Goodbye email open rates, hello different channels

Have you heard the news about email open rates? If not, there is one very important thing that every ecommerce marketer needs to know: they’re dead.

Here’s the very short version. Apple’s newest iOS release kills open rates as a metric, making them no longer pertinent to analyzing performance.

What’s a marketer to do? Let them go. Focus on creating real engagement with customers.

We will always sing the praises of email. But we’re a champion of embracing more avenues of communication, SMS and web push notifications specifically, to drive deeper relationships and spur loyalty.

There’s no better time to explore different channels—and make tweaks or enhancements if you’re already using them—than now.

But First … How Did We Get Here?

Apple announced its impending iOS 15 update in June 2021. To the general public, changes to FaceTime calls, launch of SharePlay, and upgrades to photos and search emerged as the flashier stars.

But any astute marketer’s eyes bulged when reading about new privacy controls. All Apple users would be given the option to activate “Mail Privacy Protection” when accessing Apple Mail apps to read emails.

Beta version of iOS 15, courtesy @zachlmoss

The news sent the ecommerce ecosphere into a frenzy. Experts shelved their projects to digest the meaning of iOS 15 to marketing.

Foremost, anyone enabling the privacy option blocks brands from knowing if they opened their email.

Marketers quickly concluded that although the anticipated release in mid-September may only involve a minority of email subscribers, it’s enough to render open rates unreliable. And a general consensus is that other tech companies will eventually follow suit.

How to Adopt SMS and Push as Part of Your Mix

Marketers will surely concentrate on performance-based measures like clicks and conversions to glean insights on the efficacy of their efforts.

But ideally, iOS 15 should be a galvanizing force that urges all merchants to renew their dedication to satisfying customers.

This is where other channels can help—and produce results. The impact is even greater when using three or more channels versus one, garnering as much as a 287% higher purchase rate.

There’s a variety of options out there, but we’ll focus on SMS and push notifications.


What’s the one alternative channel that marketers should pursue as email open rates fade out? Ask Mike Rossi, co-founder and CEO of, and he’ll tell you that text messaging is the clear winner.

“I feel like if you haven’t tried SMS yet, you really need to get experimenting,” Rossi says. “Based on all the data we’ve seen with SMS over the past two years, there’s been a ton of brands that have had success.”

SMS marketing had a breakout year in 2020 for Omnisend customers, with double the conversion rates and 378% more messages sent than in 2019.

Research shows that Omnisend’s customers are on pace to send more than three times the quantity this year. And for the first six months of 2021, they net an average 2.4% conversion rate.

The stats make good sense, given the cell phone’s omnipresence. SMS is a permission-based channel, meaning subscribers intentionally sign up for them. A study found that 48% of consumers prefer SMS communications for brand updates.

FiGPiN is a case in point. Senior Marketing Manager Allison Caufield began experimenting with free SMS credits, using it to drop special editions of collectible pins.

“The ROI on it has just been absolutely insane,” Caufield says, explaining fans on sites like Facebook consistently ask how they can access the SMS messages so they don’t miss any of the releases. “I know that it's something that not only is successful, but the customer base actually wants it because they want that info faster.”

Aside from promoting exclusive offers to your top fans, try folding SMS into your marketing efforts by:

  • Replacing the tactic of “remailing” the non-openers; since you won’t know who has and hasn’t opened your email, use SMS as a reinforcement
  • Delivering packing and shipping updates, and being candid when there are delays or inventory issues
  • Using it in urgency based situations, like last-chance reminders and flash sales
  • Standing out on high-send email days, such as Black Friday and other pinnacle holiday marketing days

Perhaps our most important recommendation is weaving SMS into an automation series with conditional splits. Omnisend Manager of Customer Success George Moser says brands see the most success when doing this, especially when leveraging it in the high-converting welcome, abandoned cart (example below), and browse abandonment messages.

Push Notifications

Email, SMS and social media rise top of mind for many ecommerce marketers when contemplating avenues to reach consumers. But how many realize the power of web push notifications—those messages that appear on a website and ask the visitor if they’re OK with receiving notifications?

Apparently more are taking notice of them, according to our data. Omnisend customers sent over 20 million in the first half of this year, nearly double than those sent in all of 2020.

Therefore, we declare 2021 the year of the coming-out party for push notifications. The impressive part lies in the conversion rate. Thus far, push notifications have racked up an average 35.7% rate.

In other words, one of every three people who click on them makes a purchase.

Behind the sales potential, push notifications have some great features:

  1. Users can subscribe or unsubscribe without providing personal information.
  2. You can transmit them across devices of all kinds, whether a laptop, mobile browser or tablet.
  3. You’ll still see open rates even with the iOS 15 update. (Note: there has never been a way to determine SMS open rates.)

Best of all, push notifications aren’t chained to your brand’s site. Your messages can appear while your subscriber is browsing a different site.

Here are a few suggestions for getting started:

  • Use it for urgent messages or on huge shopping days like Black Friday and Cyber Monday
  • Employ it 48 hours after a re-engagement email fails to prompt a response; use the same call to action or a better one

Just like SMS, push makes a great addition to automations. Women’s clothing brand Black Halo has experienced it firsthand through an automation workflow aimed at shoppers who leave products in the cart but don’t make a purchase.

The abandoned cart series’ overall average revenue-per-message is $4.30. But the average revenue produced by the push notification alone is 11 times that—$48 per message.

It’s About Serving the Customer

The loss of open rates shouldn’t cause panic. We believe it’s a wakeup call that other channels are worthy of ecommerce merchants’ time. SMS and push notifications can make a huge difference in providing a relevant and engaging customer experience.

We agree with Dylan Whitman, an entrepreneur and investor of Pari Passu Venture Partners, who urges brands to use these channels to serve customers, and not view them solely as a sales pitch transmitter.

“Stop thinking about what it’s doing for your brand,” Whitman says. “If you empathize with that customer and think about how you leverage this channel to serve them, it totally shifts your mindset on even the metrics you focus on.”


Author: Tracy Puckett is a Content Marketing Manager for Omnisend, an email and SMS marketing automation platform trusted by over 50,000 ecommerce brands. Tracy is a content creator who believes in the immense power of the written word. Free time is for family, exploring community gems and reading.

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