Engagement Time


Image courtesy of Email on Acid

Email Engagement is sometimes referred to as Engagement Time or Read Time in certain tools and it measures the amount of time that an email is engaged with by the recipient. Similar to opens, this metric is measured using a tracking pixel; each second the email is open the tracking pixel fires.  Once it stops firing we can determine the amount of time it was responding in seconds.  Both Email on Acid, Litmus and similar tools that track opens by device and client provide email engagement or read-time in the tool.   

Most tools that provide this metric break it out into 3 levels of engagement – Glance/Delete, Skim and Read.  

The image above is from Email on Acid’s tool and we can see that it shows the percentage of subscribers that opened for a specific amount of time. Read time falloff is the percentage is the number of people out of the unique opens for the email that reach the threshold for the time bands.    While users can set their own thresholds, typically the Glance/Delete is set at 2 second or less that the email is open.  Skim is typically set at 2 or 3 seconds to 7 to 10 seconds depending on the tool and read is those that keep the email longer than the time set for skim (i.e. they have the email open longer than 7 to 10 seconds).

Tips for interpreting data.

Engagement Time tells us how long subscribers are spending with your email, but it’s not as straightforward as longer being better.  The first band is Glance/Delete, this is people opening the email to delete it, often the pixel is fired by loading images into preview pane when the email is selected.  We want 100% (or close to it) of subscribers going beyond the Glance/Delete threshold, if not if,  that may indicate an issue such as a rendering problem where the email is unlegible and people just delete it.  On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re tracking a long engagement period (e.g. 30+ seconds) that might indicate that your email is slow to load or may indicate confusion with your creative or unclear calls to action.  Keep in mind that you email content has a direct effect upon the read time duration. For example a newsletter that has heavy text or full length articles will take more time to read than an image based retail email.  Since most of the popular tools allow the user to set their own time thresholds, don’t be afraid to change it to fit the content typically sent by your program. Litmus stated in their 2020 State of Email Engagement Report that the average read time for email subscribers is 11.8 seconds, which is down from the previous report based on 2018 data. 

Related Links

Campaign Monitor “Email Marketing in the Era of 8-Second Attention Spans” 2019: https://www.campaignmonitor.com/blog/email-marketing/email-marketing-in-the-era-of-8-second-attention-spans/ 

Email on Acid, “What Is Email Engagement and How Do I Measure It?”, 2018: https://www.emailonacid.com/blog/article/email-marketing/what-is-email-engagement-and-how-do-i-measure-it/ 

Email on Acid “Email Analytics”, 2020:  https://www.emailonacid.com/email-analytics/ 

Email on Acid “How to Use Advanced Email Analytics Data to Ramp Up ROI”, 2019: https://www.emailonacid.com/blog/article/email-marketing/how-to-ramp-up-email-roi-with-advanced-analytics/ 

Email on Acid “Email Engagement Metrics: More than Your Typical Analytics”, 2014: https://www.emailonacid.com/blog/article/industry-news/engagement_email_marketing_the_path_between_an_open_and_click/ 

Litmus FAQ “How are engagement metrics defined?”, 2020: https://help.litmus.com/article/164-how-are-engagement-metrics-defined 

Litmus, “2020 State of Email Engagement Report”, 2021: https://www.litmus.com/resources/2020-state-of-email-engagement/