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What Is A Good Open Rate For Email Marketing?

Posted by Gary Henderson on Apr 7, 2020 1:53:29 PM

Email marketing is one of the most underrated tactics in the modern marketer’s toolkit, and in part that’s because it’s been around for a while and so people just take it for granted.

To do that would be to make a mistake.

Just because email marketing is older than other digital marketing techniques, it doesn’t mean that it has less to offer.

Almost half of the world’s population uses email, which is probably why 81% of small-to-medium-sized businesses are relying on it as their primary source of customer acquisition.

Consumers are crying out for it too, with 49% of consumers saying that they’d like to receive promotional emails from brands on a weekly basis. Better still, even after all of these years, every dollar spent on email marketing averages a return of $42.

One of the most important email marketing metrics is your open rate, because it’s a vital sign of how engaged your email recipients are with your email content.

A low open rate could suggest that you’re reaching the wrong people or that the content isn’t the kind of thing that people are hoping to receive from you.

Don’t worry, though.

If you’re sitting there asking yourself, “What is a good open rate for email marketing?”, you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s everything you need to know about open rate benchmarks and more.

What Is An Open Rate?

An open rate is one of the most important metrics for email marketers to keep their eyes on, and with good reason.

At its simplest, “open rate” is the term that’s used to refer to the percentage of email recipients who opened an email after receiving it.

Of course, this is a simple take, but the general concept still applies whether you’re looking at the click to open rate of an individual email or whether you’re looking at the overall open rate for a campaign or even an entire email list.

Here is how to calculate your email open rate: 

How to figure out what your email open rate is

Speaking of your email list, you can also drill down and look at the metrics for individual subscribers.

This can help you to identify the people who aren’t engaged and who never click to open your emails. It may even be worth removing these subscribers from your email list to improve its overall performance.

Some email marketers go so far as to do this in an attempt to manipulate their email marketing metrics.

This is a fool’s errand and a sign that perhaps you’re taking your metrics too seriously. Gaming and manipulating the metrics won’t have any impact on the actual performance of your email marketing campaign, but there can still be a good reason to do it.

That’s because pruning your list of inactive subscribers and people who never open your emails will help to reduce the likelihood of your address being added to spam filters.

Once you start being flagged for spam, it can be hard to come back from it.

Worse, your average open rate will take a serious hit because your emails will find their way into the spam folder instead of into people’s main inboxes.

Open Rate Benchmarks

Now that you know what open rates are, the next step is to take email marketing benchmarks so that you can get a feel for how your email marketing campaign is performing.

The only problem with that is that the average email open rate varies dramatically from industry to industry.

Still, there are plenty of studies out there that can give us a rough idea of what to expect.

For example, according to Campaign Monitor, the average email open rate is around 15-25% while the average click-through rate is 2.5% and the average click to open rate hovers at around 20-30%.

Here’s a rough breakdown of the average email open rate by industry:

  • Agencies: 22.5%

  • Arts/Entertainment: 33.7%

  • Automotive: 17.7%

  • Communications: 26.7%

  • Education: 31.9%

  • Financial Services: 26.8%

  • Health/Beauty: 24.1%

  • Healthcare: 32.5%

  • Internet Marketing: 15.8%

  • Legal Services: 30.7%

  • Non-Profits: 37.5%

  • Publishing: 32.2%

  • Real Estate: 27.6%

  • Restaurants/Food: 41.4%

  • Retail: 22.9%

  • Sports/Activities: 32%

  • Technology/High Tech: 26%

  • Travel: 23.1%

Overall, Campaign Monitor found that the average email open rate across all industries was 23.67%.

That’s a reasonable benchmark, but the important thing to remember is that statistically, half of companies fall below the average.

We like to think about it differently and so we aim to be the best in class.

Industry average isn’t good enough, which is why we aim to achieve an average email open rate of 40% and a 20% click-through rate.

They’re aggressive email marketing benchmarks, but we’d rather be overambitious than under ambitious.

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Other Important Metrics To Track

Of course, you shouldn’t just track how many people open the email.

There are other metrics for you to focus on too, ranging from bounce rate to conversion rate, email deliverability rate and more. Some of the most important metrics to consider tracking include:

  • Action Rate Over Time: This metric monitors performance over time and tracks exactly when people are taking actions.

  • Audience Size: This metric is all about tracking how many people have signed up to receive emails from you. The larger your audience size, the more opens you can usually expect to receive.

  • Bounce Rate: This metric focusses on email deliverability and tracks which percentage of the emails that you send receive an automated bounce back from the recipient’s email provider.

  • Click-Through Rate: The click-through rate of your email content measures the percentage of recipients who click on one of the links.

  • Click-to-Open Rate: This one is a little different to a regular open rate because it compares the number of clicks to the number of opens. It’s a bit like a cross between open rate and click-through rate.

  • Conversion Rate: Your email conversion rate is arguably one of your most important metrics because it measures the percentage of email recipients who go on to take some sort of action, such as making a purchase.

  • Spam Percentage: This useful metric monitors how often your emails are being picked up by people’s spam filters.

  • Unique Open Rate: This metric looks specifically at how many unique audience members have decided to open the email. This is different to your average email open rate because it doesn’t include the times when people have opened the email multiple times.

  • Unsubscribe Rate: This will follow the rate at which people opt out of your email list and indicate that they no longer want to hear from you.

Another point worth noting is that just because you can track all of these metrics, it doesn’t necessarily follow that you should.

In fact, if you spread yourself too thin and try to track too many marketing metrics, you risk overwhelming yourself and taking your eyes off the metrics that matter.

Factors Affecting Open Rates

Now that you know the basics about email marketing benchmarks, the next step is to understand the different factors which can affect your average email open rate. A number of different factors come into play here, including:

  • List Quality: The quality of your list has a major role to play when it comes to your average email open rate. The more relevant your subscribers are to your company, the more likely they are to open the emails that you send to them.

  • Event Triggers: Many emails are automatically triggered by some sort of event, such as someone placing an order or signing up on a website. These triggered emails are generally more likely to be opened than others because people understand why they’re receiving them.

  • Brand Recognition: Brand recognition mostly comes into play for your sender name and email address, although consistent subject line styles can help too. If people recognize your brand, they’re more likely to open the email.

  • Subject Line Relevance: How relevant is your subject line both in terms of the email content and what your target audience is expecting to hear from you? Relevance affects average open rates, but it also affects click-through rates and conversion rates.

  • Time of Day: Never underestimate the importance of sending your email at the right time of day. Getting the day of the week right can make a big difference, too. It’s a good idea to test to see what works best amongst your audience.

Time of day for best email open rates

How To Increase Email Open Rates

Understanding the factors that influence your average email open rate then allows you to adopt your email marketing strategy to play into them.

The good news for us is that there are plenty of studies into the proven methods of increasing your average email open rate. Some of the most important factors here include:

  • Subject Lines: The subject lines that you pick are the main factor that go into influencing open rates because that’s all people see before they click to open the email.

  • Words to Avoid: A lot of research has gone into the words that you should avoid, either because they’re off-putting to recipients or because they set off spam filters. Words to avoid include “earn”, “money” and “removal”.

  • Welcome Emails: According to data from GetResponse, the average open rate for welcome emails is a whopping 82%.

  • Personalization: A study from Yes Lifecycle Marketing found that emails with personalized subject lines received 50% higher open rates than those without.

Should You Segment Your Email List?

The best email marketing strategy

One of the most common questions that we hear from people is, “Should we segment our email list?”

And our answer to that is simple – yes, yes, and more yes!

Segmenting your email list allows you to tailor your messaging based upon who you’re reaching out to. You can contact different audience members with different messaging, depending upon the data that they’ve provided you with.

For example, new customers are likely to require a different tone to long-term customers, and if you service multiple different verticals then it makes no sense to say the same thing to everyone.

Marketing is all about relevance, reaching the right person in the right place with the right message at the right time. Email segmentation makes it much easier for you to do just that.

#R3MAT Method - the right message to the right person at the right time

Ultimately, segmenting your email list is a best practice for a reason, and if you’re able to do it effectively then you’ll be able to improve the majority of your email marketing metrics, ranging from your average open rate to your engagement rate, click-through rate and more.

It’s an easy way of dramatically improving the performance of any email marketing campaign.

How To Grow Your Email List

Of course, knowing which metrics to monitor and how to segment your email list is one thing, but it won’t get you very far if you don’t have any subscribers in the first place.

That’s why we thought we’d share a few of our top tricks to grow your email list:

  • Have plenty of sign up forms: The more sign up forms you have, the more opportunities there are for people to join your email list.

  • Offer up a free download: Free downloads give people a great incentive to opt in to receive communications from you. In fact, this is one of the core strategies at the heart of modern inbound marketing.

  • Run a competition or contest: Competitions are a tried and tested method of data capture that are almost guaranteed to bring in a bunch of new subscribers to your email list.

  • Offer up discounts and deals:  If you want people to sign up to your email list, you need to offer an incentive. As well as offering up a free download, another option is to provide people with discounts or deals.

  • Run advertisements: This can be a more costly method of building email subscribers, but it does have the benefit of being something you can turn on and off at will, increasing or decreasing your budget as necessary.

Don’t make the mistake of purchasing an email list, because these can be unreliable at best and illegal at worst.

It’s much better to focus on growing a decent email list of your own so that you can make it a competitive advantage.

To Sum It Up

One final piece of advice is that you should never forget the awesome power of abandoned cart emails.

According to some 2018 research by Omnisend, sending three abandoned cart emails results in 69% more orders than sending a single email, so be sure to use them to full effect if you want to perfect your email conversion rate.

Interactive emails tend to perform better than conventional emails, too.

Other than that, you should now know all you need to know about setting email marketing benchmarks and using the data that you gather to improve your email marketing campaign.

Now it’s time for you to put what you’ve learned into action and to use it to revolutionize your email marketing strategy.

The good news is that by monitoring these key metrics, you can improve the performance of your email marketing campaigns until they’re one of the most powerful tools that you have at your disposal in your marketing strategy.

So get started with email marketing today – what are you waiting for?

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