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Average Email Open Rate for Email Marketing



If you have been immersed in the world of email marketing, or you intend to do so in the near future, you may be aware that it is a force to be reckoned with. This holds true, especially if we take into account the fact that there are a staggering 3.7 billion email users globally as of 2019 (Statista 2019). Estimates show that in 2022, this number is to reach as much as 4.3 billion email users worldwide, which means that half of the entire world population may, in fact, be a potential lead. Tempting, right?


However, don’t hold your breath. As any experienced email marketer will surely tell you, basing your email outreach to be a simple call to action is not up to scratch. Why, you ask? 


First of all, email outreach campaigns have to be cleverly designed to generate leads, which is frequently done by establishing automated emails or similar software products as your modus operandi. Other than this, there are several relevant concepts and statistics that a savvy email marketer should take into account during the process of devising an email marketing campaign. One of them being, of course, the average email open rate.


IIn today’s digital climate, roughly 200 million emails are sent out daily as part of various email marketing campaigns, and only 20% actually opened. Therefore, it is advantageous to be well acquainted with how email open rates can be boosted and how you can put average email open rate metrics to good use. 

The Basics of Email Marketing Open Rate 

average email open rate

Image source: Asknickfoy.com


Firstly, it must be pointed out that sending an email can be observed through several distinct statistical categories. This, in turn, means that, theoretically, we have an insight into the metrics that may help us improve our approach to sending emails. It gives us information on their content and layout as well as the inconsistencies and mistakes that may plague our marketing campaign. 


Let’s take a look at the outline of these four relevant rates:


Name of rate

Short definition

Email delivery rate 

How many sent emails reached the recipient's inbox

Email open rate

How many emails are actually opened by the recipient

Email click-through rate (CTR)

Clicks on the links in your emails

Email click-to-open rate (CTOR)

The difference between the average open rate and email click-through rate


Observe these rates as a hypothetical ‘life cycle’ of any individual email. The average open rate is a good indicator of how well you raise interest, but it is just one element in the bigger picture. For these reasons, these rates are all equally important as they allow us to get a comprehensive, statistical insight into how successful our email outreach actually is. 


Knowing what they are, how to make use of them, and how to implement the email marketing methods related to them into your workflow is essential. And for that reason, we will devote ample attention to these concepts. 


Email deliverability as a precursor of a good open rate for emails


To fully and adequately address what a good average email open rate is, it is necessary to clarify a ‘stage’ that precedes the actual opening of the email - the email delivery. Email delivery rate, as previously defined, is essentially a rate that enumerates how many emails succeed in reaching the recipient’s inbox folder. 


It seems simple enough, but paying attention to ‘red-flags’ that may hinder your delivery rate goes a long way in improving your email open rate. Making small adjustments to your email marketing campaign will prevent your cold email campaign from contributing to the 45% of emails that end up as spam, in the Promotions section or other ‘email graveyards’.


Needless to say that if your email is sorted in the Spam or Junk folder, you might as well consider your success rate obliterated. It’s like a domino effect. Your average open rate, average click-through rates, conversions, email outreach, and everything you ever hoped to accomplish will turn into digital dust.  


As there are numerous algorithms specially designed to evaluate emails for ‘spammy’ content, it is useful for any email marketer to ‘know the enemy.’ That is, to be acquainted with various security measures in addition to what should be avoided in the process of creating your email marketing campaign. This security measures list is not exhaustive, but we enlist the following as most relevant:


  • Internet service providers (ISPs)

  • Email service providers (Gmail, Yahoo! Mail, etc.)

  • Spam blockers

  • Spam traps

  • Email blacklists (especially blacklisted domains)


Be wary even if you manage to pass all of these security measures. You should take into account the fact that once your emails or domains get labeled as spam by multiple users, it is tough to revert this. Perhaps even impossible. 


It is one thing to devise your email to satisfy the algorithms and the perpetually stricter standards which define what is automatically categorized as spam. This entails circumventing spam filter trigger words. However, it is also essential to deliver satisfactory content to attract your target demographic and, thus, avoid abuse reports. As 1 out of 5 commercial emails never reach the inbox folder, either due to hard or soft bounces, stepping up your email marketing game is crucial.


what is a good open rate for email

Image Source: superoffice.com


For this reason, take a look at this short checklist of what you should pay attention to in order to increase your email delivery rate in relation to the global standard, which amounts to only 75.9%.


  1. Initiate your campaign effectively, not aggressively. You can start by using free email address lists. At the outset, be sure to send no more than 50 emails per day to avoid getting your new email address or domain blacklisted. Increase the volume as each week passes. 


  1. Keep your email address list neat. Start by incorporating email list templates to organize your contacts easily. Remove hard bounces from your email list and soft bounces if they fail after several attempts. Verifying emails is an advisable strategy to keep up your email list hygiene.


  1. Customize the content. Overloading your email body with links, images, videos, and other media might trigger spam trackers. Further on, customization of the email body and ‘From’ ‘To’ and ‘Reply to’ sections is advised as stats show that not only does it increase the email delivery rate, it also contributes to a 10% increase in email open rates.

The basics of email marketing average open rate

As previously stated, a good average open rate can be a telltale sign that your email marketing campaign is going smoothly. That is its primary purpose - to indicate how well emails attract the attention of the recipients. There are two formulae used to measure the average open rate:


  1. Unique* number of emails opened divided by the total number of emails sent

  2. Total number of emails opened divided by the total number of emails sent

  3. Total number of emails opened divided by the total number of emails delivered


*unique = emails opened only once


Some industry experts maintain that the first two formulas do not enumerate the value you want to observe. They include both delivered and bounced emails (=sent) into the equation. Therefore, the third formula is a more reliable indicator of your email open rate.

Average email open rate industry benchmarks 

A factor that plays a vital role in juxtaposing your average open rate with the industry average open rates is the fact that there are many industries with varying success rates. Some industries inherently instigate interest better than others. 


email open rate

Source Image: smartinsights.com


Here, we have a breakdown of average open rates categorized in sectors, with the other relevant rates like bounce rates and unsubscribe rates included. Most commonly, hobbies are considered to be the leading industry in terms of opened emails with a rate of around 27%. Some estimates state that an average email open rate for all sectors is approximately 22%. Most comprehensive statistical studies lean towards smaller and medium-sized businesses, including this one. 


Concerning the unsubscribe rates, they are significantly higher than the abuse rates. That is not a coincidence. Many email marketing experts suggest it is beneficial for your email marketing campaign to provide customers with a clearly and easily accessible option to unsubscribe from your promotions or newsletter, rather than force them to resort to reporting your emails as spam. As previously discussed, abuse reports should be avoided at all costs as they can seriously injure your ‘trustworthiness’ by triggering permanent domain bans.


Let’s take a look at average open rate benchmarks categorized by the industry, as reported in the 2018 IBM study. The study focuses on large companies in 40 countries (to be more exact, roughly 750 companies with their 3,000 worldwide branches)


email click through rate

Source Image: smartinsights.com


The unique open rate represents the one-time opened emails rather than the total number of times the email was opened. The stats for large market players show that the mean open rate can vary anywhere from about 45% in the automotive & transport industry to 15% in the service industry. 


As the open rates vary significantly for each industry, it is better to compare your performance against industry rates than general email open rates. Some industries, like the service, food, or leisure industry, have inherently lower average open rates. They mostly base their operations outside of the digital world - restaurants and other venues that attract customers on the spot. 


But do not let these statistics sway you. These figures can fluctuate significantly, even within the same industry. A typical email marketing practice is to create your own system by including the following criteria to measure and compare the success of your email campaign average open rate with the industry open rate standards:


  • Location

  • Product

  • Business Type (B2B or B2C) 

  • Target Audience

  • Your previous email open averages


The logic behind this is that, depending on the nature of the industry and the quarterly changes that are bound to occur in any given company or industry, it is better to track your average comprehensively. You can do this by taking into account all of the factors mentioned above. 

Email open rate benchmarks by location

Depending on the continent or even country where you intend to initiate your email marketing campaigns, the average open rates differ due to different customer habits, email service providers, security measures, etc. Therefore, this is another influential factor that can indicate how well your campaign may perform across different markets. These are engagement rates for Q1 2019 provided by GetResponse. 


Continent

Average email open rates

Africa

17.33%

Asia

18.51%

Europe

26.84%

North America

19.00%

Oceania

25.64%

South America

23.06%

All

22.15%


Email marketing average open rate by types 

As with the previous factors, different ‘types of emails’ also perform differently. We have two distinct categories worth mentioning: 

Type of email

  • Batched - one-off emails sent to ‘batches’, that is, to grouped email addresses.  

  • Automated/Triggered - a specific customer behavior or event ‘triggers’ email sending  



what is a good email open rate

Source Image: emarketingplatform.com


The Automated/Triggered email engagement rate is double the Batched email open rate. This makes sense since these emails are optimized to respond to customer activity. For instance, when you sign up to a newsletter or place an order on a website, you receive a ‘welcome’ email or a confirmation email. 


These types of emails are in close connection with customer activities, and this shows both in relation to the average open rate and click-through rate. Since customers engage with these emails more frequently, the unsubscribe and complaint rates are, in turn, higher. 


Conversely, the ‘batch-and-blast’ approach to email marketing, in which email marketers send out a single message to a significant number of email addresses is a double-edged sword. Sure, catering to many people at once saves time and resources. Segmenting your target audience and sending relevant emails that take into account their purchase preferences, age, location, or other characteristics may improve your open rates. 

Type of business

These are the two relevant email marketing commerce relations: 

  • B2B - Business-to-Business

  • B2C - Business to Consumer

what's a good open rate for emails

Source Image: emarketingplatform.com


Email marketing campaigns focused on consumers perform worse than B2B marketing. However, the average open rate was lower by only 2% and the click-through rate by less than 2%. Interestingly enough, the bounce and complaint rate was slightly higher for B2B, whereas B2C unsubscribe rate experienced a 0.03% higher rate than B2B.

The basics of average email click-through rate

As you may notice, email click-through rates help paint a better picture of how efficient your email outreach is. The average open rates inform us about the proportion of customers who were interested in the email’s subject line and its basic idea. The click-through rate is perhaps a better indicator that customers not only read your emails but that the content also engages them in it. 


According to research, your average email click-through rate amounts to a mere 3.42% (stats for 2017). However, as with email open rates, instigating customers to click on the links in your email marketing campaign depends on several factors such as industry, location, or customer preference. Unfortunately, these factors are something you cannot control. 


What you can control is the way you layout information and content. You can adequately position the links. You can improve your phrasing, verbiage, email length, the time the emails are sent out concerning the target audience location and time ‘hotspots.’ For example, if you are promoting an event or a conference, you should include stunning visuals or time-tested email invitation templates rather than send unmemorable, straight to the point emails in the middle of the (recipient’s) evening.


What are good optimization practices to improve average email open rates?

We have discussed why it is essential to observe email open rates holistically, by observing various factors and types your email marketing campaign may fit into. The same goes for improving your email open rate. The goal is to implement methods that allow you to enhance not only your average email open rate but also other engagement rates. Thus, the overall performance of your email marketing campaign will improve.


There are several relevant and easily applicable practices you can apply:


  1. Customization

  2. Personalization

  3. Streamlining

  4. Instigating curiosity


Customization

First impressions are important. How does that translate to your email marketing campaign? It’s very straightforward. From the ‘To’ and ‘From’ sections to subject lines, the information you first present and the way you phrase it is the key to drawing the recipient to open your email. Abstain from straightforward sales pitches, including placing price tags and currencies in the subject line. 


However, that does not mean you shouldn’t try to sell your product. It is just the way you phrase it. Some email marketing experts are in favor of the ‘free’ approach - offering a product or a service for free. Other strategies involve selling a product for a ridiculously small price and compensating on sipping or additional fees. Both are proven methods of attracting attention. It just depends on what suits your product better.


The second impression is also important. Pitch your idea in an attractive, non-binding manner, and most importantly, customize your email body according to the factors mentioned above. This is your way to success as different customers require different approaches. 


Personalization

Personalize everything! The subject line and the body should mention the person’s name, or at the very least cater to some characteristic or area of interest of the recipient. Sure, sometimes the email has to be broad enough to address a large number of potential leads. But hey, at least you can mention something that is of significance for the entire region. 


This is also applicable to your own presentation. Yes, the focus should be on the customers and their needs, then on the product itself,  how it can help them or why they might need it. That is the standard prioritization. 


However, be sure to mention your credentials, successes, and areas of expertise in an unobtrusive and friendly manner. People love to hear that they are in the hands of an expert or that a trustworthy company created the product.  Introduction email templates can be an excellent base to start. If you think your expertise can carry the weight of your entire email marketing campaign, go with it! At the very least, take a look at email signature templates and provide your customers with information on how to contact you.

Streamlining


In recent years, more than half of the total opened emails have been accessed through smartphone email client apps. Smartphones have been dominating the email provider market for years now. Therefore, make the body of the email, and all the media and links included in the body optimized for mobile. 


Pro tip:

Including two key links has been proven to increase CTR by a staggering 25%!

email marketing average open rate


Source image: oberlo.com


Also, visuals that illustrate in detail what your company offers are a godsend, but be careful not to go overboard. You do not want to oversaturate your email body and in turn, confuse the customer. Remember, if you decide to include media and visuals, it has to be optimized to appear and look good both on desktop and mobile email clients.


Instigating curiosity

Finally, inciting curiosity and a sense of exclusivity is what marketing is all about. Devise smart promotions, sales, and the legendary ‘only two left in stock’ motif to urge people to hurry up and snatch your product. 


Offering a piece of valuable advice in a cold email campaign or a useful tutorial on a subject related to your field is something anybody can appreciate. Later on, you can slip in a suggestion or a link that leads to your product. But, as it is hidden within a genuinely useful or entertaining content, the customer is more likely to be curious as to what the product is.


Think of clever or funny ways to phrase your cold email subject lines - people are more likely to read and remember what they read when it is unique and/or hilarious. This is bound to boost your engagement rates, reply rates and who knows, it might even make your email go viral! You never know.

 

Author

Mathieu Picard

CEO, Anyleads, San Francisco

We are the leading marketing automation platform serving more than 100,000 businesses daily. We operate in 3 countries, based in San Francisco, New York, Paris & London.

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