If you’re putting the time into email marketing for your business, it’s expected that you want to see positive results. You may look at your email open rate as an indicator of your marketing success. But, how reliable is your open rate? Should you be concerned about improving it?
There are several different metrics to measure your email marketing success, including open rate. Taking the time to optimize this one metric could positively impact your other email benchmarks.
How Important is Email Open Rate?
Before you put too much emphasis on your email open rate, you should know that the importance of this metric may be waning. In September 2021, Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection feature was released. This feature makes it possible for some of your audience to hide whether they opened your email or not.
Apple Mail is the default email application on Apple devices, so it’s likely that a significant portion of your audience may opt-in to this privacy feature (or already have). This is why many email service providers, like Mailchimp and Constant Contact, are saying email open rate is becoming an unreliable metric for your email marketing success.
But, your email open rate is still important, and it can indicate a good or bad strategy. If your audience isn’t opening your emails, how are they taking any other action? Following some best practices to improve open rates can help your emails appear trustworthy and valuable. And that can impact other (more reliable) email metrics.
1. Keep Your List Current
An important part of your email marketing strategy is to email your audience consistently. But even if you do this, your list can still grow stale. People change jobs, change emails, or may no longer be interested in your brand. It’s natural for a part of your list to no longer be relevant.
It’s recommended to remove inactive email contacts. Doing so can reduce your bounce rate and spam reports, which can increase your email deliverability to your active contact. Before purging inactive contacts, a lot of companies will attempt a re-engagement campaign with a special offer or a survey.
You can also keep your list current by periodically asking your subscribers to update their email preferences. Or, if you’re reigniting a cold list, you might choose to unsubscribe your contacts and invite them all to subscribe again. This reconfirms their interest in your company.
2. Segment Your List
A large subscriber count most likely impacts your vanity more than it impacts your email marketing success. This is because people really only want to see emails that are relevant to them. If you have a large audience with many different customers types, it’s very difficult to make one single piece of content relevant to everyone. This is why segmentation is a powerful tool.
A Constant Contact study found that “campaigns sent to 35 subscribers or less, suggesting more personalized content, saw incredible open rates at an average of 55 percent. Meanwhile, campaigns sent to more than 7,500 subscribers, suggesting low personalization, averaged about a 14 percent open rate.” Segmenting your list can lead to not only higher open rates, but also to lower unsubscribe rates, improved deliverability, and ultimately greater revenue.
Here are some examples of how you might segment your audience:
- Add tags based on purchase behavior like average order amount or time since last purchase
- Create and send content based on location demographics
- Consider how they joined your list and provide relevant content to their journey
- Add tags based on their interests to send more targeted emails
- Group together audience members of similar job titles or company size
3. Test Your Email Subject Lines
After you’ve niched down who is getting your emails, you can get more specific about what they are getting. Your open rate is largely impacted by relevant email subject lines. A good subject line will entice curiosity without being cryptic. Additionally, it will avoid using spam trigger words like “free” or “limited time.”
Your subject lines should be descriptive, and they should accurately represent the content of the email. Subscribers who open your emails and don’t get the content they were expecting may stop opening your emails or even unsubscribe.
You may have ideas about which subject lines work for your audience. If so, A/B testing different variables can help you hone in on which subject lines work best. You may want to test:
- Does a number perform better in the subject line? For example, “6 Tips to Improve Your Email Open Rate”
- Does asking a question increase the open rate? For example, “What is Search Engine Optimization?”
- Does including an offer increase the open rate? For example, “Enjoy 10% Off Your Next Order”
Remember to keep your subject lines an appropriate length — less than 9 words or 60 characters. If you’re feeling stuck on subject line ideas, we recommend trying a free subject line generator for inspiration.
4. Use Personalization
Research shows that personalized subject lines result in 26 percent higher unique open rates overall. One of the most common ways to personalize your emails is to add the subscriber’s first name to the subject line. Another way to personalize an email is by writing in a conversational tone and using words like “you” or “your.”
If you want to improve your email segments or personalization, you can send a survey to your current audience. Collecting more details about your subscribers gives you more options to personalize the content they receive.
5. Find the Best Time to Send
If you use Mailchimp, you may notice that they offer an “optimized send time” to schedule a campaign. But, what is the best time to send emails to your audience specifically?
To create this tool, Mailchimp looked at open rates across industries. The key takeaway — emails during the work week perform better. And although there isn’t a clear winning time, your emails shouldn’t be sent too early in the morning.
If you want to find the best time for your contacts, you can test different send times. There are many factors specific to your audience that may impact their preferred time to open emails. Try considering a day in the life of your customer. Think about which send times make the most sense, then test those times.
6. Always Offer Value
For all your email metrics, the most important factor is whether or not your email offers value. You shouldn’t send emails just to send emails. As you work on each campaign, you should ask yourself – What’s in it for my audience? Why should they take action with this email?
If your subscribers are happy with the content you provide them, they are more likely to open your future emails. They may even anticipate them. If a subscriber is displeased with what they received in your email, they are not likely to continue opening them.
What’s a Good Email Open Rate?
According to Mailchimp, the average email open rate across all industries is 21.33%. Depending on your industry, an average open rate may be higher or lower. For example, consider the following industries and their average open rate:
- Computers & Electronics: 19.29%
- Daily Deals & Coupons: 15.06%
- Insurance: 21.36%
- Nonprofits: 25.17%
- Real Estate: 19.17%
Remember, some open rate data may be inflated if the majority of your audience uses Apple Mail. But in general, your open rate can signal if your email list is healthy and your content is engaging to your audience.
Other Email Metrics to Consider
You can use your email open rates as a helpful indicator, but we recommend you define other metrics to measure your email marketing success. This can include:
- Click Rate: This shows whether or not your audience finds your email content relevant enough to click through for more. In general, this metric helps you verify that you are sending valuable content.
- Conversion Rate: This reports the percentage of people who took a specific action, like making a purchase.
- List Growth Rate: This metric reflects how fast you’re adding new subscribers versus losing audience members to “unsubscribe.”
- Forwarding & Shares: Measuring how often your subscribers share your email campaigns can broaden your reach and contribute to list growth.
It’s unlikely that your primary business goal is to get people to open or click a link in an email. Be sure you are implementing an email strategy that contributes to your overall business objectives.
Want to talk about more digital marketing for your business? We’d love to give you customized advice. Request a call with one of our digital assistants.