What is the average open rate for email marketing?

With social media, SEO, and content marketing dominating companies’ attention and budget, you may wonder: Is email marketing still relevant?

Here’s the short answer: Yes. Email continues to deliver a strong return on investment — on average, you can expect to see $40 for every $1 you spend.1

The first step to unlocking the power of email marketing? Understanding your email open rate. Read on to learn more about this essential metric and key tactics that may help improve yours.

What is an open rate in email marketing?

Email marketing open rate refers to the percentage of marketing emails opened by recipients.

You’ll frequently hear marketers obsess over open rates because they provide insights into the effectiveness of a company’s email marketing efforts. A high open rate indicates that recipients find the emails relevant, increasing the chances that they complete a desired action — whether that’s making a purchase, signing up for a loyalty program, or leaving a glowing review.

How to calculate an email open rate?

The formula to calculate an email open rate is:

To break it down:

  • Unique opens: The number of individual recipients who opened the email at least once
  • Total emails delivered: The total number of emails successfully delivered to recipients’ inboxes, which excludes bounced emails

Say you sent out 1,000 emails, and 300 recipients opened the email. Using the formula, your open rate would be 30%.

What is the average open rate for email marketing?

While the average open rate for email marketing can depend on factors such as your industry and your target audience, studies have found that the average open rate for email marketing is between 21.5%2 and 38.49%.3

Average email open rates by industry

Industry benchmarks offer a glimpse into how your email campaigns compare to those of your competitors.

Below are a few examples of average email open rates by industry – compiled in a study that analyzed over one-million marketing emails.3

  • The construction industry estimates email open rates close to 34%.
  • Consulting and marketing industries estimate open rates around 37-38%.
  • Beauty and personal care, e-commerce and retail, and health and fitness all generally average around 40%.3

Research your industry to identify a standard open rate to use as a benchmark in your marketing strategy.

How to increase email open rate?

If your email open rate is lower than the industry average, don’t panic. Use these tips to help improve your email performance. Over time, you may notice an uptick in your email open rate.

Segment your audience

Segmenting your audience lets you create and send emails catering to the specific interests and needs of your different target audiences.

Some popular ways to segment your email list include:

  • By gender: By designing separate email campaigns for men and women, you can offer more relevant content, such as shopping guides or product recommendations.
  • By location: Segmenting your emails for different regions or countries allows you to tailor content based on local trends, weather, or holidays.
  • By purchase history: By segmenting your emails according to purchase history, you can send exclusive rewards to loyal customers vs. re-engagement discounts to cart abandoners.

Build a quality audience list

Building a quality audience list of subscribers genuinely interested in your products, services, or content means a greater likelihood that they will open your emails. One way to achieve this is to regularly remove invalid or inactive email addresses from your mailing list. This helps reduce bounce rates, which can negatively impact your sender reputation and email deliverability.

Another best practice is to invite clients and followers to opt into a regular newsletter. Just be sure to follow regulations for acquiring opt-in consent.

Create engaging content

Once you build your list, creating valuable email content that educates, entertains, or inspires is the heart of any successful email marketing strategy.

Engaging content can take various forms, such as informative articles, personalized product recommendations, exclusive email-only deals, or interactive elements like quizzes or surveys.

By consistently delivering quality content, you establish trust, credibility, and loyalty that encourages recipients to open future emails as well.

Discover more tips on content and email marketing here.

Experiment with timing

Try sending emails when recipients are most likely to check their inboxes actively. For example, emails received during working hours when people check their emails can result in higher open rates compared to weekends when they’re out and about.

Optimize your subject line

As the first thing that email recipients see, your subject line is crucial for achieving a better open rate.

Use these tips to optimize your subject lines:

  • Keep it short: Your subject line should ideally be around 40-50 characters to ensure it doesn't get cut off in email previews.
  • Personalize it: Personalizing subject lines with the recipient's name or other relevant details helps create an instant connection.
  • Communicate relevance and value: Try to clearly summarize the benefit of opening the email.

Avoid spam filters

The spam (or junk) folder is where email providers store unsolicited, irrelevant, or potentially harmful emails (e.g., phishing attempts or scams) to protect their users.

Avoiding spam filters ensures that your legitimate marketing emails reach recipients' inboxes. Meanwhile, high spam complaints can harm your sender reputation, leading to lower open rates of future email campaigns.

Use these tips to improve deliverability and reduce the chances of your emails being flagged as spam:

  • Avoid spammy language: Beware of excessive capitalization, multiple exclamation marks, and spam-triggering keywords.
  • Add an unsubscribe button: Include a visible and easy-to-use unsubscribe link to let recipients opt out rather than mark your emails as spam.

Leveling up your email marketing is a solid first step to a more effective marketing strategy. Next up? Leveraging social media marketing – use this guide to get started.

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