Email campaigns are highly valuable, and they can be used to drive brand awareness, encourage communication between brands and consumers, and, in turn, establish a loyal relationship that boosts revenue.
But there’s always something new to learn–whether that’s a trend in the digital marketing landscape, an emerging technology, or simply a new tactic for engaging on a human level.
There are a number of data and analytics tools out there to facilitate this desire for growth and evolution. One way that marketers are taking inventory of their email audience is through pixel tracking.
Let’s dive deeper into what exactly pixel tracking is and how marketers can use pixel tracking in their own digital marketing email strategies.
What is pixel tracking?
Pixel tracking is a simple yet robust tracking tool that opens the door for marketers to create personalized campaigns that drive a number of business growth initiatives. This is thanks to its simplicity and ease-of-use, especially when it comes to implementation and tracking.
A tracking pixel is a tag that tracks the behavior of a user after they’ve opened an email. These 1×1 pixel graphics aren’t easily viewed by email users and are embedded in the header and footer of an email.
Tracking pixels are used by marketers to understand how a user behaves and what they’re doing when browsing an email. These pixels use the HTML coding of an email to see if a subscriber will take the next step and land on a brand’s website.
Not only do these pixels track whether or not a user goes to a brand’s website, but they also catalog behaviors such as OS, mailbox type, screen resolution, time spent on email, IP address, and actions a user takes on the actual site (e.g. visiting additional pages).
This information is extremely useful for an email marketer. This type of tracking provides insight into an email marketing strategy and its effectiveness: how well it’s leading to open and click-through-rates. Additionally, marketers can glean supplemental information applicable to their next campaign.
Pixels work like cookies on a web browser. But unlike cookies, pixels can’t be blocked just yet. That’s what makes pixel tracking such a successful strategy for all digital marketers.
These initiatives have an immense impact on SEO, online advertising, and more because of the behaviors they uncover.
How to use pixel tracking
Since tracking pixels are transparent, tiny images placed in the email header and footer and embedded in the HTML code of an email, marketers have to follow a few steps.
First, they need to create the image themselves or have a designer create this transparent 1×1 pixel using image editing software.
Then, it needs to be saved as a transparent gif file.
Marketers can then embed this image to the end of an email, or they can write out the code in plain text themselves.
From here, all a marketer can do is wait.
And for some marketers, this entire process isn’t even necessary. There are email service providers out there that integrate pixel tracking solutions into their platforms.
Pixels are easy to implement, and you can use them to curate personalized email campaigns that make an impact on audiences.
What marketers do with this information is, in fact, the real magic of this process.
How pixel tracking increases personalization
Pixel tracking opens the door for a number of possibilities. It gives marketers insight into their consumers and how to interact with marketing emails in real time.
This isn’t just a guess. Marketers can actually see how they browse, where they go and what their thought process is. That’s something even the most traditional of tracking tools can’t do. Marketers might think cookies are a great way to track behavior, but pixels actually work even better.
As a result, pixel tracking allows for an increase in email personalization. Marketers can then build customized campaigns that take users where they go instantly instead of leading them on a journey that requires a number of different steps and processes.
Consumers want personalized emails, with more and more consumers saying they’d be willing to switch brands for more personalized communication.
In addition to this, open and click rates are higher when emails and subject lines are personalized.
This is great news because, through the use of tracking pixels, marketers can give consumers exactly what they want in the form of more personalized messaging, direct CTAs, related links, content, and more.
This email example from David’s Tea shows excellent personalization. Through the use of a number of tracking metrics, the marketing pros at David’s Tea created an entire email that celebrated a user’s experience with the brand.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Here’s another personalized email from Canopy that shows the power of simple personalization based on buyer behaviors.
Source: Campaign Monitor
Pixel tracking and other email measurement concepts
Pixel tracking is just one way for marketers to track the behavior of their email recipients. Similarly, this metric lets marketers see how well certain emails resonate with their audience.
This is a helpful metric that can drastically change how a brand connects with audiences via email. It can help marketers learn more about the effectiveness of their messaging, whether or not their images are making an impact, and if the videos they’re integrating actually drive clicks.
But when used in conjunction with other metrics—like open rates, bounce rates, sessions, etc.—marketers can develop a full-fledged digital marketing strategy that leads users more effortlessly through the buyer’s journey.
Email marketing is an essential tactic for any digital marketer. And tracking pixels can shed light on how a brand’s overall digital marketing strategy is functioning.
By using tracking pixels, marketers can see where users are navigating. If they’re looking for certain information but can’t find it, marketers can then use these insights to aid in their overall design and development strategy.
Pixel tracking is the first step in a comprehensive tracking strategy that can take a brand from good to great. These pixels give marketers useful information that they can pass along to the design and development team to ensure their digital presence is as robust as it can be, securing the highest number of conversions as possible.
The pitfalls of pixel tracking
In the last couple of years, questions and regulations surrounding user privacy have become increasingly relevant. Because of this, there has been more call for limiting the use of certain technologies, like pixel tracking.
Email tracking pixels can be seen as invasive since users are often unaware of the information being tracked.
Pixel tracking is also a tactic easily used by spammers to increase the frequency and impact of their spam emails.
In 2018, 53.5% of email traffic was spam, the majority coming from China, the US, and Germany. Pixel tracking can increase those numbers drastically.
But outside of the moral and ethical worries pixel tracking poses, there are also easy ways for users themselves to limit the effectiveness of pixel tracking.
Users can do this by:
- Restricting browser and email setting to limit unsupported HTML
- Using extensions to make pixels visible
- Surfing the web anonymously
- Integrating scripts to limit data collection.
Email tracking pixels can radically transform an email marketing strategy. By tracking user behavior, marketers can build customized and personalized email strategies that encourage users to keep interacting with (and buying from) your brand.
Here’s what marketers need to know about pixel tracking:
- Pixel tracking gives marketers insights into user behaviors.
- These small, transparent images help marketers build customized email marketing campaigns.
- These tracking metrics also give organizations a powerful plan of attack when it comes to their overall business strategy.
- Pixel tracking isn’t without its pitfalls.
Pixel tracking goes far beyond email marketing. Pixel tracking can work alongside other metrics like bounce rates, website traffic, and new sessions to develop a robust digital marketing strategy ready to bring your brand to the next level.
If brands haven’t started tracking pixels, now is the time to start. It’s a simple and easy process that drives unbelievable results.
But marketers should prepare themselves for some backlash. The data collected might not be entirely accurate, especially if restrictions are put in place by consumers.
Similarly, data privacy laws might evolve to the point of eliminating these initiatives.
Always weigh out the benefits agains the pitfalls and decide for yourself the right step for your organization.
Get tips on measuring your email marketing strategy with this helpful guide.