Email is one of the most measurable tactics a building materials or construction company marketer can employ. But how you measure your success, or compare it others, can be squishy if you’re not sure what metrics matter and how to improve them if they indicate limitation in your email marketing plan.
Before we get into the benchmarking and metrics, let’s reinforce the value of B2B email marketing and doing it well. In 2020, Statista reported that approximately 306 billion emails were sent and received globally each day. In 2023 so far, the number of emails sent and received is already at 347.3 billion and expected to exceed 376 billion daily emails by 2025.
“Email is a staple in B2B marketing, but it’s too often taken for granted. Improvements to email strategies can yield better engagement and ROI. Email can also help build value, differentiation, and trust among prospects and clients alike,” according to market research company Insider Intelligence, formerly eMarketer. “Eighty-three percent of B2B marketers use email engagement to track content performance. But many marketers focus on the wrong metrics to gauge the success of their email campaigns.”
What are the right metrics to benchmark, if “many” marketers are focusing on the wrong ones?
Two of the most-discussed metrics in email marketing are open rate and click-through rate (CTR).
Open rate shows the percentage of the total email campaign recipients that opened your email send. To calculate open rates, divide your opens by the number of emails delivered, which is the number of emails you sent minus the number of emails that either soft bounced or were undeliverable and hard bounced.
(In early 2023, Email Tool Tester found that the average deliverability for all email tools combined was just below 85%, which means 15% of sent emails were either flagged as spam or bounced into the sock-in-the-dryer void. )
Those of you who excelled at equations, use this formula for a rough estimate of your email open rate:
Number of emails opened divided by number of delivered (yes, they must be delivered, so no counting undeliverable sends or hard bounces) emails x 100 = Email open rate
For example, if you have 1,000 delivered emails and recipients open 324 of them, the formula 324/1000 x 100 equals 32.4. Because open rates are reported as percentages, your open rate would be 32.4%. Math is fun!
But before you start to benchmark, it’s important to understand that not every email platform measures open rates the same way. For example, some email service providers (ESPs) count unsubscribes as opens because the email technically must be opened for a user to unsubscribe. Twisted logic, yes, but a valid open rate metric? Not so much.
If you use Oracle Cloud Infrastructure (OCI) Email Delivery, you probably know that open rates are measured with an invisible one-by-one tracking pixel.
“When images are enabled in an email, that tracking pixel renders when the email is read by a subscriber and is subsequently counted as an open,” according to Oracle. To ensure that the tracking pixel renders, we recommend placing it at the top of your email. Absolutely avoid placing it at the bottom, because it can get clipped in Gmail, or never activated if a subscriber doesn’t scroll to the very bottom of your email.”
And if images aren’t enabled, open rates can be measured differently by individual email service providers and brands.
“When an open isn’t registered, some like to count instances where there are one or more clicks in an email as an open,” according to this Oracle blog on email open rates. “Obviously you can’t click in an email without opening it. It’s nice to know how your ESP handles these instances.”
Let’s also talk about that giant fruit in the room. Apple Mail Privacy Protection, which went into effect in 2021, has rippled through part of the email world and affected open rates, according to email service provider Constant Contact, as open rate metrics are no longer reliable for email lists with subscribers using Apple Mail.
What are the specifics?
“When a user opts-in to Mail Privacy Protection, they’re allowing Apple to pre-fetch (or download), emails and email images to their device. This takes place with or without the user deciding to open and read the email message. Email image pixels, which indicate opens and open rates, are included in this pre-loading. This means an email may be marked as open even though the user did not open or read it,” according to Campaign Monitor. “Anyone using the native Apple Mail application to read their email, be it on an iPhone, an iPad, or a Mac, can turn these features on. And while we don’t know what the final adoption rate will be, we saw a clear and steady increase in open rates after MPP was released.”
For the scope of Apple’s impact, consider that Apple market share includes email client usage for Apple Mail Privacy Protection – 59.53%, Apple iPhone – 2.99%, Apple Mail – 1.55% and Apple iPad – 0.24%* (*Mid-2023 data.)
Translation? Considering all the Apple devices that house and deliver email, 64.31% of email is connected somehow through Apple.
The takeaway? Open rates have never been the gold standard you thought, but they might indicate that your subject line and preview text were compelling enough to entice recipients to open your email. Put more confidence into conversion rates
Click rate and click-through rate
The click rate refers to the number of people who open the email that you send them. These metrics may indicate how engaging your email content is, as well as the effectiveness of your calls to action (CTAs).
“The click-through rate is different. This represents the number of people who actually click on the advertisement in the email,” according to MailChimp.
CTR is most-commonly reported as the percentage of unique people who received your email and clicked on any of the links somewhere within it, but it’s sometimes calculated as a percent of only the people who opened your email.
In some systems, multiple-clicks from the same user may count twice, driving up CTR in comparison to truly unique CTRs.
For those in the building materials and construction industry, good news about CTRs abounds. In recent email marketing benchmarks studies, MailerLite analyzed data from more than 40,000 approved accounts for customers in the USA, Canada and UK in 2022 that included email marketing campaigns sent to more than 10 recipients. According to MailerLite, the eventual dataset included over 1 million campaigns. The media industry has both the highest click rates and the highest click-through rates, BUT media CTRs were closely followed by construction and architecture/construction.
The best CTRs, according to MailerLite findings:
- Media (15.58%)
- Construction (14.54%)
- Architecture and construction (14.26%)
Using resources, such as study and survey findings published online, or subscription services such as HubSpot, you’ll likely find that an open rate of 25-35% and a CTR of 4-8% is a solid B2B building products industry email campaign. From there, you can begin benchmarking yourself and testing against your own past campaigns, since they’re going to be the most accurate comparison for you.
For most of the metrics, architecture and construction ranked well.
- Open rate 39.82%
- Click rate 5.68%
- Click-through rate 14.26%
- Unsubscribe rate 0.46% (Although this is high for unsubscribe rates, only a tiny fraction of people unsubscribe after each campaign in any industry.)
- Bounce rate 1.32%
The following metrics matter, so pay attention to how they might affect your building products marketing email campaigns:
Unsubscribe and bounce rates
Unsubscribe rates reflect the percentage of recipients who click the unsubscribe link in your email. If you send an email to 200 recipients and 50 unsubscribe, your unsubscribe rate is 25%. This probably means you’re sending emails too often or they no longer hold value for the recipient. (Both of which you can do something about.)
Bounce rate is the percentage of undelivered emails, based on the total number of emails sent. Emails can bounce for a variety of reasons, including spam issues and server errors. Hard bounces happen when an email is permanently undeliverable, usually because the email address is invalid or doesn’t exist (oops, I forgot that extra R when I entered it!). Soft bounces occur when an email is temporarily undeliverable, often because the recipient’s inbox is full or their email server is down.
Email bounce rates are different from a web page’s bounce rate. Website bounces happen when users arrive at the site and leave without interacting with anything. (Yikes!)
If you need better understanding of hard and soft bounce rates, MailerLite has a good overview.
At 1.32%, the architecture and construction industry had by far the highest bounce rate. This was followed by construction, which had a bounce rate of 1.15%. These were the only industries with an average bounce rate of over 1%.
Purge your email list if you’re in any of these industries and you notice your bounce rate is high—or climbing. You want to send messages to valid email addresses people currently use.
Higher bounce rates
- Architecture and construction (1.32%)
- Construction (1.15%)
The conversion rate measures the percentage of recipients who completed a desired action after they clicked through via your email. Actions could include making a purchase, filling out a form or downloading a PDF or eBook.
To calculate conversion rate, divide the number of conversions by the number of clicks, and multiply by 100. A high conversion rate indicates (probably) that your email content and CTAs are not only engaging, but also persuasive enough to drive recipients to act.
Whether your current metrics are falling below the building materials industry standard or you want to out-click and convert the competition, ER Marketing can help with the metrics that matter. Contact us to start a conversation
The two most important metrics to benchmark are the open rate and click-through rate (CTR).
To calculate the open rate, divide the number of emails opened by the number of emails delivered (excluding undeliverable and bounced emails), and multiply by 100.
Different email platforms measure open rates differently, and factors like unsubscribes and email rendering can affect the accuracy of open rate measurements.
Apple Mail Privacy Protection can pre-fetch and mark emails as open, even if the user did not actually open or read them, leading to inaccurate open rate metrics.
The click rate measures the number of people who open an email and click on any of the links within it.
The click-through rate represents the percentage of unique recipients who received your email and clicked on any links within it.