Q3 2020 was an interesting quarter. Ecommerce was, and still is, feeling the Covid-19 sales and traffic bump, and the world came to realize this is no longer a phase but rather a reality for the foreseeable future. This reality significantly contributed to the increased chatter across the ecommerce industry on planning for, and starting, holiday promotions earlier than ever—impacting how ecommerce businesses approached their marketing programs in Q3.
With the steady consumer reliance on ecommerce and the increased talk of planning and ramping up for the holiday season, how did email, SMS and push message marketing perform in the quarter prior to the biggest online shopping period of the year?
Like with our previous reports, most notably our recent Q2 stats and COVID performance reports, we analyzed email send data for over 3 billion Q3 emails sent from the Omnisend marketing platform, further breaking these messages down by scheduled promotional messages (campaigns), automated lifecycle emails, and transactional messages.
We also looked at more than 9 million SMS and push marketing messages sent through the Omnisend platform. This data included sends, views, clicks, and conversions from July 1st through September 30th for both 2019 and 2020. Here are the results.
Email Marketing Performance
Email Open Rates:
Overall, email open rates increased year-over-year for both promotional campaigns and automated messages during the second quarter. Promotional campaigns (traditional, one-off scheduled messages) registered an overall open rate of 10.18%* in Q3 2020, a 22.12% lift compared to the same period in 2019.
This increased performance is not entirely surprising. Similar to what we saw in the COVID-19 email marketing metric report, as consumers increased their online shopping they turned to trusted marketing channels like email, as a source of product discovery and awareness.
The increase in open rates for lifecycle automated messages carried over from Q2 into Q3. The open rate for automated messages as a whole was 34.08%—a 10% YoY increase and a 12% lift over Q2 2020.
Comparing open rates of automated messages to those of scheduled promotional messages this quarter, automated messages saw a lift of 234.7%—a larger increase from the 178% lift seen in Q2. There is no doubt that timely and relevant emails matter to consumers.
The best performing automated message open rate belongs to post-purchase emails at 38.23%. These emails are designed to engage and nurture customers, turning them into repeat buyers. The dramatic jump from Q2 (24.58% open rate) shows that leading up to the holidays, customers are finding value in staying engaged with brands they trust. Ecommerce businesses should not take this lightly.
Browse and product abandonment messages, like in Q2, both remain in a top-three position. Automated messages that are sent based on shopping intent continue to reinforce the notion that sending relevant messages to the right person at the right time can increase email marketing sales.
These abandonment messages should be viewed as must-haves for ecommerce businesses during the holiday season.
Type of Automation
Lift Over Campaigns
* List management and hygiene, number of unengaged contacts, send cadence, and the use of Booster sends (remails) on a per-client basis impacts overall promotional campaign open rates—often resulting in lower overall numbers. For instance, it is common for remailed messages, because they specifically target non-openers, to receive roughly half of the open rate as the initial send—therefore reducing the overall open rate.
Email Click Rates:
Click rates during Q3 varied based on the lens through which you view them. The average click rate for promotional campaigns was 12.57%, representing a slight decrease of 11% from Q2 and 18.77% YoY. However, in 2019, there was a slight but steady decrease in click rates from July through September. In 2020, September reversed that trend and saw a slight increase in click rates, which may be an indication that consumers turned to email around key shopping periods, such as for ‘back to school’ shopping, more so this year than previously.
Automated messages generated a very strong 19.33% overall click rate this quarter, although this was a 6.5% decrease from the same period in 2019 and a 9% decrease from the second quarter of this year. Looking deeper into the numbers, lapsed-purchase messaging, while still a strong sales performer, saw the largest and most significant drop in both open and click rates, impacting the overall number. This probably shouldn’t be too surprising considering these messages target customers who have made a conscious decision to stop buying from you.
When comparing click rates of automated versus scheduled promotional messages, automated messages saw a 53.73% lift over those campaigns, with birthday, welcome, and cart abandonment emails leading the way—the same three messages that held the top spots last quarter.
Type of Automation
Lift Over Campaigns
All in all, a slight decrease in click rates shouldn’t be too alarming for online businesses. At the end of the day, automated messages still perform extremely well, and they are engaging subscribers enough to generate clicks. If anything, it points to the fact that engaging subscribers by utilizing other channels to complement email is a winning strategy.
Email Conversion Rates:
Like all channels, email marketing ultimately comes down to sales. In previous reports, we saw conversion rates increasing period over period, and Q3 was no exception—giving retailers good news leading up to the holidays.
Overall, the conversion rate for promotional email campaigns was an astounding 7.66% for the quarter—an 168.9% year-over-year lift and a 42.6% lift over Q2 2020. While messages saw a slight decrease in click rate during Q3, the high conversion rate is a further indication that intent-based shopping remains high among consumers.
Promotional campaigns were no exception to this increased performance. The overall conversion rate for automated messages was 34.39%. This represents a lift of:
- 118% over Q3 2019 automations.
- 47% over Q2 2020 automations.
- 349% over Q3 2020 promotional campaigns.
While all automated messages have a high conversion rate, welcome, cart abandonment, and browse abandonment messages convert the best for Omnisend clients—with welcome messages converting at greater than 50%. We didn’t think the 48% achieved last quarter was sustainable—we were wrong. Expect welcome messages to be significant revenue-drivers during the holidays.
Cart and browse abandonment messages showed the most significant increases in conversion rate performance from last quarter. Cart abandonment made the leap from 25% to 42% while browse abandonment moved from 16% to 25%.
Most importantly, automated messages drove nearly 32% of the email marketing conversions while accounting for less than 2% of the email sends. If an ecommerce brand wants to increase sales, they need to use marketing automation.
Type of Automation
Lift Over Campaigns
Overall Campaigns and Automation Performance:
Non-automated promotional email campaigns continued to see strong performance in Q3 2020, especially with conversions. Conversion rates continued to increase both year-over-year and quarter-over-quarter, indicating that consumers are increasingly using marketing emails as a sought-out and trusted purchase channel—and ecommerce businesses are reaping the rewards.
When it comes to marketing automation, even though automated message email volume was less than 2% of sends during the quarter, they generated nearly 32% of the conversions. Open and conversion rates were improved over both Q2 2020 and Q3 2019. Maybe even more impressively, the worst-performing automated message for each metric still outperformed those of promotional campaigns.
Marketing automation is the key to improving online revenue. Online businesses who fail to utilize automated lifecycle messages are not playing on a level playing field.
Transactional Message Performance:
Transactional messages from Q2 to Q3 of this year were an unexpected surprise. In Q2, the combined open rate for the two messages was 47.26%, with the click rate 31.87%, and the conversion rate 6.04%. In Q3, these numbers shifted drastically.
- The open jumped to 59.58%, a 26% lift over Q2.
- Conversion rates more than doubled to 12.95%.
- The click rate dropped to 26.25%, a nearly 17% decrease from the previous quarter.
Year-over-year, the overall performance of these messages increased across all metrics. The open rate increased by 6.31%, the click rate by 3.87%, and the conversion rate by over 500%.
When it comes to the differences in performance for the two messages, factor in what matters to the subscriber and when. It makes sense that shipping confirmation messages have higher open and click rates than order confirmation messages, as people are more often clicking tracking links in those messages, naturally bringing down the conversion rate. Order confirmations, on the other hand, have a much higher conversion rate than shipping confirmation messages (18.85% vs. 8.61%) as recipients are clicking through to the site for another reason.
Probably the most interesting change with each of these messages is the jump in conversion rate—both from Q2 to Q3 and YoY. From Q2 to Q3 of this year, the conversion rate for order confirmations increased by nearly 119%, while shipping confirmations increased by nearly 104%. Year-over-year, it increased by 529% and 753% respectively.
There is little doubt that these messages can serve as significant sources of revenue for ecommerce businesses, and brands should look to optimize these messages as soon as possible.
SMS and Push Message Performance:
SMS and push messages are two channels that ecommerce businesses should be actively watching and taking advantage of. Not only are they growing channels, but they are profitable ones for those who use them.
Those who adopt these channels now are the ones who will be able to separate themselves from their competitors. As we mentioned in our No Bullshit Checklist to Increase Holiday Sales, SMS is going to be a difference-maker this holiday season—and it’s already started.
What a quarter, and year, for SMS marketing. Our Q2 report showed that YoY SMS sends increased by 239%. In Q3, that number accelerated even further. Omnisend sent 96.85% more SMS messages than in Q2 2020, and 237% more than during Q3 2019—and it’s still rising.
In both 2019 and 2020, the largest monthly jump in SMS sends happened between July and August. In 2019, the percentage of sends jumped by 16.7% before slightly dropping by 4.6% from August to September. In 2020, there was a larger 31.1% increase from July to August, yet only a 1.4% decrease from August to September—possibly indicating that retailers are preparing their customers for increased SMS messages during the holiday season.
While the increase in sends is in itself impressive, we like to focus on how SMS corresponds to the number of emails sent. In Q2, the percentage of SMS messages sent compared to the number of emails sent was 0.17%. In Q3, that number went to 0.27%. This continued rise shows that SMS is increasingly being adopted by both consumers and businesses alike—and it’s accelerating quickly.
As more brands and consumers adopt SMS, performance becomes a major talking point. In Q3, SMS messages generated a 9.77% click rate and a 2.35% conversion rate. These numbers represent a 19% YoY lift in click rate and an amazing 98% YoY lift in conversion rate.
SMS is not a one-way street. Businesses can’t begin using it without customer permission. The rise in messages sent shows that consumers are increasingly wanting companies to communicate with them via this channel, and the click and conversion rates show they work to increase sales. With free SMS, SMS should be a no-brainer for ecommerce businesses.
Like with SMS, push messages are another more “instantaneous” marketing channel being used by retailers—and we have seen a large increase in adoption thus far in 2020. In Q2, push messages saw a 1,035% increase in messages sent compared to the same period in 2019. In Q3, that number increased even further to 1,681%. Not only that, but there was a 223% increase in sends from Q2 to Q3 2020 alone.
Like with SMS, we looked at the number of push messages sent compared to those of email, helping us to determine if the channel is simply being used by more companies or whether its usage is being increased by companies.
During the second quarter of 2020, the volume of push messages sent compared to email messages was .04%. In Q3, this number rose to 0.10%, indicating that not only is it being utilized by more companies, but those who are using it are doing so more frequently.
In terms of Q3 performance, push messages registered an impressive 53.6% view rate, a 0.88% click rate, and a 30.3% conversion rate. The lift in conversion rate is 462% over Q3 2019 and 83.9% over Q2 2020.
Let’s dig into what these metrics mean. First, achieving a greater than 50% open rate is stellar, and demonstrates that consumers who opt in to receiving these messages are highly engaged with them.
Second, the click rate in Q3 is a bit of an anomaly. In Q2 2020, the click rate was 3.85%, so the drop is drastic. However, it’s important to recognize the massive increase in push messages sent during Q3—a 223% increase in sends. This shows that more companies are using them in more places which can decrease the natural click rate.
Finally, do they help drive sales? The resounding answer is yes! Even with the lower click rate, generating a 30% conversion rate is no small task. INGLOT Canada put these messages to good use inside of their cart abandonment workflow.
Consider the low cost of sending push messages along with the high conversion rate when compared to paid retargeting efforts. Companies should begin to pay attention to push messages now.
The Final Word: Ecommerce Takeaways
Email, SMS, and push marketing messages continued to see a strong overall performance in Q3. As we head into the early and elongated holiday season, these channels will play a critical role for online businesses that want to increase sales.
What online retailers should take away from this report:
- Email, SMS, and push marketing are trusted opt-in channels—unlike paid search and social—and the conversion rates and ROI prove it. Focus on growing each of these.
- Marketing automation is essential. With nearly 32% of all email conversions coming on less than 2% of email sends, you can either use automation to grow your revenue or watch your competition grow theirs—especially during the holidays.
- If SMS was underutilized before, it is slowly becoming less so. We predict SMS will be a major source of revenue for retailers this holiday season and beyond.
- Implement SMS and push messages into your email workflows to ensure all channels work together to create a better customer shopping experience. They both perform well, so get in before your competition—even a 1% lift in conversions can mean thousands of dollars to your bottom line.
Growing your online sales through marketing automation doesn’t have to be difficult or time-consuming.
See how Omnisend can help you increase your sales, not your workload.