Jeffrey L. Cohen
The consumer-based economy is seasonal with one season outshining all others. That is the fourth quarter. It can sometimes be hard to determine whether consumer behavior drives marketers’ promotions or the promotions drive the behavior, but regardless of the cause and effect, email activity is a key part of it.
As the ESP to some of the biggest brands in the world, Cheetah Digital regularly aggregates and reviews email metrics from customer email programs.
YoY Email Volume and Revenue Per Email Increased in Q4 2017
The report looked at the change in volume of email from last holiday season to this holiday season. The volume of emails in the fourth quarter of 2017 across all industries rose 11 percent when compared to the fourth quarter of 2016.
Open rates and click rates overall remained level from 2016 to 2017, so with the increase in volume, these performance numbers actually increased. If the same percentage of people took action on a larger volume of emails, then this means that more total people opened and clicked.
The other big increase from 2016 to 2017 was revenue per email, which rose from 7 cents to 8 cents. While a 1 cent increase may not seem like a big number, when you consider both the overall volume of emails and the increase in volume of email, the ROI for marketers is significant.
As online commerce continues to grow – now 13 percent of US retail sales – the increase in revenue per email follows that trend.
Takeaway: Email marketers need to continue to grow their volume in 2018, but need to do it in smart ways. Consider adding a regular, non-product related email to the mix to build emotional connections to your brand.
Email Volume and Revenue Per Email Also Increased Between Q3 and Q4
The benchmark report also looked at how Q4 compared to Q3. This is an indication of how marketers ramp up their efforts in final quarter of the year, and ramp up they did. Email volume grew 23 percent over the previous quarter. That sizable increase was consistent with data from four out of the last five years.
Considering that revenue per email was 8 cents for Q4, the result was an increase of nearly 66 percent over Q3. This is another sign that email recipients also think differently about email in the fourth quarter. It is much more transactional and drives more purchase decisions than messages earlier in the year.
Takeaway: Email marketers need to remove as much friction from purchase as possible to take advantage of consumers’ fourth quarter mindset. They are looking to shop, and while deals may be one approach, ease of transaction is another.
Retail Email Growth Drove Retail Sales Growth
According to the National Retail Federation, holiday sales can represent up to 30 percent of sales for some retailers. So it’s essential for marketers to be incredibly strategic at this time of year to ensure they remain top of mind for their customers. For many, this translated to increasing email volume, and it appears those efforts paid off. According to the benchmark report, the email volume of multi-channel retailers increased 8.6 percent, and the NRF reported that holiday retail sales in 2017 increased 5.5 percent over 2016, which exceeded their forecasted amount.
Just like the numbers for all industries, retail open and click rates remained consistent compared to last year. Even though open and click rates for retailers came close to matching rates seen in Q4 2016, 46 percent of brands had significant increases in unique open rates.
Benchmark Report Takeaways
The data shows that email growth has not hit a saturation point yet. Fourth quarter is the most vital time of year for marketers. Heading into the holiday season, marketers should be aware of how their own YoY email volume and revenue compares to that of their competitors and make adjustments as needed.
If email volume did not increase on par with the overall report, or with a specific industry, there’s still time to think about how what changes can be made this year to ensure a steady growth in revenue and continued customer engagement. Based on the steady growth of volume over the past five years, that trend is likely continue for the foreseeable future.
Jeffrey L. Cohen is the director of content strategy at Cheetah Digital, where he creates entertaining and educational thought leadership content to grow the brand. He’s an award-winning marketer, strategist, and author (The B2B Social Media Book) with a 25-plus year marketing career.