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2018 Deliverability Benchmarking Series: Q4 Retail

Article by John Landsman

All email marketers rightly want to know how they’re doing in relation to their industry peers.  To answer those questions, this piece begins a series of industry deep-dives made possible by the extensive data asset on the eDataSource platform.   We will also be publishing a full White Paper, benchmarking email performance metrics across all key industries for 2018.

Our focus today is on Retail and Q4.  We analyzed promotional email for over 2,400 retail brands in eight key retail sectors.   The table below shows overall read rate and inbox performance ranked by quartile for the fourth quarters of 2018 and 2017.  (Additional data details and methodology can be found below.)

These data establish a bar.  If you’re a retail brand, and your email activity ranks beneath any of the performance averages shown below, there may be considerable revenue upside in identifying opportunities to replace, restructure or eliminate what’s underperforming.

Cutting to the chase for Q4 2018, average read rates run from a high of 26% for brands in the top-ranked quartile for that metric, down to 7% in the bottom quartile. Inbox rates range from 95% for brands In the top quartile for that metric, down to 53% in the bottom quartile.  In general, year-over-year read rates have improved, while inbox performance has eroded somewhat in the lower quartiles.

Q4 Key Retail Sectors
Average Read Rates Average Inbox Rates Average Spam Rates
Quartile 2018 2017 2018 2017 2018 2017
1 26% 24% 95% 95% 5% 5%
2 18% 17% 90% 90% 10% 10%
3 14% 13% 80% 85% 20% 15%
4 7% 7% 53% 62% 47% 38%
TOTAL 16% 15% 80% 83% 20% 17%

The table below shows overall Q4 brand activity and performance averages for each of the eight key retail sectors we analyzed, adding campaign and email deployment counts for each.  Not surprisingly, the largest of these are in the Online Shopping and Retail & Department Stores sectors.  The performance data don’t reflect major differences across the sectors. Marginally, the highest read rates are in the latter, and in the Sporting Goods sector.  We see the strongest inbox performance in the Retail & Department Stores and Supermarkets sectors.  Year-over-year, campaign counts have increased for most sectors while email volumes have decreased, suggesting the possibility of improved audience targeting.

Industry Brand Averages
(Q4)
# of Brands Included Campaign Count Email Volume(000) Read Rate Inbox Rate Spam Rate
2018 2017 2018 2017 2018 2017 2018 2017 2018 2017 2018 2017
Apparel and Acccessories 916 866 39 38 23,394 24,334 16% 15% 79% 83% 21% 17%
Cosmetics, Fragrances & Beauty 363 355 43 40 18,068 23,893 16% 15% 76% 82% 24% 18%
Footwear 188 182 47 48 31,194 36,776 16% 15% 83% 85% 17% 15%
Gifts and Remembrances 184 179 49 42 34,299 23,851 16% 15% 75% 81% 25% 19%
Online Shopping 368 376 186 146 176,348 232,434 16% 15% 80% 82% 20% 18%
Retail & Department Stores 113 112 135 113 186,891 175,861 16% 15% 85% 89% 15% 11%
Sporting Goods 237 247 39 40 16,622 21,169 18% 16% 81% 83% 19% 17%
Supermarkets, Food & Drug Stores 122 115 60 81 34,791 38,408 17% 16% 86% 90% 14% 10%
TOTAL GROUP 2,491 2,432 68 62 53,954 72,091 16% 15% 80% 83% 20% 17%

Note on Methodology: Included in this analysis are promotional (as opposed to transactional and administrative; e.g., loyalty-related) emails for brands with a Projected Panel Reach of 100,000 or greater.

…Next up in our Deliverability Benchmarking Series?
Travel
(just in time for spring break)!  Stay tuned.