Free Your Mind: Email Analytics

Email Analytics Overview
Tracking an email marketing campaign is one of the fundamental applications of web analytics; yet, many companies fail to fully utilize the techniques and data available. Effectively tracking email campaigns not only leads to improved future email campaigns but also a familiarity and understanding of a customer not achieved by any other means.

As in any web analytics reporting, the available email tracking reports range from basic and rudimentary to rich and indispensable as illustrated in the pyramid below.


Basic Reports
Most email applications provide basic email tracking and many third-party applications can provide reports on bounce rates, open rates, and click-through rates that resulted from the email. Each of these reports provide value, even if the report only paints a picture of how strong the recipient pool really was. Obviously, if the bounce rate was high, expecting any other strong performance numbers is not very likely.

  • Bounce Rates: A hard bounce is an undeliverable email resulting from an invalid email address, whereas a soft bounce is an undeliverable email resulting from a software or server error. The bounce rate shows the total percentage of these occurrences.
  • Open Rates: The percentage of all emails sent that were actually viewed.
  • Click-Through Rates: The number of people that navigated to the site via a link within the email.

While this data is important, certain aspects of each of these metrics make it difficult to utilize this data. Bounce rates are useful for fine-tuning the deliverability of your email application; however they do not provide any information on the actual behavior of your customers. Open rates are also difficult to take action on due to the large number of email clients that leverage a preview pane. Viewing an email within a preview pane will cause an email to be counted as opened. In addition, clicking on an email to delete it within Microsoft Outlook for example will also cause the email to be counted as opened which can seriously influence the accuracy of the open rate data. Lastly, the click through rate can be a useful metric, but it only represents the tip of the iceberg with regards to behavioral data that can be captured.

Campaign and Individual Level Data
If click through data is the tip of the iceberg, campaign data and individual user response data is where much of the value of email analytics resides. In order to start the process of collecting information on individual recipients, the recipients must click through from the email and actually begin navigating the website. Identifiers can be assigned to each recipient within the initial request to the website. So in a simple example, the recipient will be invited to click on and the underlying link might actually resemble the link below

The campaignid will allow for segmentation by each email campaign while the individualid provides the foundation for capturing the more granular levels of user behavior data.

Email Marketing Optimization
With the unique identifiers in place, the web analytics solution must be configured to support this segmentation. Once the segment has been created, some of the reports that we will want to view based on these new segments would include, but are not limited to:

  • Path Analysis
  • Most Popular Pages
  • Visit Duration
  • Conversion Rates based upon the key processes of the site

The collection of this rich, comprehensive data further expands the capabilities of the marketing process. Using the unique identifier, we might want to segment the users that took a specific path or looked at a particular set of pages and resend an email directed at their specific needs. For example, an ecommerce site might identify users that looked at a certain product but did not purchase it. The marketing team then could send an email with a 10% off coupon for that product or a similar one. The ability to identify each user creates a very powerful marketing tool. Imagine a woman entering a clothes store and the sales person already knowing not only what clothes she purchased in the last 6 months but also what clothes she looked at, how long she looked at them, and which ones she tried on.

The specifics of implementing this type of email tracking will vary based on the email application and web analytics application being used. In an ideal case the applications will allow direct integration and will have the ability to pass data such as re-segmented lists from your web analytics solution directly to your email solution. These techniques are not theoretical and are in fact very practical ways to drive additional value from your email marketing and web analytics applications.


By Bill Bruno
About the Author:

Bill Bruno is the CEO - North America, Ebiquity.

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