5 Most Important Email Marketing KPIs for Retailers

Mar 30, 2022
Jeff Haws

There aren’t a lot of doubters these days when it comes to the fact that email is one of the most impactful and cost-effective tools in the retail marketer’s kit. But especially with the changes from Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection that will make open rates a far less effective measurement of success, some marketers aren’t sure the best data points to look at to measure success.

Without being able to effectively, consistently, and objectively measure success, you won’t be able to show the power of email to drive sales. And that could lead to cuts for the budget or even the staff that handles email. The good news, though, is you don’t need open rates. For retail marketers, focusing on these five KPIs will make email’s impact clear.

List growth

This is a sometimes underappreciated KPI when it comes to measuring marketing success — perhaps partially because it’s largely driven not by the emails themselves but by other website and content-related efforts — but it’s an inexpensive and high-impact way to gauge marketing efforts. This should absolutely be on your list of metrics to live by, as your email list is inherently yours. Other direct-communication channels like social media are ultimately someone else’s sandbox. You build, control, and own your email list.

So, work on growing the list. Include pop-ups and other easy points in blog posts to encourage people to sign up while they’re reading. Incentivize people to refer others to subscribe through loyalty points or gift cards. And consistently send quality, personalized, data-driven content that makes people look forward to receiving your emails.

Click-through rate

In recent years, marketers had begun to dump CTR as a metric in favor of their click-to-open rate (CTOR), which measures the percentage of opens that resulted in a click. But the MPP changes that are greatly diminishing the importance of open rate will have the same effect on CTOR. So if you previously traded CTR for CTOR, it may be time to trade back.

So much of CTR success goes back to quality copywriting, diligent A/B testing, paying attention to metrics, and creating compelling content people want to consume. One great tool you can use to help with this is Phrasee, which uses Artificial Intelligence and constant testing to help you continuously improve the language you’re using and improve CTR over time.

Conversion rate

Ultimately, conversions are what we’re all looking for, right? Opens, clicks, subscriptions, etc., it’s all building toward getting visitors and subscribers to turn into customers or whatever else you want to convert them into. In fact, subscribing itself can be a conversion point. So can downloading your app, saving an item for price alerts, adding an item to a gift wish list, or any other customer interaction your company values.

Determine what those interaction points are and prioritize them on the website. Make it really easy for any customer who wants to engage in those activities to do so. That means making buttons easy to see and the action simple to take. And the more you can use data to personalize your outreach to them, the better you’ll be able to drive them toward those conversion points via cross-channel messaging.

Deliverability rate

All the other work you do doesn’t matter much if your emails aren’t landing in your customers’ inboxes, so deliverability has to be really high on any marketer’s list of key metrics. There’s a solid chance you don’t have an in-house deliverability expert, so even a lot of really big retail brands lean on their ESP’s team or a deliverability-focused product like Validity to help them get this right.

Google deliverability best practices, and you’ll get all sorts of lists of what to do to improve yours if you’re struggling with reaching your audience. But much of it boils down to building trust by respecting opt-ins, verifying addresses, and regularly scrubbing lists of inactive addresses, setting clear expectations, and choosing a customer engagement platform that prioritizes deliverability.

Return on Investment

Everybody wants to talk about ROI with pretty much everything business related, but sometimes we find email marketing can try to skirt this requirement. But it’s just as subject to the need to show ROI as anything else, and perfectly capable. That doesn’t mean it’s necessarily simple to do, though.

First, you need to define your goals for your email program.

  • Do you want to raise brand awareness?
  • Increase sales?
  • Boost web traffic?

Once you’ve done that, figure out your spend. The easy part of that should be how much you spend on your ESP. The tougher part can be how much time your team spends sending email and how much that costs you.

Fortunately, email has consistently been one of the most cost-effective marketing channels in existence, which is one of the reasons it’s lasted so long and been so resilient. But you can still reduce your costs even further by investing in a customer engagement platform that doesn’t charge you twice to store your data, for instance. And reducing your marketing team’s reliance on I.T. and their time spent on rote operational tasks can help a good bit too.


Open rate (and, by extension, CTOR) has been an imperfect but steadily reliable metric for retail marketers for a long time, but Apple’s MPP is going to render it mostly moot for most marketing teams going forward. The above five metrics are a good place to start from here when it comes to determining how well your next email marketing campaign is performing.

About the Author

Jeff Haws

As MessageGears’ Senior Marketing Manager, Jeff is focused on producing engaging and thoughtful content that resonates with enterprise marketers, helping them to better understand how MessageGears makes their jobs easier. He’s passionate about understanding the way data impacts messaging, and he’s also hopelessly obsessed with baseball.