Automated emails – the benchmark results

4 minute read

When it comes to engagement metrics, automated emails typically out-perform non-automated emails. After all, an automated campaign is designed to deliver a 1-1 individually targeted, specific response message, exactly when it’s needed. Done well, it’s the right message, to the right person at the right time – all the key ingredients of relevance.

Marketing Automation

We’ve been watching the results and championing the use of marketing automation for many years, but this is the first time that we’ve included specific analysis of automated versus non-automated campaigns in our annual benchmark report results.

As with the other benchmark data we’ve looked, at all of the emails were delivered through the platform over the past 12 months. The results have been organised into 29 different industry sectors (the categories were self-selected by the sending organisations) and the open and click-through performance analysed. For this section of the report a further classification into automated (i.e. those triggered via a marketing automation rule) and those which were manually scheduled was made.

Firstly a quick clarification. For the overall performance data presented elsewhere in the report, any statistical outliers were removed before sector averages, and subsequently overall averages, were calculated. These outliers related to any organisations with abnormally high engagement rates or abnormally low send volumes. Although a small proportion of the overall data set these values were considered to unrepresentatively skew the sample data – hence their removal. Similar outliers were much harder to identify for automated emails and so the performance calculations for this section have been performed on the full set of data. This results in slightly different (higher) overall open rate (25.63%) and click-through rates (4.38%) than are documented elsewhere in the report.

The high-up view certainly supports the high relative performance of automated campaigns. Open rates for automated emails show 56.43% (compared to 15.03% for specifically non-automated and 25.63% overall). Similarly, click-through rates show 31.13% (compared to 1.13% and 4.38% respectively).


Looking in more detail at the individual sectors the same pattern is evident although with significant sector-by-sector variation. In all cases, for both open and click-through rates, automated emails outperformed non-automated emails.

Automated -opensExcluding the data for which there is no specified industry sector, open rates for automated emails range from 21.00% to 77.76% with the highest and lowest performing sectors being Community and Banking/Finance respectively. Overall 16 of the sectors show automated click-through rates higher than the average automated performance of all sectors. The highest open performance differences between automated and non-automated campaigns are seen in Music and Community sectors. The lowest are in Fashion and Banking/Finance.

Automated -clicks

Click-through rates for automated emails show a very large range from 72.71% to just 1.34% with the highest and lowest performing sectors again being Community and Online Services. Overall 14 of the sectors show automated click-through rates higher than the automated average of all sectors. The highest click-through performance differences between automated and non-automated campaigns are seen in the Community sectors. The lowest are in Other Services-B2B and Estate Agency/Property.

It’s fair to point out that automation is used to different extents in different industry sectors – and that the automated data set is relatively limited compared to the overall volume of sends. From the data analysed the highest degree of automation is seen in Banking/Finance, but still with only around 1.5% of the total volume of reviewed email sends being automated. Different sectors also have different automation objectives – from welcome emails, birthday messaging to auto-renewals and abandoned basket recovery applications.

2016 email marketing benchmark coverIf you’d like a full copy of the 2016 email marketing Benchmark Report you can find details and a free download at our website.