Email engagement – the benchmark results

4 minute read

One of the interesting pieces of research that didn’t make the 2016 Email Marketing Benchmark Report was a snapshot of engagement across the 29 industry sectors that we track. If you want to get a deeper understanding of interaction with your email campaigns then engagement is a good measure to review.

Some background

Engagement is tricky to accurately quantify but an incredibly valuable insight into how subscribers are really interacting with your campaigns. has an automated engagement profiling algorithm that measures both the quantity and quality of interaction, and over a prolonged period of time. It’s one of the precision marketing ‘dimensions’ that can be used to accurately segment audiences for things like re-engagement and VIP rewards campaigns. There’s more on the background to engagement in my earlier blog post – ‘Love is… a multi-parameter engagement algorithm’.

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What does engagement look like?’s engagement algorithm attributes each subscriber with an engagement rating, from 1-star (low engagement) to 5-star (highly engaged). Compiling the engagement profiles of an entire subscriber database over a period of time allows you to identify some interesting characteristics. Take a look at these 2 engagement profiles. The graphs show the size of the overall databases (shown on the y-axis), the relative engagement levels (shown in red as 1-star to blue as 5-star) and how they have evolved over a 12 month period of time (shown on the x-axis).

The graph on the left shows a subscriber database characterised by relatively healthy levels of engagement.  The overall database has grown significantly over 12 months. More importantly there is a high proportion of engaged subscribers (shown in blue). Over the 12 month review period there has also been a proportionate growth of 4 and 5-star engaged subscribers.  Each subscriber’s engagement profile is updated every time a campaign is delivered so the continuous and smooth nature of the evolution is also indicative of a regular schedule of communications. All good.

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Contrast this with the graph on the right which shows a subscriber database characterised by less healthy levels of engagement.  Again the overall database has grown significantly over the 12 month period but in this case there is a relatively low proportion of engaged subscribers (in blue). There’s also a disproportionate growth of subscribers with low levels of engagement (in red). The visible discontinuities in the evolution of the audience over time also indicates an infrequent and irregular schedule of campaign deliveries – this in itself can lead to reduced levels of engagement.

Across the industries

So what does our 2016 benchmark analysis tell us about engagement across all of the tracked UK sectors?

enage-allFirstly, you might conclude that overall engagement is relatively low – at around 87% of the total the 1-star subscribers dominate the overall picture (by the way any subscribers with a ‘null’ rating have been removed for clarity). However when considered in the context of the overall open (24.88%) and especially click-through (3.42%) rates, engagement levels echo other interaction metrics – although at a more granular level.

Secondly, as with the other standard metrics, there’s a significant degree of variability across the sectors. The chart below shows a snapshot of engagement of all of the companies and across each of the 29 sectors which our benchmark report tracks. The ranking has been normalised to proportionately reflect the number of 5, 4 … to 1-star subscribers in each sector. As usual the 1-star subscribers are shown in red, through to 5-star subscribers in blue.

Engagement-all sectors-snapshot (ordered without nulls)

You can find lots more information in our Coffee Break Guide to Email Engagement. It’s free to download from our website.