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Email campaign volumes and open rates improved in the fourth quarter of 2011: Average email volumes per client grew 21.0% over levels recorded a year earlier, while average open rates increased 12.2% year over year, according to a report by Epsilon and the Direct Marketing Association's Email Experience Council.

On a quarterly basis, average email campaign volumes increased 41.5% in the fourth quarter (the critical holiday shopping season) over 3Q11 levels.

Below, key findings from the Q4 2011 North America Email Trends and Benchmarks Results, by the Epsilon and the Direct Marketing Association's Email Experience Council, based on the analysis of 8.5 billion emails sent during the fourth quarter of 2011.

Some key findings from the fourth quarter:

  • On average, 24.8% of emails were opened during the fourth quarter, up 1.0 percentage point (or 4.2%) from the previous quarter.
  • Click rates fell 0.3 points, to 5.2% in 4Q11, from 5.5% in 3Q11.
  • Non-bounce rates fell slightly (0.2 points), from 96.5% in 3Q11, to 96.3% in 4Q11.

Industry Performance

Email open rates and click rates varied by industry in the fourth quarter:

  • The highest open rates were in Financial Services CC/Banks (35.6%), Retail General (33.9%), and Travel/ Hospitality Travel Services (31.5%).
  • The highest click rates were Consumer Products CPG (8.6%), Retail General (6.8%), and Financial Services General (5.8%).
  • The industry categories with the highest click-to-open rates were Consumer Products CPG (42.3%), Consumer Publishing/Media General (37.5%), and Retail Apparel (24.0%).

Campaign Performance by Message Type

The Q4 2011 Email Trends and Benchmarks also analyzed the types of messages sent and their average performance:

  • 55.1% of emails deployed via Epsilon's DREAM platform were categorized as marketing messages, down from 65.8% in 3Q11.
  • Marketing messages dropped in 4Q11 due to a sudden rise in the use of "Other" as a campaign category. The "Other" category rose from 26.6% in 3Q11, to 37.1% in 4Q11.
  • Service emails accounted for 7.0% of messages deployed.

Across message types, marketing emails delivered lower open and click rates than acquisition and editorial messages in 4Q11, and much lower rates than service messages.

Triggered Messages Deliver More Clicks, Opens

Epsilon unveiled a new benchmark in the 4Q11 report: Triggered messages.

On average, triggered messages (welcome, thank you, confirmation emails, etc.) accounted for 2.8% of total email volume in 4Q11.

Most often sent in real-time and with greater relevance, triggered open rates were roughly two times higher than average open rates (48.0% vs. 24.8%), and over two times higher than average click-through rates (11.5% vs 5.2%).

About the data: Findings are from an analysis of 8.5 billion emails sent by Epsilon in October, November, and December 2011, across multiple industries and approximately 130 participating clients. The analysis combines data from both of Epsilon's proprietary platforms, DREAM and DREAMmail.

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