Gmail), to know the type of terminal on which the email was opened, the name of the email client or browser, and in some cases, the version of the email client. This information is very interesting to knowEspecially when you design and integrate your email templates. If a significant percentage of your target audience opens your emails on outlook, you will know that you will have to be very careful about the use of innovative blocks and background images in your email templates.

Some tools (but few) display these statistics. Otherwise, you will have to use specialized tools.

Benchmark your performance against the competition

As we saw above, the average ranges are quite wide when it comes to the results of your campaigns. On opening rates, we can have companies that have between 12% and 40% on average.

Most advertisers like to benchmark themselves against the competition to see if they are on track

Here are a few studies that can help you get your bearings:

Sendgrid's Global Email Engagement Benchmarks for 2019

Discover the whole study (in English)

2019 Marketing Benchmark Report from Acoustic

Opening rates by industry (Mean, Median, 3rd quartile, 1st quartile)

Discover the whole study (in English)

Need help?

Reading a guide can not make everything perfect. Maybe the best thing to do is to ask us. No ?

In summary

  • Track basic metrics: open, click and response rates
  • Observe the hot zones of your emails to understand click behavior
  • Take the time to understand your recipients' display environments
  • Go beyond email metrics and calculate your conversion rates
  • Find out about the market figures!

We will now take the time to analyze one rate, the dissatisfaction rate. A rate that allows you to understand the level of satisfaction of your campaigns.

Part 2. Interpret the dissatisfaction rate

This is THE rate to calculate to know if your campaign annoys your target.

The dissatisfaction rate is a rate that you will have to calculate thanks to the statistics reported by your router. It does not exist (yet) by default in the emailing campaign management tools. It correlates the number of clicks on the unsubscribe link with the overall number of clicks of a campaign.

A high rate shows a strong dissatisfaction of your subscribers. They did not like your content! A high dissatisfaction rate very often leads to deliverability problems on your marketing campaigns in the short/medium term.

The dissatisfaction rate is very simple to calculate. You just have to take the cumulative number of clicks on the unsubscribe link and divide it by the cumulative number of clicks in the whole campaign (clicks on the different links + clicks on the unsubscribe link). Multiply the resulting figure by 100 and you have your dissatisfaction rate.

It is assumed that:

You will say to me but why to watch him if all is well or almost well... Simply because, thanks to him, you will be able to escape easily from a catastrophe. You only need one campaign to lose your reputation but it will take you several weeks (or even months) to regain it. This saves you a lot of time and energy.

The dissatisfaction rate allows you to set limits not to exceed. For example, if you are in a sales period and you want to target a little wider, you can say to yourself that beyond 40% of dissatisfaction, you stop expanding your target ;-)

In summary

Little known and especially little followed, the dissatisfaction rate is a key indicator that deserves, just like the open and click rates, to be followed more closely. The calculation is simple (especially if your router provides you with the data directly) and the precision is effective. Get your calculators now!

Part 3. Perform recurring reporting

Sending email campaigns is something that many companies do more or less well ;-). But measuring the results of these campaigns is often a poorly treated point.

When you ask a marketer if they have any idea how their campaigns are performing and how profitable they are, they often shrug it off.

Why? Because routing tools offer, for the most part, a campaign view of results. Whereas a real analysis requires compiling results, aggregating data and comparing them against certain criteria of your business that are complicated to transcribe into standard tools. Marketers often end up extracting the raw results into an excel spreadsheet and compile the dashboards they want themselves thanks to the great 'Pivot Table' feature!

We are now going to see which reports you should make and maintain regularly to really measure the performance of your emailing strategy.

Time tracking

It is essential to know and follow the results of emailing campaigns. The lifespan of an emailing campaign lasts about 3 to 5 days. Beyond 5 days, the openings and clicks on the campaign become more rare.

Every week, you can list the results of your campaigns in an excel file. On the line, you will write the names you gave to your campaign and then in the columns the different indicators in percentage and volume. Don't forget to include conversions in this table. Don't forget to include the results of your A/B tests to learn from it!

Then, on a quarterly basis (half-yearly is also fine ;-)), it is important to make an assessment the effectiveness of your emailing strategy. You can then, thanks to pivot tables if you use Excel, aggregate your results over time and make a temporal analysis, by type of campaign (promotional vs. relational), by target (prospects vs. customers, active vs. inactive...).

Volume of emails sent and number of campaigns

Measuring the volume of emails sent gives you an idea of the emailing activity. Is it globally on the rise? Decreasing?

The objective is to have a sending volume that is fairly stable, that does not vary greatly from one week to the next. If your sending volume varies too much, you risk waking up the anti-spam filters and encountering deliverability problems.

Monitoring the number of campaigns sent gives you an idea of the sales pressure exerted on your contacts and the level of targeting of the campaigns.

Openings and clicks, in volume

Marketers often look at campaign performance in rates. But in reality, it is much more interesting to measure its performance in volume.

The most important thing is not so much the open and click rates but the number of openers and clickers. Do you have more and more contacts who open your campaigns? Do you have more and more clickers?

Ideally, the evolution of the number of openers and clickers should follow the evolution of the number of emails sent.

Unsubscribers, by volume

Tracking the number of unsubscribers allows you to check if you are losing too many contacts compared to the volume of emails sent. Sometimes contact acquisition problems can be raised. It is interesting to follow the number of clicks on the unsubscribe link and the number of unsubscribers. Sometimes the difference is huge when it should not be! This shows that the contacts are giving up, which may be linked to the difficulty of the process.

Never underestimate the unsubscribe process. It must be done in 1 click in a very clear way.

Dissatisfaction in rates

Just like unsubscribing, tracking dissatisfaction allows you to check if the content generated is really interesting for your contacts.

For dissatisfaction, we will keep the rate logic. Here, the objective is for this rate to be constantly decreasing.

A good dissatisfaction rate is < 20%. Satisfaction comes first and foremost from good targeting. Thus, the brands that really maximize their clicks and satisfaction are those that target their campaigns according to the interests of their contacts.


Conversions are used to measure the profitability of a campaign. The expected action is different from one sector of activity to another, it can be: the number of products or services sold, the number of respondents to a form, the number of appointments made, the number of subscriptions .... It is sometimes complex for these conversions to be fed directly into the routing tool. In this case, the turnover generated for every 1000 emails sent can be tracked in the excel table.

Breakdown by message type

Another way to work with performance indicators is to analyze them through filters.

You can start by analyzing the performance by type of campaign.

As already mentioned above, there are often differences of a few points between editorial newsletters, promotional emails and service emails. The idea of this analysis is to know which types of messages generate the most opens, clicks and conversions.

You will then have to insert in your sending schedule a good mix of messages between those that generate opens and clicks (and that preserve your deliverability and your reputation) and those that generate sales (because that is the sinews of war...).

Breakdown by type of audience

You can then analyze the performance of your messages by segment type.

If we take the example of an airline, on a campaign sent out very widely to promote a new destination, it can be interesting to compare campaign results on different segments.

Some routing tools do not break down campaign results by segment. When sending a general campaign, the ideal for a marketer would be to have the results broken down by segment. But many tools display the results per send. If the marketer wants to see the results by segment, then he has to send as many times as there are segments to analyze.

Ventilation by ... everything that can be interesting!

We have just given 2 ways to break down your stats. But, depending on your industry and your strategy, it can be interesting to look at your stats from many other angles!

Example 1: you are in the retail sector, it can be interesting to look at your stats according to the geographical area. How do you react:

  • Those who live near a shopping mall
  • Those who live in the city center
  • Those who live in a white zone

Example 2: It may be interesting to look at your stats according to product universes. Which universes work best?

Example 3: In the subscription sector, the most active behaviors are often those whose due date is + or - 90 days.

In the next chapter, we will see which levers to activate to optimize opens and clicks. And logically, reduce unsubscribes and dissatisfaction.

Part 4: Develop an optimization plan

Once the analysis is done, you may find that your opens and clicks are down. And you want to boost these indicators.

So how do you increase the number of openers and clickers?

Work on the trinomial: sender, subject, preheader

Before you even open an email, the first thing you see in your inbox is the list of received emails. Your email box displays the sender, the subject and the preheader. It is by reading this trinomial that you will decide whether or not to open the email. It is therefore essential to play on these 3 levers to maximize the opening.

The sender's label It must be known and stable. In general, little creativity at this level, your recipients open emails if they trust the sender. It is usually the name of your company. The sender name should not vary from one campaign to another. Changing the sender name with each campaign is a spammy practice.

The object It must be short. A short subject is more easily retained. Beware, a subject that is too short is meaningless. The ideal subject has less than 10 words, less than 50 characters. Above all, it must arouse interest! If your target allows it, don't hesitate to bring an offbeat, catchy tone, a play on words... The most important words must be placed at the beginning.

If we take the example of a company that sells alarms, the object "Increase in burglaries: protect yourself" will work better than the object "Equip your house with an alarm".

Another example with a company that sells magazine subscriptions. On Mother's Day, the "For you Mum, with all my love..." item did better than the "Mother's Day: give a magazine" item.

The preheaderThis is the sentence that appears just below the object. It must therefore provide additional information to the object.

If we use the example of alarms, we could write, "2 out of 3 homes equipped in the city, why not you?"

Do not repeat the sender's name in the subject line and preheader. It's a waste of space!

What works well:

  • the numbers (4 reasons to ...),
  • the question that begs to be asked (What to do with your moldy gifts?)
  • and above all surprise and interest your recipients!

Perform A/B testing

One of the many advantages of emailing is the possibility to test every time you send a message! Testing allows you to optimize your clicks and therefore your conversions.

What is A/B testing:

A/B testing allows you to test 2 variants of an email sent randomly to a portion of the target. Then, the version that performed better will be sent to the rest of the target.

  • "2 variations": in fact, you can test EVERYTHING (and you MUST test everything): subject line, preheader, sender, button positioning, call to action wording, button color, image, design, features or benefits to be highlighted, way of announcing a price, placement of elements, time of sending...
  • "We usually take 10% from the contact base. In any case, we make sure that we have at least 1000 contacts in each segment. 1000 being a fairly representative number.
  • "Then": we like to leave 24 hours, or in any case at least 12 working hours (understand here: if I send an A/B test at 8 am, then the winning version will ideally go out the next day at 8 am or if we are in a hurry, in the evening at 8 pm). The objective is to leave the contacts the time to open and click in the email and thus to have representative results before generalizing the test.
  • The "best performing": open rate, click rate, conversion rate, unsubscribe rate... this is what often leads to a little debate!

Warning: test only ONE variable at a time. If you are testing an object, ONLY change the object and not the preheader or the creative. You wouldn't know which variant really had an influence!

Take a strategic approach! Create a test program for yourselfInclude the tests in your mailing schedule.

For each test, describe: the objective, the approach and the indicators monitored.

For example:

  • 1st month: test of several axes of objects (offbeat tone vs. factual tone, tutoiement vs. vouvoiement, promo vs. question...)
  • 2nd month: preheader test
  • 3rd month: test of the catchphrase in the emailing
  • 4th month: CTA test (color, location, text, shape)
  • 5th month: the optimal day of sending
  • 6th month: the optimal sending time slot
  • 7th month: target A vs target B
  • 8th month: promotional content vs. relational content

Next, list the results of this test in your analysis table. Finally, create your teaching "bible.

Review your segmentation

Segmentation (and it is really this lever that will maximize your performance) can be basic at first: prospects, customers, ex-customers. You can then refine it according to what is important for your strategy: geolocation, product universe, a deadline...

But the segmentation that leads to better performance is the one that will target the interests of your recipients.

There are several possibilities to detect the centers of interest:

  • ask your contacts (via questionnaires well placed in your CRM scenarios),
  • according to the purchases previously made,
  • according to the pages seen on your website
  • categorize the opens and clicks of your email campaigns

It is now possible, in most routing tools, to categorize all the links contained in your emails. For example, :

Set up the aggregates, each opening and clicking on a typical link will feed the aggregate LARGE ELECTROMENAGER

Create your segments 'Focus=GROSS HOUSEHOLD', 'Focus=CUISINE-CUISSON'.

Then target your emailing campaigns on the target types centers of interest.

In summary

To maximize opens and clicks, and decrease unsubscribes and dissatisfaction, you need to :

  • Work on your email content: editorial content brings more openers and clickers!
  • Work on your objects and arouse interest. Don't hesitate to use offbeat approaches!
  • Target according to the interests of your contacts
  • Be clear, know what stories to tell your strategic targets.