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9 New Insights From the 2014 Science of Email Report

emailsciThe marketing industry is changing -- not just from traditional to inbound, but also from gut-feeling to data-driven decision-making. As that transition takes place, we can start to see the differences between people's perceptions -- even as they relate to their own behavior -- and reality.

Published this week, the 2014 Science of Email Report details data from a survey of 1,000+ English-speaking email users, 150,000+ email campaigns sent by marketers, more than 6.4 million individual one-to-one email exchanges, and 300+ million opened marketing emails. The results reveal many insights and trends that will guide marketers, sales reps, and other professionals to craft and optimize effective email campaigns.

What does the data show? Download the full report here, and see some insights below.

Email recipients say they prefer image-based emails, but data says otherwise.

When surveyed, two thirds of email recipients say they prefer image-based emails over text-focused emails. But when it comes to email response in the form of clickthrough rates, this metric actually declines with the number or size of images in an email.

Email filters have become more popular as a means of ignoring unwanted messages.

54% of survey respondents said they use filters to automatically sort email, 25% said they use Gmail's Priority Inbox feature, and more than 50% said they use a separate "spam" email address to divert commercial emails. Overall, these various methods of ignoring unwanted messages have become quite popular. In this recent survey, the most common responses to unwanted email were to do a combination of: delete (68% respondents), unsubscribe (58%), and mark as spam (49%).

Use of filtering methods are common among all demographics, but especially younger recipients.

49% of survey respondents over 60 years old use filters to automatically sort email, while 63% of respondents 18-29 years old did the same. Younger demographics are certainly using filtering methods more frequently, but older demographics, too, are adopting technologies to ignore marketing messages.

Smartphone usage is more common among younger demographics, while tablet usage is less common among them.

More than 70% of 18-44 year olds report using their phone to read email, compared to approximately 50% of 45-60 year olds and approximately 30% of those older than 60. Meanwhile, tablet usage is lowest among 18-29 year olds, perhaps because older users may prefer the large screens of tablets for mobile reading.

Younger recipients say they prefer HTML formatted emails.

More than 75% of users 18-44 said they preferred HTML-formatted emails, while users over 45 years old were split almost 50/50 on preferring HTML vs. plain text. Perhaps this relates to the increase in usage of email clients that automatically load images, including Gmail and iPhones, vs. previously more popular email clients like Outlook that may have trouble properly displaying emails with images.

Contra-competitive timing can yield higher email CTRs -- in other words, send email when others aren't.

One of the most popular questions about optimizing email effectiveness is: What day of the week is best for sending marketing emails?

While there is no specific time that will work for every business in every industry, a common trend emerges in the analysis on this topic: The best time to send marketing emails is when other businesses are not. Most people get a lot of email during the week, which means more messages to compete with and more filtering and ignoring of messages. Try sending email at an unusual time to get more attention.

One-to-many emails are more likely to be opened on mobile than one-to-one emails.

The behaviors around email consumption can vary for mass marketing vs. individual email communications, including behaviors around mobile usage. 47% of one-to-many emails are opened on a non-desktop device, while only 37% of one-to-one emails are opened on a non-desktop device.

Perhaps this is due to timing of marketing emails (if many are sent in the morning before a recipient gets to a computer) or due to differences in how quickly recipients consume more personal email communications.

iPhones account for more than half of mobile email opens.

As marketers adapt to increasing mobile email consumption, the specific device may play a role in formats and approaches that work best. iPhones account for over half of mobile email clients, with iPad and Android rounding out the majority of the remaining market share.

Emails that are short and sweet yield better results.

Both email body length and subject line length have a negative correlation with email clickthrough rate, supporting the takeaway to get to the point quickly and concisely in your emails for higher response rates.

Download the full report here to get more insights into email attitudes and behaviors.

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