Stop obsessing about open rates

In 2020:

  • 250OK says open rates were much lower than ESPs report.
  • The Only Influencers list hosts a discussion about the value and use of open rates.
  • A potential client contacts me asking if I can get their open rates to a certain percentage.
  • A client shows me evidence of 100% inboxing but wants to improve their open rate.
  • An industry group runs sessions at multiple meetings discussing how inaccurate open rates are.

The industry needs to stop obsessing over open rates.

As measured by senders, an open means a particular image was loaded. This sometimes corresponds with an email being opened and read by a user.

There are a number of ways open rates can be wrong, though.

I mean, I get it, I use opens are easy to measure and easy to use. They’re a start for looking at a number of things. But we have to remember the data is, at best, an approximation. There are lots of folks opening and reading messages that never load a pixel (hi! is me!). There are also some people who show as opening the mail but have never looked at it.

At Gmail someone can open a mail, and then immediately mark it as spam. As I said recently, in some cases an open can hurt your reputation. “If they opened it they’re engaged with the mail” has always been an assumption. It’s become part of the delivery

They’re a data point. They’re not the be all and the end all of data points. In order to effectively use them you need to understand what they mean and what they don’t mean. They’re inaccurate at best and can be very misleading if you’re not paying attention.

We need to stop spending so much time obsessing about open rates and more time worrying about how accurate our data collection processes are.

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