The most important email benchmarks for 2020

Every year, marketing teams revamp their strategies for the year to come. Part of that process is researching new trends and reading up on important email benchmarks. 

To craft a strategy that will perform better than the year before, you have to collect your benchmark data from the past 12 months and compare it to your industry’s averages.

While all email benchmarks help determine the success of your marketing campaign, some are considered more essential than others. But before we can discuss these benchmarks, you need to know why they’re important. 

Why email benchmarks matter

You know email benchmarks show the success of your campaigns. Not only are they the necessary figures, but they help you understand how you measure up against your competitors. 

No two industries are alike. If you’re a part of the education industry, you can’t compare your email benchmarks to those in the retail industry. 

This chart by our friends at Campaign Monitor illustrates this perfectly. 

Campaign Monitor chart

Source: Campaign Monitor

The metrics may be the same, but each industry has varying averages that determine success.  

These numbers show if your subscribers are or aren’t paying attention to your email campaigns – they also show how inclined they are to engage with your content. 

The reality is that, when revamping your email marketing strategy, there are more than 15 email metrics worth considering. But taking the time to focus on a few of the most important can help guarantee future success.

So, which email benchmarks should you be paying attention to in 2020? Keep reading.

7 of the most important email benchmarks to watch

As we move through 2020, marketing teams are seeing a heavy emphasis on user engagement across multiple channels – not just email. 

When it comes to determining email subscriber engagement, there are seven essential email benchmarks to keep your attention on. 

Just knowing these email benchmarks isn’t enough. You need to understand what each one is, how to determine your rates, and how to compare them to your industry’s averages.

1. Email open rates

Your email open rate is the total number of times your message is opened by those you’ve sent it to. And it’s one of the most talked about email benchmarks among marketing teams. 

To determine your open rate for a specific campaign, take the number of email opens and divide it by the total number of emails sent, subtracting those that bounced back. The formula looks something like this:

email open rate = (emails opened / [emails sent - bounced]) x 100

2. Email click-to-open rates (CTOR)

Another important email benchmark is your email CTOR. While it may seem similar to your email open rate, it’s not. 

Your open rate includes every open. Your CTOR is the unique number of clicks your email receives. 

For example, if someone opens an email three times, each of those is included in your email open rate. But with your CTOR, those three opens only counts as one unique click. 

To determine your CTOR, you need the total number of unique email clicks, the total number of emails sent, minus any emails that may have bounced. Take the number of unique email clicks and divide it by the number of emails sent out, minus the bounced emails. Your formula will look like this:

CTOR = (unique number of email clicks / [total number of emails sent - bounced emails]) x 100

3. Email click-through rates (CTR)

Your CTR is the number of times someone clicks on a link within your email.

CTR examples

Source: Really Good Emails

This email benchmark helps marketing teams determine how compelling their content is. The higher the CTR, the more encouraged their subscribers felt to click a link or call-to-action (CTA). 

The formula for your CTR is simple. All you need is your total email opens and your total links clicked. The formula looks like this:

CTR = (total number of clicks / total opens) x 100

4. Email unsubscribe rates

Not every email is going to be perfect. Some are bound to lead a subscriber to hit that dreaded unsubscribe button. Knowing your unsubscribe rate will help you determine what’s working well and what isn’t. 

When someone feels that they’re finished receiving your content, they’ll likely go to that unsubscribe button (that marketers are required to include). 

Waymo instagram ad

Source: Really Good Emails

To find your unsubscribe rate, take the total number of email unsubscribes and divide that by the total number of emails sent, minus any that have bounced back. To get the full percentage, multiply by 100. This is the formula:

unsubscribe rate = (number of unsubscribes / [total number of messages - bounced messages]) x 100

5. Email bounce rates

We’ve mentioned bounced emails a few times, so it comes as no surprise that it would make the list of most important email benchmarks. 

Bounced emails come in two forms:

  • Soft bounces: These are returned emails due to an issue – like an excessively large file size that’s preventing your message from being sent. 

  • Hard bounces: These are messages that have failed to deliver for a serious reason, like an invalid email address. These can lead to a poor sender score, which may hinder your overall deliverability. Any returned email as the result of a hard bounce should be removed from your list. 

Finding your email bounce rate isn’t difficult, especially when using the following formula:

bounce rate = (undelivered emails / total emails sent) x 100

6. Complaint rates

Your complaint rate is the number of emails that receivers report as spam. This doesn’t occur as frequently as other benchmarks, but it’s important to know nonetheless. 

You should know: The more complaints you have, the more likely you’ll be automatically marked as spam by major email service providers (like Gmail or AOL). 

Once you’re labeled as spam, it’s nearly impossible to get your content out to subscribers. So monitor your complaint rates and adjust your content accordingly. 

To find your complaint rate, take the number of complaints and divide it by the number of emails sent, minus any that bounced back. Here’s the formula:

complaint rate = (number of total complaints / [number of emails sent - bounced emails]) x 100

7. Email engagement rates

One of the most vital email benchmarks to monitor in 2020 is your email engagement rates. This metric refers to how long a person remains on your email and interacts with it. 

Engagement rates are split up into three areas:

  • Read – If someone spends more than eight seconds on your email, it means they read through and interacted with it. 

  • Skimmed – When someone skimmed a message, it means they opened and took a quick look, spending between two and eight seconds on it. 

  • Glanced – The message was opened and the subscriber spent less than two seconds there.

To find your overall engagement rate, you’re better off having an email marketing software that keeps track of this number, because you can’t necessarily predict how long someone stayed on your message.

If you’re curious how you stack up against others in your industry, here’s the average engagement rate per industry as of 2018.

IBM Marketing Report

Source: IBM 2018 Marketing Benchmark Report

Using your metrics to determine email campaign success

Once you’ve got your email open rate, take that number and compare it to your industry’s average to see where you land. 

If your email open rate falls at 15% and the average is almost 18%, then you may need to adjust something. But if you’re in professional services and have an 18.5% open rate – and your industry’s average is a flat 18% – then your campaign is a success. 

Wrap up

Knowing where you stand against your competitors is handy information. Keep a close eye on the most important email benchmarks. 

Here are seven email benchmarks to help you monitor and improve your email marketing efforts:

  • Open rates

  • CTRs

  • CTORs

  • Unsubscribe rates

  • Bounce rates

  • Complaint rates

  • Engagement rates

Looking for a tool to help you keep track of important metrics? Emma’s robust analytics tool can do that and so much more – schedule your live demo today to get started.

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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