In our recently released report on "The State of Law Firm Email Marketing", we noted that, based on an analysis of nearly 7 million law firm emails over a two-year period, open rates had dropped from a mean of 27.94% in the second half of 2008 to a mean of 21.42% in the first half of 2010. Perhaps you're also seeing your own open rates dropping for your own email marketing campaigns? Cause for concern?
As per the report, there are technical and cultural reasons behind these declines, which (in most cases) should reassure a law firm email marketer experiencing declines that they are not due to a loss of client interest in the firm's email marketing communications. The two key issues at work are:
- Increased use of image blocking
- Inbox “overload”
Issue #1: Image Blocking: to track “opens,” emails contain a tiny invisible image. When an email is opened and images are enabled, that tiny image is displayed and an “open” is recorded by the server hosting the image. However, if “image blocking” is turned on when the email is opened, that tiny image won’t display and an “open” won’t be recorded (unless the recipient clicks to display images in the email). Thus, it follows that as image blocking has become more prevalent, open rates have declined. Which means that a decline in your open rates doesn’t necessarily signal a decline in the interest of your subscribers. Rather, to a great extent, it indicates that more of your subscribers have image blocking turned on by default in their email applications.
Issue #2: Information Overload: there is no question that email inboxes are becoming more crowded with messages (putting spam aside). Social networks use email to update their members about new activities by other members. The growth of e-commerce has increased the number of transactional email messages such as order confirmations. These trends have left subscribers with less time to read your emails, and contributed to a true decline in email opens. Nevertheless, the good news is that the subscribers who continue to open law firm emails remain engaged – as evidenced by the fact that conversion rates have remained fairly steady (see the full report at pages 10-12 for further discussion).
In the end, these two issues have only caused gradual declines. However, a sudden sharp decline in your open rates would be unusual, and would signal a problem (see the full report at page 8 for further discussion).
For further discussion of open rate trends in law firm email marketing, including discussions of "best practices" to optimize open rates, download the full report.