By Gavin Dunlop, CEO, Actnet

JOHANNESBURG – October 23, 2014 – E-mail marketing is one of the most effective tactics for driving sales. If you’re involved in marketing, you’d better be using e-mail to send promotional messages to your customers. It doesn’t matter how old they are, consumers overwhelmingly prefer to receive marketing via e-mail and there’s no channel in a close second place. According to a 2012 Channel Preference Survey by ExactTarget, 77 percent of consumers prefer to receive permission-based marketing communications through e-mail – a number that dwarfs all other options in the survey. Direct mail was second at nine percent and text messaging third at five percent.

ExactTarget ran a similar survey back in 2008. E-mail was also the preferred channel then, but it’s even more popular now; the current 77 percent is better than the 72 percent who chose e-mail in 2008. So, it’s safe to say this trend is on the up.

This is the Holy Grail for companies. Why? Because quality communication with your prospects and customers can get you closer to those who are actually looking forward to your message.

E-mail marketers often ask what’s the average open rate for e-mail marketing campaigns? What kind of click rates are other people in the industry getting? How many bounces are normal? How many spam complaints are too many? They’re looking for statistics to compare subscriber engagement for open, clickthrough and delivery rates, ideally within their sector. And these are also the kinds of questions you should be asking, because learning the answers will help you improve your eMarketing efforts.

Despite the overwhelmingly positive attitude toward e-mail marketing, there are some challenges for e-mail marketers. According to digital marketing optimisation company, Smart Insights, across all industries the average results for UK SME e-mail marketing campaigns in 2014 were:

  • Open rate: 22.87 percent
  • Click-through rate: 3.26 percent
  • Unsubscription rate: 0.53 percent
  • Click-to-open rate: 14.25 percent
  • Unsubscribe-to-open rate: 2.29 percent

A study by Benchmark released in 2012 noted the broad performance statistics on email in South Africa. The average metrics across all senders and regions were:

  • Open rate: 12.75 percent
  • Click through rate: 2.15 percent

Although most e-mail marketers will tell you that a good open rate is largely determined by the quality of the data that the campaign is being sent to, there is clearly some room for improvement.

eMarketing top tips

In order to maximise your chances of success, here are our top tips for improving your stats:

  1. When it comes to subject lines, boring works best. When you write your subject line, it is best to tell what’s inside, rather than sell what’s inside.
  2. If you want people to open your e-mails, you have to get past their spam filters first. Avoid using spammy keywords and phrases, and don’t use ALL CAPS or too many exclamation points!!! The best way to avoid spam filters is to learn how they work.
  3. Too many hard bounces are a sign of a stale list. People change e-mail addresses every few months. Make sure you keep in touch with your subscribers regularly (at least once a quarter), so they can stay on your list.
  4. Soft bounces usually mean the recipient is “temporarily unavailable.” Maybe they’re on vacation, or their mailbox is full. You can keep those e-mails and try them again later.
  5. Hard bounces mean an e-mail address failed. Maybe it no longer exists, or maybe someone made a typo when they subscribed to a list. But hard bounces might also be spam filter —if you see an abnormally high number of bounces after a campaign, read your bounceback records for any messages or clues from spam filters.
  6. Make sure your “From” and “Subject” lines contain your company name, so your subscribers will instantly recognise you. Abuse complaints happen when recipients click the “This is spam” button in their e-mail programs. That usually means they don’t remember you.
  7. Never use e-mails to only promote and sell, use this channel to deliver relevant content to your audience. Similarly, if you don’t have anything valuable to say then don’t say anything at all. It is better to keep your reputation in tact than be seen as a spammer.
  8. Get your subscribers to “opt in”. Last year, changes were proposed to the Electronic Communications and Transactions Act, meaning that business owners must educate themselves on what is allowed and what is not when it comes to e-mail marketing in South Africa. The new amendment carries fines of up to
    R 1,000,000 or 12 months imprisonment. The Act states that you are permitted to send e-mail communication to subscribers who have “opted-in” first. Previously, companies were permitted to send an e-mail to a person until they “Unsubscribe” and then communication must cease. Even though you may have had thousands of loyal subscribers receiving your e-mails, you will have to get them to “opt-in”.
  9. Harness transpromotional power.

The power of transpromo

Transpromo is a compound expression formed from the words “transaction” and “promotional”. By adding relevant messages, companies can piggyback promotion or even advertising onto existing transaction-related documents, such as statements, invoices, or bills. These documents are expected and also receive more attention than any other form of communication, they therefore result in higher click through rates than traditional email marketing. More than 95 percent of transaction documents are opened and read each month – far more than any other type of direct marketing campaign. A 2004 Research Study by Group 1 Software, Inc., also showed that the average customer invests between one and three minutes for statement review.

In addition, by using a sophisticated data mining technology and intelligence promotional offers can be customised and targeted customers based on their transactional data. This significantly increases the relevance of your marketing to customers. Statement-based marketing is effective because it enables targeted promotions to be automatically generated by the transactional data within the document itself; it can be personalised according to customer demographics, business drivers and marketing criteria.

About Actnet Print Concepts

Actnet is a privately owned company established in 1987. Its vision is to ensure that the vital business documents of both SMEs and enterprises are captured, archived, preserved and delivered to their customers. The company has developed a proprietary Electronic Distribution Delivery and Payment system (EDD) that is unmatched in the South African environment. The company also specialised in enterprise output management, centralised print management, document management, document output and data enhancement.


Actnet: Janine Buckley, +27 (0)11 2676444,,

icomm: Debbie Sielemann, +27 (0) 82 414 4633,,