It would appear that email open rates in 2014 may be about to receive a welcome boost. Back in 2009, Outlook and Internet Service Providers started blocking images by default and few changes were made until a December 2013 announcement by Google which stated that images in Gmail would be enabled for all webmail users. According to these marketing statistics, the email open rate in the US was 27.4% with a click-through rate of 4.5% at the end of 2013.
This compares favorably to the average open rate of 19.3% reported in 2012. However, email marketing teams know that open rates of 35%+ are possible and have been achieved by certain businesses so they will hope that the new Gmail announcement will enable them to alter emails in a manner that generates more opens and ultimately click-throughs.
The Impact of Mobile Devices
The main reason for images being blocked in the first place was to prevent viruses from being spread. However, Google has now come up with a method of authenticating images and deeming them to be free of viruses hence the change. You may be aware of the fact that email opens are tracked based on if a subscriber decides to display images. The email will be recorded as having been opened if a hidden pixel gets downloaded. Once images were blocked by default, open rates started to plummet. It is likely that other ISPs will follow the lead of Google and this should result in an open rate increase in 2014.
A greater number of emails are now opened on mobile devices as opposed to desktops and laptops. When email from Hotmail, Gmail etc. is configured on a mobile device’s native mail app, images are displayed by default so as more mobile devices get used, open rates will increase.
As it seems likely that open rates are certain to increase in 2014, it may be difficult for email marketing teams to determine just how much of the increase is down to the email program change and how much is down to a change in the email content, layout, subject line etc. What this means is that marketing teams will have to be dedicated to testing more than ever before.
This should also lead to a greater emphasis on click-through rate as a better means of comparison. Remember, if your open rate is increasing but the click-through rate remains more or less the same, the click-to-open rate will decline and this is a sign that something is wrong. Therefore, not only is 2014 the year of the improved open rate, it should also be the year when email marketing teams must ensure that each email provides value and gives subscribers a reason to click.