Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

Yes Lifecycle Marketing analyzed data from more than 30B emails sent in 2017 to measure performance around open rates, subject lines and more.

Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing, email volume was up 18 percent year over year in 2017, but the number of people signing up for email subscriptions steadily declined throughout the year.

After analyzing more than 30 billion emails sent last year, 9 billion alone in Q4, the email marketing platform has released a benchmark report looking at a number of data points around email marketing volume, engagement and design.

New subscriber email trends

Among the many findings, brands are sending more and more emails, but new subscribers’ share of their lists continued to shrink last year.

“Throughout 2017, the share of new subscribers in marketers’ databases consistently declined, falling to its lowest point in Q4 when new subscribers accounted for just 3.5 percent of marketers’ mailable audience,” reports Yes Lifecycle Marketing.

Share of recent subscribers opting in within 90-days

Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

Yes Lifecycle Marketing says, historically, the share of new subscriber numbers included in marketers’ databases usually lifts between Q3 and Q4, but last year “marked a U-turn” in this trend.

In addition to the share of new subscribers growing smaller throughout the duration of 2017, 20 percent of brands’ mailable audiences (anybody that has opted-in to receive emails) hadn’t opened an email in more than a year — representing a 22.5 percent year-over-year jump in inactive subscribers.

Open rates per subscriber did show some growth — with unique opens up 8.4 percent year over year.

“The number of opens and clicks is growing, but at a considerably slower pace,” says Yes Lifecycle Marketing, noting that the data shows email engagement is not keeping up with email volume.

Mobile email marketing results

Yes Lifecycle Marketing’s data revealed mobile email conversion rates have caught up to desktop conversions, with both at an average of 3.3 percent for the year. It also claims email adoption on mobile may have hit its peak: “With mobile open[s] and clicks making up 53 percent of all email events over the last two years, email adoption on mobile has plateaued.”

According to the report, mobile email marketing events (open rates and clicks) surpassed desktop events at least five years ago. In 2017, 52.9 percent of events happened on mobile email versus 47.1 percent on desktop.

Orders on mobile represented 46 percent of all email-driven orders — a 33 percent increase year over year. Meanwhile, email orders happening on desktops dropped 18 percent (14 percent drop on tablets).

Share of email-driven orders
Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

As email-driven orders rise on mobile, the report says the average order value (AOV) for mobile orders remains 40 percent less than for desktop orders, with AOV on mobile at $58 compared to desktop’s $96 AOV. According to Yes Lifecycle Marketing, this mobile-to-desktop AOV ratio has not changed during the past three years.

Responsive design impact on email marketing

The report examined how responsive design — the design format that automatically adapts an email to the screen size — impacts email marketing performance. It found brands that always send responsive design email messaging perform better on both desktop and mobile. For the brands that only used responsive design, their CTO (click-to-open) rate for desktop emails was 13.1 percent and 13.2 percent for mobile. Brands that failed to use responsive design saw only a 9.7 percent CTO rate for both desktop emails and mobile emails.

“Marketers who are yet to optimize their messages only capture 75 percent of the engagement generated by their responsive counterparts, thus missing out on significant opportunity for conversion,” claims Yes Lifecycle Marketing.

Even more interesting, the brands that were inconsistent with their use of responsive design, using it only some of the time, performed the worst when looking at combined numbers for desktop and mobile open rates.

According to the data, brands that always use responsive design earned a 15 percent open rate (for desktop and mobile combined), and brands that never used responsive design earned a 14.9 percent open rate; but brands that were inconsistent with their use earned a 13.5 percent open rate.

The report says only 24.2 percent of the brands it evaluated used responsive design all of the time. The biggest share of marketers, 60.9 percent, was the group that uses responsive design some of the time. Only 14.8 percent of the brands never used responsive design.

Email subject lines

Yes Lifecycle Marketing took a deep dive into subject lines, breaking down performance analytics based on the offers listed in the subject line of an email. It found 23 percent of all the emails analyzed in 2017 included an offer in the subject line, with more than half (54 percent) using a “% off” message.

Loyalty offers generated the highest scores across the board for open rates, unique click rates, CTOs and conversion rates — which adds up since they are going to a select audience that already has a relationship with the brand. The “$ Off” offers were a close second for conversion rates, scoring 10.2 percent compared to the loyalty incentive-driven offer email’s 10.8 percent conversion rate.

Success rates based on email subject line offer types
Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

According to the data, subject lines that include offers — “Free Shipping” or “$ Off” — generate four times the conversion rate of emails that do not have subject lines around offers, but they earn much less engagement, with only a 2 percent conversion rate.

“The true bar for both engagement and conversion is set by standard emails that do not contain any offers in the subject line,” writes Yes Lifecycle Marketing. “Those emails drive considerably higher engagement than messages with offers, in fact, they generate 35 percent high[er] open rate, 50 percent higher CTO, and double the unique click rate.”

Triggered email campaigns

Yes Lifecycle Marketing says triggered campaigns executed during Q4 2017 earned more than double the open rate, more than triple the number of unique click rates and nearly double the CTOs compared to standard emails. Unfortunately, only 2.3 percent of the emails it evaluated were part of a trigger campaign — a number that remained the same throughout all four quarters of the year.

“Every type of trigger drives a better open, unique click and CTO rate than standard non-triggered message,” writes Yes Lifecycle Marketing, “Even reactivation emails, which are sent exclusively to subscribers who have not engaged with a brand for months (and even years), rival the performance of standard messages in terms of CTO and conversion rate.”

Performance of standard versus triggered emails
Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

The report looked at the different types of trigger campaign messaging and found “Welcome” messages generated the best open rate at 29 percent compared to the 13.4 percent open rate for standard emails. Other trigger email types like “Activation,” “Anniversary” and “Birthday” emails earned a 17 percent open rate.

For conversion rates, the best-performing trigger email campaign was an “Anniversary” email which generated an 8.5 percent conversion rate compared to a standard email’s 4.8 percent conversion rate.

Performance analytics for trigger email campaigns
Email marketing report: Email volume was up 18% in 2017

Along with a number of email marketing benchmarks, the report also included case studies around campaigns that performed well to highlight successful email marketing campaigns. Throughout the report, Yes Lifecycle Marketing listed a number of ways brands could be taking advantage of their email marketing, outlining “prep” work and goals for Q4 2018.

The full report can be downloaded here: Email Benchmark Report: A Marketer’s Guide to 2018.

About The Author

Amy Gesenhues is Third Door Media’s General Assignment Reporter, covering the latest news and updates for Marketing Land and Search Engine Land. From 2009 to 2012, she was an award-winning syndicated columnist for a number of daily newspapers from New York to Texas. With more than ten years of marketing management experience, she has contributed to a variety of traditional and online publications, including,, and Sales and Marketing Management Magazine. Read more of Amy’s articles.

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