Quick Query: MailChimp CEO on Email Strategy

Many ecommerce merchants rely on email newsletters and email marketing to drive sales, but the success of those email campaigns varies. There are frequently issues related to open rates, click-through rates and even deliverability of the email itself. To offer insight and suggestions on these issues, we spoke with Ben Chestnut, co-founder of MailChimp, an email marketing firm located in Atlanta with more than 60,000 clients.

PeC: Can you tell us the range of ecommerce open rates that you have observed over the past few months?

Ben Chestnut Chestnut: “If it’s their first campaign with MailChimp, we usually get around 50-60 percent open rates. Then as they get into some monthly sending, you’ll start to see that plateau around 20 percent, and after a few years, close to 10-15 percent.”

PeC: What about click-through rates for ecommerce merchants?

Chestnut: “Typically we see around a 5 percent click through rate. [Five percent of subscribers click through the newsletter to the merchant’s site.] If you go to MailChimp Charts, you can see updated typical open rates, click-through rates, bounces, unsubscribed, and new complaints all broken down by industries.”

PeC: What errors do you see ecommerce merchants making that affect open rates and click-through rates?

Chestnut: “Often, they’re initially sending to an old list, and that can generate quite a lot of bounce backs and spam complaints, which can hurt their reputation. Any email addresses older than a year need to be cleaned out prior to sending the first email.”

PeC: What about for merchants that have been sending email newsletters for years? Would you recommend that those merchants clean out email addresses that haven’t been opened?

Chestnut: “With open rates, you never know if they are actually opening or not because it’s not that accurate. You could be cleaning out people that are actually opening. You could do it by clicks if it’s really important to you, but there are a lot of people who just view your emails and never click. So, I guess I would not suggest those email addresses.”

PeC: Any strategies for livening up a tired list?

Chestnut: “Take a step back and look at what you’re sending. Are you sending too much? Are you not changing it up enough? You can single them out and try sending them some promotions. Look into giveaways, sending some good white papers, something useful.”

PeC: Could you explain third party certification programs and whether you think they can help deliverability?

Chestnut: “Third party certification is where you pay a fee based on how much email you send per year. If you become certified, it marks your emails as coming from a trusted sender, and a lot of spam filters will actually let those emails through. If you’re a legit email sender and you make money from emails, I think third party certification is worth looking into.”

PeC: If a sender does everything right, will a certification company get its emails through Internet service providers that it can’t otherwise get through?

Chestnut: “If they’re doing everything perfectly, they can get through. But, it’s not just getting by past spam filters; certification can allow images to be turned on by default and videos to be enabled.”

PeC: Anything else on your mind for ecommerce merchants as it relates to email?

Chestnut: “They need to run lots and lots of A/B [split] tests. Test two different subject lines, test delivery dates, what time of day it works best. They should do some kind of experimentation with every campaign they send.”

PEC Staff
PEC Staff
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