Engagement – the 2018 Benchmark results

5 minute read

Engagement is tricky to accurately quantify but an incredibly valuable insight into how subscribers are really interacting with your campaigns. Let’s look at what the results from the 2018 Email Marketing Benchmark Report tell us about engagement.

But first…

Measuring engagement

Many email platforms simply take historic opens as a measure of engagement. In Sign-Up.to the engagement algorithm takes a much wider view, taking into consideration a number of different factors, including the type and frequency of interaction and subscriber behaviour over a prolonged period of time. Data shows that this gives a more realistic measure of real-life engagement.

We take this data and dynamically classify each subscriber to create an engagement profile – we call it their engagement rating. Based on their history of interaction each subscriber is attributed with an individual engagement star rating. New subscribers are initially assigned a mid-range, 3 star classification. There is also a ‘null’ classification for subscribers for which there is no qualifying data available. You’ll see your subscriber engagement star ratings when you review your lists in the ‘collect’ section of the Sign-Up.to platform.

  • 5 star – highly engaged
  • 4 star – mildly engaged
  • 3 star – passive
  • 2 star – mildly disengaged
  • 1 star – disengaged

Behind the scenes it may be a complex process, but it’s one which results in a very neat and usable subscriber classification.

Here’s a little more detail on how the engagement rating algorithm works.

– In order to accurately reflect a range of observed characteristics the engagement rating bands are based on both theoretical and matched empirical 

– Starring bands are non-linear between maximum and minimum values – again to better reflect observed situations.

– Each campaign interaction (open, click, share etc.) earns a weighted increment depending on the action taken.

– Opt-in is considered as a key engagement indicator.

– Multiple interactions with a single campaign gain additional engagement increments.

– Passive behaviour (non-interaction) over a period of time is considered as a negative characteristic. Non-engagers progressively decay in their star rating over time.

– Habitual non-engagers decay proportionately more rapidly.

The 2018 Benchmark results

Engagement is one of the characteristics which is measured in the 2018 Email Marketing Benchmark Report.

First, lets take a look at an overall snapshot of engagement, taken at the end of December 2017. Engagement is a per-subscriber (not a per-campaign) metric, so this shows the average engagement levels as measured across all subscribers across all of the 29 tracked industry sectors.


Comparing this to data from the previous (2017) Benchmark Report the initial observation is a general decrease in engagement. This is at odds with other individual campaign measures such as open rate, click-through and click-to-open which all showed increases over the past 12 months. However it should be noted that long-term non-engagement is taken as a negative attribute and since suspended and dormant subscribers are generally not removed it may follow that engagement as measured on such a large scale decreases over time.

Null – decreased from 9.15% to 7.92%
1-star – increased from 79.01% to 81.80%
2-star – decreased from 3.94% to 3.68%
3-star – decreased from 4.07% to 3.75%
4-star – decreased from 1.98% to 1.56%
5-star – decreased from 1.86% to 1.30 %

Now let’s take a look at a snapshot across each of the tracked sectors. The first chart shows the relative overall engagement ratings for each sector. The results are ordered top to bottom by the highest proportion of 5-star subscribers. In this chart, for clarity the ‘null’ classifications have been removed.

This next chart shows just the proportions of 5-star subscribers. Those shown in darker blue are above the average overall 5-star rating.

It’s not just an academic exercise. Engagement profiling can be used as an effective targeting tool – to target VIP rewards, exclusive offers and loyalty scheme awards to your 5-star subscribers. Similarly you can use your profiling intelligence to re-engage with subscribers who are falling away from your brand. Entice them back with special offers and ‘welcome back’ discounts.

If you’d like to know more about engagement profiling you’ll find lots more information in our Coffee break Guide to Engagement. It’s free to download.

And if you’d like to download the full 2018 Email Marketing Benchmark Report it’s also freely available from our website.

2018 Benchmark report