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How to Use Outlook Email Tracking and Analytics 

Do you know how to use Outlook email tracking? Learn everything you need to know about email tracking and Outlook analytics right here.
Written by: Penny Swift
outlook email tracking
Published: February 13, 2024
Computer with inbox pulled up with lock, under a message opening in an envelope and getting clicked

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In today’s data-driven world, it is vital to understand how to use email tracking and analytics for effective communication. But it’s not just about numbers. Effective email tracking and analysis provide insight into employee satisfaction and the overall employee experience (EX). 

According to the Project.co Communication Statistics 2024, 31% of employees still use email as the most preferred way to communicate with their colleagues in 2024. This is the same percentage as in 2023. At the same time, 55% primarily use email to communicate with clients. But this figure has dropped from 62% last year.  

Workshop’s 2024 Internal Communication Trends Report, confirms that email remains the number one most used form of internal communication (IC) in the business world. Recognizing the need to engage employees, 94% of IC teams are including it in their internal comms strategies. Still, 50% of internal communicators report that they don’t have the tools needed to track and measure the impact of their efforts.

94% of IC teams include email in their IC strategies

Heather Whiteman, assistant teaching professor at the University of Washington Information School, studies the use of data and technology as a means of making the workplace a better place. She stresses that overall, “tracking metrics is not just about numbers.” She told Cerkl “it’s about gaining valuable insights to create a more engaged, productive, and successful workforce. But the numbers won’t move on their own, it takes action.” 

Essentially, organizations need tracking tools as well as the ability to track the success of their efforts along the way. 

With this in mind, we are going to explore the concept of email tracking and analytics. Then we’ll assess how you can effectively utilize these tools in an Outlook environment.

What is Email Tracking

Email tracking is the process of monitoring the actions of recipients on your sent email messages. The technology tells if recipients opened the email when they opened it, and sometimes even details like their location and device. It can also track when links within your email are clicked, and whether the email was forwarded. It’s a vital tool for optimizing communication efforts and enhancing email campaigns.

outlook email tracking

But email tracking tools are not all exactly the same. So, when you choose a tracking tool, you need to know its parameters and how it works. You also need to know what your chosen tracking tool for email analytics will enable you to achieve.

Outlook email tracking with the current classic Outlook involves specific tools or plugins that integrate with Outlook, providing real-time feedback and data about email engagement. This transforms how businesses and individuals perceive and use email as a communication tool.

Getting Started with Email Tracking in Outlook

Email tracking in classic Outlook gives users an option to track emails they send. The most crucial metrics include read receipts, which indicate whether an email was opened. A user has the option to manually set up read receipt reports for all messages or for individual messages. 

outlook email delivery tracking

Another important element is the delivery receipt, which confirms your email made it to the recipient’s email server. 

outlook read receipt tracking

Choosing an Email Tracking Tool

As classic Outlook email tracking is very basic and does not provide much room to work with, users can opt to use an email tracking tool. This is an Outlook email add-in that is integrated with Outlook. It works together with Outlook to provide more options for the user and is considered by many users to be one of the best Outlook email analytics tools.

Using add-ins with the classic Outlook, you will effectively upgrade the system to include Outlook email analytics. The Outlook add-ins will keep track of, and monitor, the status of your delivery and read receipts. To access this information, navigate to your sent items, double-click on a message, and select “Tracking.” From there, you’ll be able to see when the receipts were received in your inbox and view the names of the recipients. 

However, when selecting an email analytics and tracking tool there are certain criteria you should think about. If you want to use Outlook analytics consider the following criteria to ensure compatibility and effectiveness with Outlook:

  • Integration capabilities: How well does the tool you want to use integrate with Outlook? Look for plugins or tools designed specifically for compatibility.
  • Features offered: Does it provide comprehensive tracking features like email opens, link clicks, and detailed analytics reports?
  • Usability: Is the tool user-friendly? Consider how easily you can navigate its features and interpret the data it provides.

Installing an Email Tracking Tool for Email Analytics in Outlook

Once you’ve chosen an email tracking tool, the next step is to install it. This often involves downloading an add-on or plugin and integrating it with your Outlook account. It’s essential that you follow the installation instructions carefully, ensuring that the tool is properly synced with your Outlook. 

Once installed, take time to explore the tool’s dashboard and familiarize yourself with its features and settings. Most tools offer tutorials or customer support to help get you started.

Finalize the setup by customizing the settings to match your tracking preferences and needs, ensuring you’re all set to track emails in Outlook.

Benefits of using Email Analytics

Email analytics go beyond simple email tracking by offering a deeper insight into your email campaigns. In general terms, benefits commonly include:

  • Improved customer engagement: By understanding which emails get the most interaction, you can tailor your content to match what your audience finds engaging.
  • Enhanced email performance: Analytics provide valuable data on open rates, click rates, and conversion rates, helping to refine email strategies.
  • Monitoring marketing effectiveness: Businesses can use analytics to gauge the effectiveness of email campaigns and personalize future messages.
  • Tracking sales potential: Salespeople can use it to ascertain whether potential leads have engaged with their outreach emails and follow up accordingly.
  • Better ROI on email campaigns: With precise data on what works and what doesn’t, investments in email marketing can be more targeted and effective.

These benefits show the potential transformative power of email analytics in producing more informed, data-driven decisions that directly impact email outreach success. But again, remember that not all tools for email analytics are the same. The available Outlook email analytics tools may or may not meet your needs. 

In a LinkedIn community article about using email analytics to optimize email impact and frequency, Medani Bhandari, editor-in-chief of Strategic Planning for Energy and the Environment, highlights the challenge of knowing how often to send emails and what content to include. 

“By tracking and analyzing data on how your audience engages with your emails, you can optimize your email frequency and impact.”

Medani Bhandari 
5 benefits of using email analytics

Outlook Does Not Have Integrated Email Analytics

While there is an option with the classic Outlook to use read receipts and delivery receipts manually, it’s currently an outdated practice. Instead, companies use third-party tools to track their employee email engagement metrics. This, in effect, means that there aren’t any Outlook email analytics tools. If you need Outlook analytics — which most businesses do — you’ll have to use add-ins. 

The metrics do work for Outlook email analytics, but it’s essential to understand these metrics. They are key to knowing how effective your emails are.

By using these tools, you can also uncover patterns in your email campaigns, such as the best times to send emails or which email templates produce the highest employee engagement. This data is invaluable for optimizing any email communication strategy and ensuring its success.

New Outlook Email Policies

Having said that the current Outlook email analytics tools are effective, albeit dated, they are on their way out. Microsoft is replacing the classic Outlook with a new web-based Outlook and they’re killing the optional extensions. These include the popular COM and VSTO add-ins. There are many email providers that may be affected by this update including PoliteMail, Contact Monkey, and Staffbase. 

Other than promoting the features and capability of the new Outlook and promising a better experience for users, Microsoft hasn’t said much. They have, though, announced that they won’t continue to support COM and VSTO add-ins. While users won’t be forced to switch to the new Outlook, the reality is that they won’t have access to updates or support for add-ins. Since it’s these add-ins that currently enable Outlook email analytics, which includes email tracking, an obvious question is, What sort of email tracking abilities will the new Outlook have?

Microsoft hasn’t made any official announcements about upcoming email tracking features in the new Outlook. The only reference to “tracking” we can find is in their promotional post about the new Outlook for Windows: The Future of Mail, Calendar, and People on Windows 11.

In a section that talks about all the “great features of the new Outlook for Windows,” they highlight the ability of the new Outlook to help users “stay organized.” 

“File your valuable content neatly or find it simply with universal search, make your calendar yours with multiple options and personalization capabilities, and know when your packages will arrive with package tracking.”

Microsoft

But what does “package tracking” mean?

What to Expect from New Outlook Email Tracking?

The mention of tracking is in the context of calendars rather than mail. But there is a hint that there will be some kind of built-in package tracking functionality. It’s anyone’s guess, but the new Outlook might directly integrate with shipping services. Alternatively, they might offer a tool to import tracking information, giving you real-time delivery updates within your email. 

We can’t be sure, but we can speculate! 

In broader terms, Microsoft might:

  • Integrate basic tracking like read receipts and link clicks into Outlook itself, similar to functionalities offered by Gmail.
  • Expand the capabilities of read receipts, like showing location and device information (presumably with user consent and ethical implementation).
  • Focus on open APIs and allow existing third-party email tracking apps like Boomerang or HubSpot Sales to seamlessly integrate with the new Outlook.

There will, of course, be privacy issues. For this reason, any new tracking features will need to prioritize user consent and clear communication about data collection and usage. 

Whatever Microsoft decides to do about tracking and analytics, Outlook remains a web-based option, even though it can connect to cloud services like email providers. Its core functionality doesn’t rely on the cloud. 

Cerkl Has a Better Way of Email Tracking and Analytics

Tracking metrics throughout an internal communications program or campaign is vital. Unless you know what your efforts are achieving, you won’t know whether to change your approach or maintain a successful pattern. As Heather Whiteman points out, the numbers are important, but they are only a guide. Organizations have the opportunity to use the metrics they have tracked “to focus on building that more positive environment.”

“The numbers will allow you to know where you are compared to where you want to be, to track success of efforts along the way, and help to keep focus and attention on the goals.”

Heather Whiteman

It’s a holistic approach, and one the Cerkl Broadcast can facilitate.  

Broadcast is a cloud-based email platform hosted on remote servers and accessed via the internet through a browser. It enables real-time communications analytics and allows for superior email tracking as well as the ability to track intranet, newsletter, and mobile engagement metrics. This is the best way to keep track of goals. 

Ultimately, Broadcast offers superior internal communication software that provides cross-channel metrics all in one place.   

cerkl broadcast email tracking

What’s Next?

In the face of Outlook’s forthcoming changes, it’s important to consider all your options. We have analyzed the differences between your Outlook options and what Cerkl Broadcast can offer you. Hear more about your options and schedule a chat.

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