Everything you need to know about email open rates

How would you rate the overall health of your email marketing? What about your open rates?

Honestly, email open rates are something every marketer will struggle with now and then. 

Although 59% of consumers prefer to communicate with brands through email, their inboxes are crowded: Over 306 billion emails are sent each day around the world. By 2023, that figure will rise to over 347 billion. 

Marketers need to produce interesting content if they want to earn the attention of subscribers. 

If you’re wondering about the overall health of your email marketing, your open rates are a good barometer. But what’s a good email open rate for 2020?

This post will explain why open rates are so important and provide a few benchmarks. It will also go over some helpful tips for improving your open rate. 

What’s an email open rate and how do they work?

When someone receives your email and clicks to read the content, that’s what’s called an “open.”

Your email service provider (ESP) takes note every time someone opens your email. It pools those numbers together and lists them in your campaign dashboard as an open rate. 

Usually, your ESP will offer two open rate figures: a hard number and a percentage. The percentage tells you how many people opened the email divided by how many received it. 

What’s a good email open rate for 2020? How to track your email metrics.

Source: Emma

ESPs calculate your open rate percentage using successful deliveries. For example, if your email bounced for some subscribers, those won’t lower your open rate percentage. 

Within your ESP dashboard, you can check your open rate for individual campaigns. You can also check the performance of your open rate for all campaigns over time. 

What’s a good email open rate for 2020?

Keep in mind that each industry has unique rates. The average open rate for a university will look much different than that of a restaurant. 

Campaign Monitor found, for example, that automotive companies have some of the lowest open rates: about 12%. Meanwhile, government agencies and nonprofits enjoy some of the highest: between 25% and 30%.

What’s a good email open rate for 2020? Benchmarks by industry.

Source: Campaign Monitor

Likewise, different types of campaigns produce different open rates. For example, a restaurant’s promotional email might have a lower open rate than an order confirmation email. 

So, what’s a good open rate for 2020? The average open rate across all industries is between 15% and 25%. 

It’s better to gauge your improvement over time. If your rates are under 15%, don’t get upset. Follow some of the tactics below to boost it. Shoot for gradual improvements rather than skyrocketing your open rate overnight.

Why are email open rates important in 2020?

Email open rates serve as a great benchmark for your general email marketing strategy. 

If subscribers aren’t opening your emails, you can’t judge your click rate and content success properly. After all, the entire success of your email marketing hinges on people opening your campaigns. 

While a few factors influence your open rate, your subject line is arguably the most influential one. Alternatively, open rates can help you judge the effectiveness of your subject lines.

Of course, open rates aren’t the only metric that matters. 

You also want people to engage with the content inside your emails. Your click rate will tell you whether your content is interesting, relevant, and valuable to your subscribers. 

It’s also smart to track your click-to-open rate. This percentage tells you how many people opened your email and exited compared to how many opened and clicked something. On that note, Campaign Monitor found the average click-to-open rate is 14.3% across all industries.

Just like open rates, click rates and click-to-open rates also vary across industries and companies. For example, food and beverage companies have some of the lowest click-to-open rates: around 8%. Meanwhile, media and publishers enjoy click-to-open rates of nearly 17%.

What factors influence email open rates?

Several factors determine whether people open your email. The good news is that you can control most of them.

The subject line

As we said before, this has one of the biggest impacts on your open rates.

For example, 69% of people say they judge an email as spam purely on the subject line. Meanwhile, using the word “newsletter” in your subject line can lower your open rates by 18.7%. 

Your sender name

A large portion of your audience may judge whether to open or trash your email based on the sender's name alone. A suspicious domain or sender could encourage them to swipe or unsubscribe.

Your industry

There’s no way around it: Some industries simply have lower average open rates than others. Shoot for your industry’s benchmarks outlined above.

The time of day and day of week

Some days of the week are simply better for sending emails. Likewise, time also matters. Campaign Monitor found Saturday is the worst day to send emails. Meanwhile, the worst day for click-to-opens is Sunday. In other words, weekends aren’t a great time to send email marketing campaigns.

What’s a good email open rate for 2020? Sending at the wrong time.

Source: Campaign Monitor

How can you boost your email open rate in 2020?

While you can’t control your subscribers, you can take a few steps to optimize different things that affect your open rate. 

Optimize your subject lines

Subject lines are one of the first things your subscribers see when your email lands in their inbox. Take a few steps to improve them by:

  • Keeping them under 40 characters so mobile subscribers can read the whole thing

  • Creating urgency 

  • Writing like a friend rather than a business

  • Including an emoji, which can boost open rates by 56%

  • Personalizing the content, such as including the subscriber’s first name

It’s also important to optimize your preview text. These 150-ish characters can help you elaborate on the idea presented in your subject line and build urgency.

Send different subject lines to segments of your list

Segmented campaigns can boost revenue by a whopping 700%. With technology at your disposal, there’s no need to send the same email subject line to your complete list.

Instead, break your list up into groups based on unique demographics, like:

  • Geolocation 

  • Gender 

  • Browsing behavior

  • Purchase behavior

  • Engagement history

Craft unique email subject lines for each segment based on relevant data. Since segmented campaigns are naturally more relevant, people should feel more interested in opening them.

Maintain good email list hygiene 

If your emails aren’t being opened, they might not be making it into inboxes. The definition of spam changes all the time. Many marketers may not realize they’re sending spammy emails until their open rates plummet. 

It’s smart to ensure you’re keeping your list clean. A few best practices include:

  • Using a double opt in when new subscribers sign up

  • Removing inactive subscribers from your list

  • Providing a valid and visible unsubscribe link

  • Not purchasing email lists

Rethink your “From” field and authenticate your sending domain

Make sure you’re always sending from a familiar name, such as that of a team member or your company’s name. 

It’s also smart to authenticate your domain name. This will ensure email clients like Gmail know you’re sending valid communication and not spam. 

Send your emails at the right time

Campaign Monitor found Tuesday as the best day to send emails for open rates. Keep your audience and industry in mind as well. 

If your subscribers live in different time zones, make sure to segment them so you’re always sending your content at the right time. If you send in the middle of the night, for example, your email will be buried by the time your subscriber wakes up.

On that note, shoot for sending emails when your audience is most active online. Use engagement behavior if you can. Your ESP analytics can tell you when subscribers open your emails.

Set up automated triggered campaigns

Triggered campaigns are highly relevant because they’re based on subscriber behavior. 

When a subscriber completes an action — like buying a product or signing up for your list — you can send them automated emails. 

Automated campaigns boast an average open rate of 50% because they’re highly personalized.

Offer an email preference center

An email preference center puts your subscribers in control of the emails they receive. 

Research shows 45% of people unsubscribe from lists because they receive too many emails — whether from specific brands or in general.

Let your subscribers choose how often to receive emails. You can also let them pick their favorite topics. 

What’s a good email open rate for 2020 and why do people unsubscribe?

Source: Marketing Sherpa

Wrap up

Open rates are a useful metric for tracking the overall performance of your email marketing efforts. If people aren’t opening your emails, they can’t engage with your content. If you’re not happy with your current open rates, start by:

  • Optimizing your subject lines

  • Sending different subject lines to different subscribers

  • Maintaining good email list hygiene

  • Rethinking your sender and domain name

  • Sending your emails at the perfect time

  • Setting up automated triggered campaigns

Looking for more advice to help optimize your subject lines? Check out these five subject line mistakes and start writing better emails today.

About the Author

Emma Email

Emma is an email marketing platform that gives you all the tools you need to send campaigns that really connect with your subscribers. With our​​ powerful automation and personalization features, you can create and send email campaigns that reach the right customer at just the right time. It's email marketing that works for you.

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