What to do with Benchmarking Data

Posted by Heather Steffonich 

In the email industry, new statistics and benchmarks are always being analyzed and published. This continual influx of information makes it difficult to know which numbers are relevant and what the main takeaway is from all that information. That is why I love sending over Return Path’s The Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability report whenever I am working with customers or prospects. This report offers up to date information on deliverability metrics based on industry, quickly allowing marketers to understand which information is most relevant to their individual business. So whether you are selling pet products, sending out a daily deal, or offering a dating service, Return Path has benchmarking statistics specifically for you!

Now that you have access to this data, take the following steps to make data-driven changes to optimize your email program.

Identify what is this data telling you
Before deciding what to do with all this industry-specific data pulled from The Hidden Metrics of Email Deliverability report, it is important to understand what these metrics are and why they are important to look at for your business. For example, Return Path looks at read rate which is the number of emails physically marked as “read”. This might not be a metric you are currently tracking, but this is an important metric to look at because it accounts for all email views regardless of image rendering.

If you are unsure of what any of the other metrics are or how they are calculated, Return Path’s Help Center is a great resource to find those answers.

Determine the data story
All data tells a story. However, it can be overwhelming with large amounts of data to decipher what the story is and why it is important to you. By looking at an important deliverability metric like complaints for your specific industry, you will be able to see how complaints are trending over time and compare that value to your company’s own average rate (for more information on complaints, download the Marketer’s Guide to Subscriber Complaints):

In the apparel & accessories industry, complaints drastically decreased from Q1 to Q4—however, complaint rates overall increased from 2017 to 2018. Is your company seeing a similar trend? If so, then you are in line with the industry? If your company was seeing more of an increase in complaints, or higher than 0.24 percent overall for the year, complaints should be noted as a deliverability issue you would want to solve. Complaint issues can lead to inbox placement issues, so it is important to get them as low as possible to achieve maximum deliverability.

What to do with this data
By using industry-specific benchmarking numbers, you can see if you are performing in line with your peers and competitors. Referencing the example above, if you are above the benchmark for complaints, it is a strong indicator that you might need to tweak your email program to better align with industry standards in order to continue to reach your subscribers.

The great thing about the metrics from the report is that they can be found and measured within Return Path’s Product Suite, providing you with the capability to see where you fall in comparison with industry standards.

If you are looking at measuring complaints, you can either look at Certification (Certified senders only) or the Return Path Platform. In the Return Path Platform, you can see your IP addresses complaint rate for up to 90 days, which will give you a great picture of where you stand against the benchmarked number overall or for your industry.

If you are in line with the industry benchmarks, then pat yourself on the back and keep doing what you are doing. If you are not in line with the industry benchmarks (either above or below depending on the metric) then this is a great opportunity to make some changes to your email program. I find that data like this is very compelling to bring to upper management when needing to make a change. These benchmarks paired with Return Path data or your email service provider’s (ESP) data help to tell the story to management of necessary changes.

What types of changes need to be made
The metric you are concerned with will ultimately dictate what types of changes you have the opportunity to make. Return Path’s Help Center is a great resource to find articles providing recommendations. In addition, make sure to check out  Return Path’s free content and tools which will lead you to many research, guides, and any upcoming or past webinars.

However, if you are still struggling to find out how best to solve your email benchmarking numbers, reach out to your Return Path service team member, as they are the experts in all matters deliverability. As a former service team member, these are the types of “issues” that our team loves working on, and more importantly, loves seeing improvement on.

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About Heather Steffonich

As a Technical Account Manager at Return Path, Heather works with many customers to optimize their email programs. Heather enjoys playing "technical detective" by digging into to customer's accounts and troubleshooting deliverability issues. When not at work, you can catch Heather teaching tap, jazz, and ballet to students of all ages. Connect with her at: https://www.linkedin.com/in/heathersack

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