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Open Rate? Render Rate?

The EEC is pushing the term render rate to replace the term open rate. In addition to changing the name the EEC is attempting to standardize how the render rate is calculated. Loren McDonald, co-chair of the EEC Measurement Accuracy Roundtable posted his views on the discussion today. He presents 3 reasons why we should care about using render rate.

  • Inaccurate: The open rate has become extremely inaccurate because disabled images, use of preview panes and HTML-unfriendly mobile devices lead to an underreporting of the true number of opens. Fellow eec Roundtable member Morgan Stewart has done analysis across several ExactTarget clients and estimates a typical underreporting of from 5% to 35%. Meaning a measured 30% open rate is actually from 31.5% to 40.5%.
  • Inconsistent: It’s inconsistent, because different email service providers and marketing software providers calculate and report it differently. Among other things, some providers incorporate a click on a text message or HTML email where the tracking image has not loaded in their open rate calculations, and many others don’t.
  • Misused: It’s being used to assess how well a message performed. The open rate, even putting aside its inaccuracies, does not tell you how well an email performed. It does tell you how well the combination of your “from” name, subject line, brand reputation and potentially preview-pane copy/images motivated recipients to open their email.

As he says, irrefutable. The problem is, his 3 points don’t actually tell me why I should care. What is his end goal in trying to change the term and define a standard? What value is gained by changing the term and forcing organizations to calculate the render rate the exact same way? Does this tell a marketer anything more than A/B testing will? Does it more accurately reflect the effectiveness of a campaign than the dollars per campaign? Does it improve conversations and decrease confusion in the real world?
More power to the EEC for trying to herd this particular group of cats. I just wish I had a better understanding of why they thought this was so important.

9 comments

  1. Erik James says

    Great post … you’re bang on! 🙂
    The key is not to look at open rates as actual absolute numbers. Knowing an open rate is 27% isn’t very useful because it doesn’t really tell you how many people “read” your email.
    However, how open rates change from one email you send out to another tells you a great deal.
    As long as you always measure and calculate the open rate in the same way, then there’s a good chance that changes in the open rate reflect real changes in something you’re doing with your email marketing.

  2. John says

    Second that. Open rates are useful only as a measure of change. Each data point out of context is meaningless. We shouldn’t impute meaning to something just because it can be measured. Render rates as so far defined will be no more meaningful, and probably even more distracting from useful metrics.

  3. steve says

    The “real” direct marketers I hear talking seem to obsess over quality of the copy, the demographics of the recipients, conversion rates and, above all, return on investment.
    The infatuation email marketers have with open rates might just be because it’s an easy to measure, if fairly useless, metric. Or maybe it’s just to distract from all the other ways you might measure the quality or success of a marketing campaign?

  4. Nazzareno Gorni says

    Opens is not such a bad metric. But it’s not the best metric to evaluate a campaign.
    Opens are still a good measure to evaluate the quality of the sender name and the subject. It may be used also to calculate people who opens with images (render) and people who don’t.
    Nothing more I think!

  5. Loren McDonald says

    Laura,
    Well apparently I failed at addressing the “why you should care” – in the blog post.
    The name of the EEC Roundtable is “Measurement Accuracy.” This Roundtable evolved out of the original Email Measurement Accuracy Coalition (EMAC) formed by David Daniels. The fundamental purpose of the EMAC and now EEC MA Roundtable is to:
    – Standardize email metrics across vendors and marketers
    – And to ensure that the metrics in fact accurately measure what they are supposed to.
    The open rate fails miserably on both counts.
    Defining and standardizing this metric is the EEC’s objective. Simple. Period.
    If having a metric that is inaccurate and inconsistent doesn’t bother you – then nothing the EEC does or say will make you care. In the future we will also be tackling standardization of other email metrics….so stay tuned for more herding of cats.
    I understand why many people don’t care about the “open rate” – my personal feelings about the value (or lack) of the open rate are widely documented. But this initiative and our mission are not about the value of the open rate – just its accuracy and consistency.
    Once we establish that foundation, my personal hope is that then we can move the conversation to one of a more strategic nature, e.g., measuring the actual business value of email, not a simple process metric such as opens.
    Loren McDonald
    Silverpop/EEC Measurement Accuracy Roundtable Co-Chair

  6. laura says

    Hi, Loren, thanks for commenting.
    I guess I don’t understand what value there is in having a standard metric for “email opened” or “email rendered.” It doesn’t actually tell you anything about an email campaign that isn’t better measured by “clicks” or “conversions” or “ROI.” Having an industry standard for a metric doesn’t change the fact that the metric is fairly meaningless.
    My other point is that I don’t think you need to define “render rate” in order to move on to conversations of a more strategic nature. In fact, in my own consulting we rarely talk about open/render rate, instead with my clients I focus on the business value of email as measured by normal business metrics.
    You can move the conversation on by simply … moving the conversation on.

  7. Loren McDonald says

    Laura,
    I hear you. Personally, I agree 100% with you.
    Last April I wrote a column – “Why The Open Rate Must Die” – http://www.mediapost.com/publications/index.cfm?fa=Articles.showArticle&art_aid=81309 – that articulated much of the same sentiment as your comments.
    The problem is, we are still in the minority. Hundreds of thousands of marketers still worship the open rate as if it were a truly meaningful email metric. Every ESP also has the open rate as a standard part of their reporting. And so the EEC’s efforts are to at least have a standard and consistent metric for those that find value in it for their business.
    You and many others can logically argue that perhaps the EEC’s efforts would be better spent on convincing marketers to focus on LCV, revenue and other business metrics. Sign me up for that Roundtable yesterday!
    All I can say is that the name of the Roundtable I co-chair is “Measurement Accuracy” – not the “Coalition for More Strategic Use of Email Metrics.” Until that Roundtable is launched, our mission is to lobby the industry to use standardized and accurate measures – the open rate is just one of many that we will address.
    Can we count on you joining the Roundtable? We seek passionate people.
    Thanks,
    Loren
    A

  8. VOXmail says

    Metriche “quasi” standard: Open Rate e Render Rate….
    L’industria dell’Email Marketing si è accorta di quanto l’Open Rate (Tasso di Apertura) sia poco compreso e interpretato differentemente dagli stessi operatori del settore, così qualche settimana fa il Measurement Accuracy Roundtable ha proposto alc…

  9. Stefano Bagnara says

    If you care of Brand and your logo/design is an integral part of your brand then the RenderRate can tell you much more than any other measure. It is hard to measure brand improvements with ROI, Conversions, Clicks, so at least tell me consistently how many times my logo was rendered.
    Why do you think people care about how many readers buy a given newspaper? ROI, clicks and conversions are often not measurable in that case, so the number of people buying the newspaper is useful.
    Furthermore you talk about clicks as a measure you care: why do you care of clicks more than render? Do clicks give you ROI? If you can’t measure a direct ROI for your campaign then every other metric is a good tool. OpenRate is good, too, but there are so many marketers around that don’t understand what it technically means.
    Many marketers simply create theories starting from the name and they spread their falso theories to their boss/clients. Let’s give them a more complicate term to build theories upon: maybe they’ll take care to google for “render” before spreading fud.

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