Email stats on the test stand: typefaces, message weights, mobile readiness & more

I already talked about why I don’t like many email marketing benchmarks and statistics: they too often turn out to be just easy pieces of PR without aiding anyone but the publisher. Marketers crave for quick wins, thus those stats fall on good soil. However, can they keep up against a reality check? I thought I’d check and discuss eight “facts” with you, on which I stumbled in the last weeks:
1. “The more links an email contains, the higher the click rate tends to be” (source):
clicks-number-of-links links-clickrates
When I looked at the number of links in my newsletter and the unique click rates, I wasn’t expecting to see any significant correlation. My emails contain so many links that an effect on response rates would – alone because of that – have been outside their sphere of influence. Mais au contraire, as the right figure suggests! Does it? Well, if you look more closely, there are other underlying factors: With the list growing steadily, more people got inactive and the response rates decreased over time. At the same time I shortened my emails a bit. If you remove the strong effect of time/list size on response rates, the partial correlation between click rates and url count gets insignificantly low. So ‘no’, I can’t really confirm these findings.

2. “In April, 33% of B2C brands used responsive or mobile aware design for their promotional emails” (source):
mobile-friendlinessmobile_ready mobile_not_ready
Ok 33% seemed a bit too optimistic to me. At least if it was meant to be a representative sample. From 1.147 recent emails in my inbox, only 13% rescaled in a smaller browser window (middle figure), the rest didn’t (right figure). The actual percentage of mobile aware or responsive emails might be a little bit higher, but I don’t think it’s a third.

3. “Arial and Georgia used to dominate the [typeface] landscape” (source):
popular_fonts popular-email-fonts
Georgia? Not in email. When I looked at the newsletters from 427 lists, Arial turned out to be the most popular typeface. It is used in 78% of all newsletters. Verdana and Helvetica follow with 29% and 11%. Georgia didn’t even make it onto the victory podium.

4. “We loosely recommend keeping loaded [email] weight below 800 KB” (source):
This “loose” suggestion lead me to another two questions: What is the average weight of an email with and without images? To get an answer, I looked at 1.147 recent newsletters. The raw mime parts and email headers weighted together about 30 kilobytes on median average. If you include the images in the HTML part, it’s around 380 Kilobyte. Half of all emails measured about 200 to 600 kilobytes, and a little more than a quarter weighted even more. Email overweight is commonly caused by images that are saved in oversized dimensions on the web server.

5. “59% of brands kept their subject lines short – fewer than 50 characters” (source):
subject-length subject_length
Nope. In my (older) sample of 87.601 emails, only 49.26% kept their subject line length below 50 characters. Not that this has any implications, but anyway.

6. “Less than 5% [of emails] used question marks [in the subject line]” (source):
question_mark question-mark
Yep, that’s true: 3.16% use question marks. Again, not that this implies anything useful…

7. “Most emails were 400 or more words” (source):
word_count wordcount-in-emails

I don’t know how they came up with this chart. However, I cannot verify the outcome. In my sample, only 36.7% counted 400 or more words.

8. “Most [emails] contained five or more images” (source):
image_count image-count
This is certainly true: Nearly every commercial email (92%) contains more than four images…

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