We’ve already covered the fact that email opens are really nothing more than impressions. Just because some of your audience opens your email doesn’t mean that they have actually read it.
While open rates don’t tell the entire or final story on email success, they are still important to measure. As I’ve said before, you are measuring incremental changes in your program. If you notice your open rates going up, that’s generally a good thing. If you see your open rates declining, it may be cause for concern and further investigation.
Before you go into a panic attack when you see email open rates declining over time, I encourage you to keep in mind that many ISPs and Outlook have image rendering turned off as the default. Unless the individual user changes the default, email sent to that subscriber will not register an open. (As review, it ties back to the fact that a tiny image inserted in an email actually renders an open.) Additionally, handheld devices such as BlackBerries and Treos don’t render images, meaning that they don’t register opens. In fact, it’s been estimated that 50 percent of all email is delivered to subscribers that are unable to render images. That kind of percentage throws the entire metric into question.
Figure 9.1 depicts the findings from a study of ExactTarget client emails sent during the fourth quarter 2004 through the first quarter 2006. As ...