Email Benchmark 2021: despite the challenges email marketing is still growing

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By Chantal Tol

The results of the E-mail Benchmark 2021 have been published. The past year was (very) different from usual. We all had to adapt a lot in a short time. But the question is: did COVID-19 have an impact on e-mail marketing? What were the most remarkable developments of the past year? In this blog we share the most important results from the National Email Benchmark 2021.

The impact of COVID-19 on email marketing

When asked whether COVID-19 has had an impact on the email marketing budget, more than half happily answered 'no'. 

Influence corona on email marketing budget

33% of the companies indicate that they have even increased their budget. 52% confirm that their budget has remained the same. Almost half of the companies have also sent more mailings in the past year. From this we can conclude that e-mail marketing is still becoming more important. 

Email marketing is growing

Corona, however, has had an impact on the way companies use e-mail marketing. Today, 86% of companies have an email marketing strategy. They measure the success of an email by its click rate (82%) and open rate (78%).

We welcome the increasing trend that can be seen in personalisation and segmentation. Companies are using e-mail marketing more and more effectively. We advise and encourage our clients to use this in their strategy. This is so important for the success of e-mail campaigns. The average click-through rates are increasing. No less than 85% of the surveyed companies indicate that they apply segmentation

Personalisation and segmentation - e-mail benchmark 2021

What kind of content is sent? Mainly (66%) content is sent using A/B testing. This way you use content that works best for your target group. In addition, a small group (15%) uses predictive content. This is personalised content based on history, similar customers and trends. Only 9% make use of interactive content. 

E-mail marketing is again the most important channel

This year, e-mail marketing again tops the list as the most important channel, with a whopping 81%. Website comes second with 70% and SEO with 38%. Last year, social media was still in third place. From this we can conclude that there is a growing focus on organic traffic.

Main channels in 2021

What is the main challenge in 2021?

Marketing automation is again the most important challenge for companies in 2021. Personalisation and segmentation have risen to a nice second and third place. If these three challenges are tackled well, they form a good basis for a good e-mail marketing strategy. 

3 key challenges in 2021

The open rate has increased

Every year we see the Open Rates rise. This year too, they have increased. The average open rate this year was 34.15%. This is 5% higher than last year! This means that marketers are getting smarter about getting their target audience to open their emails. They send e-mails with relevant and interesting content, keep customers informed about developments and share important information. This is simply the reason why e-mails are opened faster. 

Open rate per quarter - e-mail benchmark 2021

The open rate has also increased on mobile devices. It is therefore important that your email campaigns are also optimised for mobile devices. 

Open rate per quarter per device

Open rate B2B VS. B2C

The open rate differs per sector: B2B vs B2c. 

The average Open Rate for companies in the B2B sector this year was 34.27%. This is a small decrease compared to last year, when the OR was 37.18. The decrease for B2C is larger. B2Cscored an OR of 32.49% in 2020, down from 40.13% in 2019.

In the graph below, you can see that B2B emails are more often opened on a desktop. B2C has a higher mobile open rate. 

Open rate per sector b2b and b2c per quarter

Average Click Through Rate has fallen

As in previous years, we also saw a slight decrease in CTRs last year. The average this year was 4.41%. In the first half of the year, the Click Through Rates were higher than in the second half. 

Click Through rate per quarter

It is also striking that the CTRs for B2B are higher than for B2C. Both on mobile and desktop. 

CTR per sector per device

Click To Open Rate 

With the CTO you can measure the effectiveness of your content. To calculate the CTO, we divide the number of unique clicks by the number of confirmed unique opened emails. Last year a record of 13,27% was set. This year it has dropped slightly to an average of 12.11%.

CTO per sector per device

Here again, B2B scores higher than B2C. 

CTO by sector and device

The most popular shipping days 

There is no one-size-fits-all formula for the best shipping moment. Since working from home has become more flexible, the best day varies a lot per individual. Mobile and desktop behaviour has also changed. E-mail is opened much more often on mobile. We'll give you a hint, but to find out what the best day is for your target group, it's best to test. 

Most popular mailing day - e-mail benchmark 2021

Thursday is, as in previous years, a popular day. However, this does not mean that it is the most successful day. It does not necessarily mean that you will have the highest open rate, CTR or CTO on this day.

The most popular shipping days also differ by sector. For instance, weekdays are popular for B2B and weekends are not popular at all. While in B2C, some e-mails are still sent at the weekend.

Most popular shipping days by sector

These days deliver a high Open Rate and Click Rate

The highest open rates are distributed fairly evenly throughout the week. This will also have to do with the flexible working days since working from home. In contrast to the most popular sending day (Thursday), Tuesdays yield the most open rates. Thursday even comes in third. 

Average open rate per day

As for the CTR ...

Tuesdays also deliver the highest CTR, but the difference is really small compared to the other days.

Best day for highest CTR

And the CTO...

The highest CTO is on average on Sunday with 13.11%. Monday is the lowest with 11.49%. The week has just started, so people are probably busy with meetings and planning. Therefore, it is on this day that you make the worst contact.

What is the best time to ship?

Not only the sending day is important for a good performance of your e-mail, but also the time of day can make a difference. Of course, here again it is not possible to mention one exact time. We recommend testing actively at every hour of the day. This will increase your chances of hitting the bull's-eye and finding the perfect time to send emails. Based on the results of the research, there is a guideline. They have taken the averages per time of day and grouped these figures by industry and sector.

What are popular broadcast times?

The graph shows how many e-mails are sent per hour. Many e-mails are sent between 07:00 and 12:00 and between 15:00 and 17:00. 

Shipping volume per hour

Best B2B shipping time: The most popular time to ship is 10:00 am. The next peaks are at 12:00 and 16:00. 

Best shipping time for B2C: For B2C, the peak already starts at 06:00. It continues until 14:00. From 15:00 to 19:00 there is a second peak. Many e-mails are therefore sent in the morning and at the end of the day. 11:00 am is the most preferred time. 

Open Rate and Shipping Time

Now we know which days and times we prefer to send emails, but now the question is: when do recipients open their emails most often? Last year, 3 pm had the highest open rate. Last year, this was a lot later, namely: 22:00

Average open rate per hour

What does this look like per sector?

But what are the differences per sector? The highest Open Rate for B2B is very early in the morning, namely at 05:00 already. This is earlier than in B2C. Perhaps, since corona, people in B2B are focusing on their e-mails earlier. Last year, the peak was around 10 pm. B2C has a reasonable open rate spread over the day, with peaks at 16:00 and 22:00. 

Open rate per hour per sector

Click Through Rate and Shipping Time

At what time do you have the best chance of people clicking through on your e-mails? The research showed that two times score well: 6:00 and 8:00.

This is a big difference compared to last year, when 15:00 scored very high. On average for all markets, between 21:00 and 22:oo you get a low CTR. 

Average CTR per hour

What does this look like per sector?

There are many differences by sector. B2B has a strong tendency towards the end of the day, such as at 22:00. B2C, on the other hand, performs better in the first half of the day. The preference is for 06:00 and 08:00 hours. 

Click through rate per hour per sector

The best CTO per shipping time

The best click to open rate for all sectors is 3:00 am. This is followed by 6:00 am and 8:00 am. Why 03:00 is a popular time is not really explained. Perhaps many people wake up around that time and have trouble falling back asleep, or they have trouble going offline. 

What does this look like per sector?

For B2C, 3:00 am is also the most popular. Together with 06:00 and 08:00. So the early morning is especially popular. For B2B, the evening is more popular, namely 22:oo. 

Transactional emails

Transactional emails are emails sent as a result of a certain action by a user. For example, interaction with your website, such as a registration. These emails are very important in an email marketing strategy. 

These are the most important figures regarding transactional emails:

Figures transactional emails - email benchmark 2021

Conclusion: despite everything, e-mail marketing has grown again

Corona turned everyone's world upside down. Despite this, e-mail marketing has continued to grow steadily over the past year. It is now even a core part of the strategy for marketing teams. 

What trend do we expect in the coming year?

One of the fastest growing trends is data and personalisation. We therefore expect it to grow further this year. Email marketing is being used more and more. Due to increased competition, it is now even more important to stand out and attract attention. Personalisation, segmentation and targeted marketing are therefore no longer a luxury, but a necessity. Push the right buttons and entice your target group to engage and stay loyal!

What are the most important results?

To measure the success of e-mail marketing in this benchmark, OR, CTR and CTO have been used. These have been zoomed in per sector. The most important results that came out of this are: the average OR of 34,15%. This is a nice increase compared to last year (30,29%). The average CTR of 4,41% is only a small increase compared to last year (4,38%). The CTO is the only figure that is down 12,11% compared to last year's benchmark 13,27%. 

Do you want to know more about e-mail marketing or do you need help with your e-mail marketing strategy?

Then please contact with us!

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Chantal Tol
Chantal Tol

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Online Marketing Consultant

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