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The Latest eCommerce Benchmarks for Triggered Email Performance: How Do You Compare?

By Paul Vithayathil

Being nosy typically has a negative connotation, however there’s one area where it’s not only okay to be nosy, it’s actually encouraged — measuring triggered email performance.

When it comes to understanding your triggered email performance (or any other benchmarked metrics for that matter), you really have no choice but to be nosy, because how would you know whether or not what you’re doing is actually good if you don’t know what everyone else is doing?

Today, we’re going to help you be just a little bit nosy as we reveal the latest benchmarks for triggered email performance among eCommerce brands.

A Summer Refresh for Bluecore’s Email Performance Calculator

In April, we launched our Email Performance Calculator, a free, customizable dashboard for triggered email benchmarks and trends. The idea is simple: Just choose your industry, average order value and monthly unique visitors and let the calculator do the work for you to determine the best triggered email benchmarks for your business based on results from similar retailers.

Specifically, you can pick the best fit for your brand based on three different variables:

  • Industry: The retail vertical within which your brand falls (we currently have designations for Apparel & Accessories, Food & Leisure, Home & Beauty, Technology & Hardware and “All”)
  • Average Order Value: Over $100 or under $100
  • Monthly Unique Visitors: Over 300,000 or under 300,000

Today, we’re announcing a refresh of the calculator with new data from the last quarter. Going forward, we will continue to update the data each quarter, adding on until we reach a year’s worth of data. At that point, we will phase out old data as new data comes in so that the calculator is based off a rolling year’s worth of data.

For stability purposes, we will keep brands in the same average order value bucket for the entire calendar year, as some brands that are on the cusp of the $100 threshold are likely to move back and forth each quarter, which can create noise in the benchmarks.

Inside the Data: Spotlight on the Latest Triggered Email Performance Trends and Advice

After updating the Email Performance Calculator with the latest benchmarks, several points of interest emerged that highlight trends in triggered email programs among eCommerce brands. We also found a few nuggets of advice hiding in the data that we want to take the opportunity to share. So without further ado, here are our top takeaways from the Summer 2017 refresh of our Email Performance Calculator:

1) Previous findings hold steady, become even more pronounced

When we looked at the benchmarks in the Email Performance Calculator last quarter, we noted three points of interest:

  • The relationship between open, click and conversion rates proves an interesting study, as we found two stories in the data: One story of programs with higher open and click rates but lower conversion rates (this was typically the case for companies with a higher average order value or mismatched subject lines/destination content) and one story of programs with lower open and click rates but higher conversion rates (this was typically the case for companies with particularly attractive email content like coupons).
  • Better metrics for companies with fewer unique visitors may be misleading, as we discovered that companies with more unique visitors tended to have more extensive programs that ran more types of triggers. Expanding triggers beyond cart abandonment is a sign of maturity, but it also leads to slightly lower overall metrics.
  • Brands with higher order values typically see 3x more revenue per email, as the cost of their goods is typically higher. This point was an obvious one, but we noted the importance for brands in this category to recognize this inflation and pay extra attention to metrics like clicks and conversions as a result.

This time around, all of these trends remained true. In some cases, these trends became even more pronounced, so we dug deeper into the data to see why.

2) Triggered email programs get more mature

One area where the trends we noted previously are even more pronounced this time around is that better metrics for companies with fewer unique visitors may be misleading since companies with more visitors typically have more mature programs that include different types of triggers and multi-touch campaigns.

With this latest refresh, we saw that on a whole, the open, click and conversion numbers went down slightly. There are two reasons for this slight decline, one of which is actually quite promising because it reveals that brands are expanding their triggered email programs:

  • Seasonal patterns: In general, email performance tends to go down slightly in Q2. We looked at data from 2016 as well, and that data confirmed the seasonal dip among retailers.
  • Program maturity: The other, more exciting factor, is that the brands included in this benchmark made a lot of strides in terms of program maturity during the last quarter. Specifically, many of the brands started to expand their programs beyond the basic, highest engagement triggers such as cart and product abandonment. With this addition of more triggers and touches, average engagement metrics may decrease slightly, but overall program revenue increases as the total volume of emails sent grows.

3) Deeper insight on how average order value impacts email performance

Another area where we saw the previously noted trends become more pronounced is the impact that average order value has on email performance. Last time around, we pointed out the obvious relationship between higher average order values and higher revenue per email rates. We also noted cases where companies experienced either higher open and click rates but lower conversion rates or lower open and click rates but higher conversion rates.

This time around we’re connecting the dots between those two points of interest. What we’ve found is that companies with a lower average order value (regardless of monthly unique visitor count) have a 175% greater conversion-to-click ratio compared to companies with a higher average order value (even though the companies with a higher average order value have a greater click-to-open ratio).

This finding supports a point we made last time around that higher priced products tend to be more aspirational and/or may require more detailed research before purchase, meaning people want to open and engage with emails about them even if they don’t necessarily intend to make a purchase. On the flip side, with lower priced products, people who click are far more likely to actually make a purchase.

The takeaway in all of this is twofold:

  • For companies with higher priced products: Don’t go crazy focusing solely on conversion rates, because there’s a large portion of your audience that will always engage with your emails even if they don’t intend to convert. Instead, focus on increasing your open and click rates, because then your conversion rates should increase alongside those gains. Additionally, focus on nurture strategies alongside your email triggers so that you can warm up buyers and stay top of mind until they are ready to make that aspirational purchase. For example, you might create a follow up campaign using an audience of people who viewed but did not purchase specific products.
  • For companies with lower priced products: Pay close attention to your open rate, because once your triggered emails get opened, your conversion rate tends to be high. To help boost your open rates, make sure you get as targeted as possible in both the content of the email and the wording of your subject lines.

4) Click-to-open and conversion-to-click ratios present another opportunity to gauge triggered email performance based on the metrics

The way our Email Performance Calculator is configured, everything funnels down from the open rate. From there, you see click rates, conversion rates, revenue per email and unsubscribe rates. This configuration is certainly helpful for getting an overview of the benchmark and seeing how you compare to similar retailers, but it only tells one piece of the bigger picture.

The other piece of that picture is the relationship between click rates and open rates as well as conversion rates and click rates. In other words, what is the click-to-open ratio and the conversion-to-click ratio? Looking at these ratios can give you another layer of insight into triggered email performance, particularly if your open rates don’t fall close to the open rates displayed in the calculator (as your click and conversion rates would likely be off too). If you find that your open rates don’t compare, you can also see how you measure up by comparing your click-to-open and conversion-to-click ratios with those in the calculator. These ratios can also help you track improvement against your own performance over time.

To calculate the click-to-open ratio, simply divide the clicks by the opens. You can calculate the conversion-to-click ratio similarly, this time dividing the conversions by the clicks.

It’s Time to Get Nosy: Dive Into the Benchmarks

What are you waiting for? It’s time to dive into the benchmarks to check out how triggered emails from other retailers like your brand are performing and see how you compare. Simply plug your information into our Email Performance Calculator to see how you stack up.


Paul Vithayathil

Paul Vithayathil

Paul joined the Bluecore team in 2017 with 4+ years of analytics experience in the industry. As the Data Analytics Manager at Bluecore, he is responsible for understanding and analyzing the rich retail data that Bluecore gathers to help retailers solve different business challenges, whether that is through building custom reports, developing retail-specific models or help test different marketing strategies.