A Case Study in Brand Visibility and Image Display Impact

In the past year we have seen the birth of BIMI – short for Brand Indicators for Message Identification, and it just came out of a pilot test at Yahoo Mail. BIMI brings a simple unified method of presenting brand logos to help marketers give their brands more visibility while making sure the brand identity is controlled by the brands. We wanted to see how a brand indicator could impact the performance of email campaigns and provide additional brand exposure.

As some may know, Polish inbox providers are infamous for charging fees for email delivery. We wanted to see how this could be turned into an extra value proposition for our customers and we partnered with Polish inbox provider Interia.pl to test this.

In the test, that spread over a 6-month period, we evaluated the impact of marketing performance driven by brand indicator display and image loading.

While the largest inbox providers like Gmail, Yahoo, Outlook or Yandex have been using image caching to automatically display images in emails for years now, the smaller inbox providers still stick to the old model of “click to display images”. While loading images by default provides for a better user experience with image heavy emails, we believe it also leads many marketers to give up on producing high-quality email code and reduces the adoption of new standards.

Notino highlighted in Interia.pl inboxInteria.pl is one of those inbox providers that doesn’t load images by default. It requires users to confirm images to be loaded just as Outlook or Thunderbird does. For our test, we chose one of our clients, a fragrance company Notino. They are active in over 20 european markets and have a significant market share in Poland. Their email marketing campaigns are well coded, responsive and provide good visual value even without images loaded. During the test, their email campaigns were set by Interia to receive a logo in the inbox and have images loaded by default.

Since Interia.pl was not able to offer a true A/B test support in their platform, we have compared the performance based on historical data in comparison with the similarly sized Polish inbox provider Onet.pl as well as the largest provider WP.pl.

The key performance indicators we tracked were open-rates and the revenue per mail (RPM) metric. Open-rates were used only as a comparative signal to assess the difference in the amount of opens tracked when users actively loaded images vs. images loaded by default. Therefore, all opens were tracked. The revenue per mail (RPM) was chosen as a metric that best relays the value of authentication to the marketers.

We started the test in September 2018 using multiple campaigns with different targeting. In all months prior to starting to test the campaigns, performance on Interia.pl trailed behind the performance at Onet.pl but was better than performance at WP.pl.

While the open rates were about 5-10 % lower at Interia compared to Onet, the revenue per email showed a gap of 10-20% depending on month.

Open rates by ISP

The chart above shows how the open-rate of the messages sent beginning in September started to climb. This was expected as the image loading causes the tracking images in the email to be loaded and therefore the opens are tracked with higher accuracy. The effect of the default image loading is even more pronounced in March 2019 when the open rates dropped as the default image loading got disabled.

Revenue-per mail increased by over 20%!

Revenue per email by ISP

The interesting part in this chart is not only in the growth of revenue per email once the images got loaded but at the very end (2019/3) when image loading was disabled. Even after the open rates dropped quite significantly there was no similar pattern to be seen with the revenue per email. It’s our belief that the combination of the Brand Indicator and default image loading helped reinforce the connection between the brand and the recipient. This connection lasts even after the Brand indicator and image loading were disabled.

The results of the test clearly show the importance of the visual part of the emails. Even in cases where the emails are very well coded, responsive, and provide all the important information without loaded images, the impact of the visual information is critical. The brand indicator on its own can help you distinguish your emails in the inbox of the recipient, but it is the actual content visual that drives the clicks.

Jakub Olexa