What metrics should you use to measure email marketing?

Hit send and your work as an email marketer is done – for a few minutes anyway. Regardless of how long you spent preparing your email, landing pages, and contact list prior to the ‘send’ day, it’s afterwards that the real work begins.

As soon as something is done, it’s all about the future; that email may now be in the past, but its results should be informing your next campaign – both the good and the bad. But what are the best ways to determine the true performance of an email? What metrics should you use to measure it? Let’s take a look.

Delivery rates

Starting with the most obvious and important – if your email marketing isn’t reaching the people you’re intending it to reach, then what good is it?

Your email delivery rates will come down to two things: the quality and cleanliness of the emails on your contact list, and the quality and performance of the email service provider (ESP) you’re using. If the amount of undelivered addresses on your list exceeds three per cent, you should look to clean and update your contact list by removing the decayed data.

Bounce rates

Tying in with your delivery rate will be your bounce rates – both hard and soft. The hard bounces are those emails which could not be delivered to due to the address being invalid or even non-existent, so essentially that three per cent we mentioned above. These hard bounces should be removed from your list immediately, in order to improve the performance of your next campaign. After all, they’re just wasting your send credits.

Then there are your soft bounce rates – a soft bounce being an email address that could not be delivered to at this time, due to a temporary problem. The address itself is valid, but perhaps the recipient’s inbox is full or there’s a problem with their server when you sent. Since the issue is usually one that will be resolved, don’t delete your soft bounces – just highlight them and try re-sending to them at another time. If an address continually bounces every time you send, then consider removing it. After a few sends, though, you’ll be able to measure the quality of your email list.

Open rates

Now we’re getting on to the more prominent metrics. Once you’ve managed to land in an inbox, you want to get people to open the email. Success here will rely on your ESP, the overall design and content of your email, and the subject line/from name you use to entice the recipient.

It would be nice to think that every single person you’re sending to will open your email, but we don’t live in a dream world. Some emails are going to perform better than others, so instead of just blasting them out to your entire list, segment and perform A/B tests with different subject lines and varying send times. Use the open rate to determine both how successful your process was in getting your email seen, but also to discover the times your audience is most receptible and likely to open.

Not only can you use unique open rates to measure your email marketing, but the total open rate too. That’s the total amount of times that an email was opened, including multiple opens from the same recipient.

Click-through rates

The next step to success, depending on your email’s intent, is to get people to click-through from your email. If the objective of your email is to get people to download a piece of content from a link on your email, then the click-through rate will be the dominant measurement of success, as if the percentage is high you’ve achieved your goal. Other call-to-actions (CTAs) that you might use in your emails to achieve good click-through rates include links to landing pages or product pages, or perhaps just replying to the email itself.

Like open rates, both unique clicks and total clicks should be considered, especially if it’s a link to a product page. It could mean that a person clicked-through, had a look, and decided to look again later when they had time. To get to that product page a second time, they simply used the link in your email. That’s a great measurement of email marketing success – showing the value your email has given a prospective customer.


Of course, on the flipside, there are people who are going to see no value in your emails and hit unsubscribe – especially if you’ve purchased email data instead of organically growing a subscriber list. You can use your unsubscribe rate to measure the quality of your offering, and the email design itself. Your subject line was enough to secure the open, so what went wrong? Was your message not clear enough? Were there too many images and not enough text, or vice versa? Turn the negative of unsubscribes into a positive for your next campaign.

Shares and forwards

You know your email has hit home when it’s being shared and forwarded by recipients. Not only does this mean that your message is clear and has actually been read, but now you’re also organically expanding your reach as the people who have had the email forwarded to them are likely to take an interest. Use this information to measure how clear and relevant your email was, and see how you could improve on it the next time around.

Enquiries/lead generation

When it comes to marketing’s relationship with the sales team, all that matters is how well your email converts subscribers into customers. While this is entirely dependent on your objectives going into a campaign, another way to measure success is how many leads, enquiries, and completed sales your email achieves. Conversion rates are the goal of emails, but sales aren’t always the end-result you’re aiming for with an individual email broadcast. Even if they are, a good conversion rate will be around one to four per cent.

Overall ROI

It’s all about making a return, right? Well, not always – sometimes the goal of an email is just to raise awareness or maintain contact. For retailers, though, the overall return on investment will be an important metric to measure. If the returns aren’t matching up to the amount of money spent on the construction of a campaign, you might want to reconsider your marketing methods.

So, after you hit send on your next email campaign, enjoy the couple of minutes afterwards. Get yourself a coffee, grab a quick bite to eat, and then get yourself comfortable; it’s time to measure your emails!