Deliveries…opens…clicks…conversions…if you work in email marketing, you’ve probably been muttering those four words in your sleep. And with good reason — tried-and-true funnel metrics are the backbone of email performance measurement, and you could do much worse than to focus on them. 

However, there are also big benefits to going beyond the basics. Mixing up your metrics can help you see opportunities you might otherwise miss, and can ensure that you’re taking a well-rounded approach to improving your overall email ROI. Bringing in new metrics can also provide a useful shift in perspective when you start to see your basic metrics plateau, which happens to even the best email marketers at some point. 

If you’re ready to measure something new, here are four ideas to help you get started. e

1. List growth rate

Email performance metrics are often expressed in percentages, but when it comes to determining ROI, it’s the absolute numbers that matter. And while absolute ROI is certainly influenced by delivery, open, clickthrough, and conversion rates, it’s also heavily affected by another metric — the size of your subscriber list. 

We all know that unsubscribes happen, so it’s normal to have some attrition in your list over time. That means that you need to add new addresses at a steady clip to keep growth neutral or positive. If you notice the numbers going down, work on optimizing your email capture forms and incorporating targeted email capture campaigns into your marketing plan. You can also, of course, investigate and address possible reasons for subscriber drop-off; just be aware that you need to address both retention and acquisition to achieve net growth.  

2. Forward rate

Think of forward rate as clickthrough rate’s more ambitious cousin. In a way, this metric is similar to Net Promoter Score — by forwarding, your recipients are telling you they appreciate your message or offer so much that they want their friends to see it, too. Forwards can also generate additional conversions, and they help you grow your list, which (see above) has a big impact on your long-term ROI.  

Since there are many different ways to pass a message along, and many of those (e.g., word of mouth, copying and pasting) are hard to trace, you probably won’t be able to measure your forward rate with perfect accuracy. However, you can collect benchmark data to compare across campaigns by adding a “Forward to a Friend” link to your emails. Many email marketing platforms offer these links as customizable pre-built elements, and you can also follow these instructions to add a forward link to any email with simple HTML. From there, it’s a simple matter of adding and testing click tracking on that link, and you’ll be able to track forwards on an ongoing basis. 

3. Engagement over time

We all know emails get buried; if a message has been sitting unopened in your inbox for a day or two, chances are good it’s never going to get opened at all. The same is true for the emails you send to your marketing lists. That means you want your recipients to engage with your emails soon as possible — ideally within an hour of delivery. 

By tracking engagement over time, you can get a sense of when your audience is most inclined to open, click, and convert, and then time your sends accordingly. For example, if you send a campaign in the morning and see a three or four hour lag before your open rate spikes, you might want to push out your next email in the early afternoon. Or maybe you have a high open rate in the early afternoon, but clicks and conversions occur after work hours — in that case, you could try an evening send to move recipients more quickly through the funnel and reduce the time your email spends languishing in inboxes. 

4. Mobile conversion rate

More than 40 percent of email is now opened on mobile devices, and almost 70 percent of recipients view marketing emails on their smartphones at least 2-3 days per week. These numbers are only going up, so tracking and optimizing your mobile engagement and conversion rates is a great investment to make right now. 

Although many people are viewing emails on mobile, almost a third say they usually wait until they’re in front of a desktop computer to make a purchase. Desktop conversions are also more valuable, with shoppers spending around 25 percent more per order. But if you can provide a stellar end-to-end shopping experience for mobile customers, you may be able to bring your mobile conversion rates up to par with desktop — and you’ll see a big increase in your overall email ROI as a result. 

Start by making sure your emails are responsive and mobile-optimized; this includes addressing the most common complaints about mobile emails, such as too-big images, too-small fonts, and too much text to scroll through. Next, make similar changes to your landing pages, product navigation, and checkout flow. Finally, use a mobile emulator to test the entire flow for usability and visual consistency. 

None of us are going to stop tracking plain old open, clikthrough, and conversion rates anytime soon. But adding one of the four metrics above to your regular reporting can be a great way to spark creativity and identify hidden bottlenecks. Keep your eyes on the prize (that’s total ROI) and have fun optimizing!

For more information on using DataTrue to validate your email analytics, check out this post.