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Improving Your Email Open Rate and Other Key Email Marketing Metrics

Improve your email opening rate for your digital marketing efforts

What does email open rate mean?

Your email open rate is a performance metric for measuring the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns. If your target customer doesn’t open your email, it doesn’t matter how effective your message is. That is why tracking email open rates in email marketing matters.

Most email providers calculate and report open rates for you, however, you should know the basic inputs. It is calculated by dividing the number of unique opens by the number of emails sent that did not bounce. If you send out 100 emails and two bounce and 20 are opened, your open rate is 20.41%.

What is a good email open rate?

In their 2018 survey, Epsilon calculated the average open rate to be 29.4%, but you will want to benchmark how you do against others in your industry. HubSpot analyzed email campaigns on its platform in a study of 25 million emails across 28 different industries:

Email Open Rates by Industry

  • Arts and Entertainment: 47%
  • Auto: 35%
  • Beauty and Fitness: 40%
  • Biotech: 37%
  • Business and Industrial: 41%
  • Software: 28%
  • Computers and Electronics: 35%
  • Construction: 45%
  • Design and Development: 39%
  • Event Services: 35%
  • Finance: 40%
  • Healthcare: 33%
  • Hospitality: 40%
  • HR: 44%
  • IT: 38%
  • Insurance: 38%
  • Internet and Telecom: 40%
  • Jobs and Education: 32%
  • Legal and Government: 44%
  • Management Consulting: 40%
  • Marketing and Advertising: 25%
  • Media: 32%
  • Non-profit: 28%
  • Professional Training and Coaching: 36%
  • PR and Communications: 28%
  • Real estate: 42%
  • Shopping: 41%
  • Travel: 28%
Email Marketing KPI's for digital marketing

Benchmarking against your own email marketing performance

While it is nice to beat the market average, you also need to look at how you perform against yourself over time. Is your trend up or down? Do certain campaigns do better than others? What days and times work best? The number of questions you can ask yourself is nearly endless. Pick a few core calculations—see more metrics below—and track them across every email you send.

Most helpful is to calculate your all-time/all-campaign email open rate average, then compare each email against that baseline—as well as your industry average. Pay close attention to the extremely high performing and the extremely low performing emails to learn the lessons behind the results. Beyond the outliers, look for patterns in terms of topics and messages, times of day, types of subject lines, design, and calls to action.

Use benchmarks to set goals for campaigns. Apply your learning and continuously improve. Your goals can be around improving performance against past campaigns and performance against industry averages.

What other email marketing metrics matter?

Your open rate tells you how many people you are reaching, but that is only the first step. It is only one indicator that tells an important, but by no means complete, part of the story. Here are more email marketing metrics to track.

Email marketing metrics and their importance to digital marketing
  • Click-through rate: This metric measures how engaging your message is. Your email subject line might drive the open rate, but your pitch and call to action is what drives click-throughs. You calculate this metric by dividing the number of clicks on a link by the number of people who opened the email.
  • Unsubscribe rate: Measure how many people are not interested on or engaged with your emails with the unsubscribe rate. A high number of unsubscribes could be caused by sending too many emails, poor content and unattractive offers, or targeting the wrong people.
  • Conversion rate: This number measures how many people actually take the action you want them to take—do they buy something, download something, or sign up? Divide the number of people who take action by the number of emails delivered, opened, or clicked on.
  • Bounce rate: When an email is not delivered, either because of a full inbox (soft bounce) or because the email address is not valid (hard bounce), it is called a bounce. You want a highly deliverable list, so you want as few bounces as possible. If you have too many, your email service provider could penalize you. A good email list will have a bounce rate of less than 1%.
  • Revenue per email: If you are selling through email, you can calculate the effectiveness of your email and what it offers by dividing the revenue produced from an email by the number of people who open it or click on it.
  • Revenue per subscriber: Divide the revenue you generate from your email programs by the number of people you mail. You’ll get an average revenue per subscriber, which can help you determine profitability if you know your cost to acquire new email subscribers. That can help you set a budget for digital marketing.
  • A last note about email marketing metrics: People behave differently on desktops and mobile devices. Mobile users tend to open email more in the evening and on weekends. They tend to click less; possibly due to design issues. For all of the metrics above, look at total numbers, and then break out by device to see if there is a pattern to the differences.

Improve your email open rate—and other email marketing metrics

If you find your open rate is less than the industry average or not high enough to achieve your business objectives, you need to make some changes. Here are some key tips for improving your email open rate:

Qualify your email marketing list

1. Qualify your list

To the greatest degree possible, you only want interested people who agree to receive your emails on your list. You may be tempted to scan every business card in your desk drawer and add them to your email list, but that can be counter-productive and can put you in trouble with ICANN regulations against spam. It is better to have a very short list of interested recipients than a huge list that will generate bounces, unsubscribes and unopened emails.

2. Segment your email list

Sending the same message to everyone means you’ll be talking about something irrelevant to a significant number of people. Make the effort to learn about the people on your list. Separate active customers from prospects, look at demographics, learn about their interests, and track buying behavior. Send a different, targeted, and relevant message to each segment.

Email List Growth - Delete Inactive Subscribers

3. Scrub your list of inactive subscribers

If people haven’t opened previous emails and never interact with email contents, they may not be worth keeping on your list. Consider asking them if they still want to get your emails and remove them if they don’t respond. Here are some guidelines for scrubbing email lists or you could use a list cleaning service like BriteVerify or TowerData.

How to time emails - Email Marketing

4. Time your emails

Do people open your emails at work or at home? At night or in the morning? Study your statistics and send at the optimal time—which could vary by segment.

Compose a killer email subject line

5. Optimize your subject line

Here is how to sell Arbonne without parties. People who experience Arbonne in person are more likely to buy. That is why parties have been so central to the Arbonne. You have other ways to put product in the hands of people. Offer pampering days, make-up lessons, or a health and nutrition tune-up. Donate Arbonne products to charity fundraisers. They also work as goodie bag gifts. If your area has a newcomer’s program, be part of it. Show at wedding expos, wellness workshops, fairs, and bazaars. Donate your time to helping patients at cancer support groups. And heck, if time permits, you can still do parties.

Don't write spammy emails when email marketing.

6. Don’t be spammy

Email spam filters look for certain words and formats when determining which emails to deliver and which to deep six in a junk folder. ALL CAPS, lots of exclamation points!!! and extremely commercial phrases like “free trial” might get you flagged. If you are selling Viagra, you will be seriously challenged. Here are more detailed tips for avoiding the spam folder.

Email Marketing - Make trustworthy emails

7. Make your “from” recognizable and trustworthy

If your subscriber does not recognize who is sending the email, chances are, they will delete it. Use a real name or recognized brand instead of a generic address.

Digital marketing of all kinds lets you experiment, measure, and learn—email is no different. With an eye on the dashboard, tracking your email open rate and other email marketing metrics, you’ll be optimizing and profiting with steadily improving results.

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