SparkPost is introducing a new metric to our email analytics: “initial renders.” It joins the 35+ metrics already available. We’re pretty excited about it, and we think you will be, too. Here’s why.

The goal of most email messages is engagement. Senders want recipients to receive their messages, open them, read them, and ultimately do something: interact with the sender and their product or service in a meaningful way.

Measuring that engagement is a basic function of any kind of email analytics. And of course, a “message opened” metric is a fundamental building block for any sort of engagement analysis. However, measuring opens can be surprisingly tricky.

America’s Next Top Pixel

While the mechanics of tracking opens using a 1×1 pixel image are generally well understood, the results are imprecise due to differences among email clients and other factors. SparkPost’s engagement tracking feature places the standard 1×1 tracking pixel image at the very bottom of the message. This ensures our “rendered” metric records recipients who open the message, rather than simply view a fragment in their client’s preview pane.

A consequence of this approach is the possibility of underreporting engagement because some mailbox providers—notably Gmail—truncate message content that they consider too long. This means a recipient may open and read part of the content, but the open pixel would not render and would therefore not record the open.

To help our customers get a more accurate picture of who is opening and reading their email, we’re adding an additional open pixel at the top of the message. It drives a new metric labeled “initial_rendered” in SparkPost’s reporting dashboard, as well as the companion event named “initial_open” in webhook events and the Message Events API.

Use Initial Renders for Better Understanding of User Engagement

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