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How to Achieve the Email Conversion Rate Benchmark that Experts Aim For



Start an investigation on ‘how to improve your email conversion rates’ in a search engine and you’ll stumble upon a minefield of good and bad information. It’s a popular topic these days, but there are just too many theories to scour through about how to get it right. 


Email conversion rates set the benchmark for the most competitive lead generators and marketers in every industry. But that’s exactly it; every industry has a different and specific benchmark for what’s considered average or elite. Plus, depending on your industry, you’ll have different methods of reaching that benchmark! Some marketers prefer to use pattern interruptions and calls-to-action, while others capitalize on clickbait subject lines to reel in the unsuspecting customer.


But why spend energy (and potentially funds) on improving your email conversion rate, when there are other metrics which could be more useful and informative for you? Conversion rates go hand-in-hand with open rates, response rates, and clickthrough rates and give you a better opportunity to test and track your exact marketing abilities. Shouldn’t these metrics receive more attention? 

The Email Conversion Rate

The email conversion rate is defined as the equivalent to the number of people receiving your email who follow the desired action. This ‘action’ might include clicking through to your website, purchasing from your company or following your brand on social media. The top email marketers use various techniques to increase the number of recipients who follow their desired action; including targeted use of the subject line, mobile optimization, and specified call-to-action buttons, amongst others. 

The Email Conversion Rate Formula

Image source: https://convertkit.com/email-marketing-analytics


As seen in the image above, the email conversion rate is calculated by dividing the number of people who completed your desired action by the total number of emails delivered (multiplied by 100 to find the percentage). This will always give you a number between 0 and 100, with a higher percentage equalling a more effective email marketing campaign, a higher rate of conversion.

Why should you be interested in increasing your email conversion rates? 

There are many benefits to increasing your email conversions. Even when your desired action is not a sale, the conversion rate is the single biggest indicator of whether your marketing techniques are effective. This means that if you are able to consistently maintain a high email conversion rate, you’ll effectively bulletproof your business against the woes of ever-changing social media algorithms and other marketing methods. Furthermore, tracking your email conversion rates gives you an easy way to measure your return-on-investment; not least when your conversion is defined as a purchase. It’s easy to determine whether the effort and funding you funneled into your email marketing were worthwhile by directly comparing it to the sales produced by the method. 


But email conversion rates are not the only facts and figures that you should aim to improve, because, in actuality, they are made from many other micro factors that come together to better bring consumers to complete the desired action. It is therefore important to consider any and all brand touchpoints within the user experience to effectively increase your email conversion rate. These touchpoints might include: 


  • Time spent on your site

  • Engagement levels with your brand

  • Prior experience with your customer service team

The Average Email Marketing Conversion Rate

Unfortunately, data on the average email marketing conversion rate varies wildly because there is a lack of transparent information on the internet, and of course, every company differs in its success rate. Some internet sources claim the average conversion rate within the e-commerce industry is around 5%, while another claims it’s around 4%. Of course, not only does the average conversion rate differ by company, but also by industry and audience location. 


Ultimately, the best way to determine your target email conversion rate is to track and compare your own results. The likelihood is that you will never find out how well your competition is doing, and it probably won’t mean much to you anyway.


Plus, by focusing on your own email marketing conversion rates, you’ll be able to magnify scrutiny into your own methods and techniques to carve out an all-in-one blueprint, so that you reach your maximum conversion rate in every campaign sent. You’ll be able to specifically track your conversion rates by using the previously mentioned formula, and easily test your marketing methods by changing just one thing at a time. By continuously measuring your conversion rates in this way, you’ll be able to determine which methods resonate with your audience and garner more sales, and adjust your workflow accordingly. 

Common Challenges Associated with Email Conversions

There are several challenges that come with trying to increase your email conversion rate. Usually, email marketers will follow a predetermined chain of events, often looking something like this: 


  1. Your email is delivered

  2. The customer opens your email

  3. The customer reads your email

  4. The customer completes your desired action


Unfortunately, at any stage during this chain, challenges can occur which might prevent the customer from completing the flow and taking the desired action. The first step (email delivery), could get hung up if your email is identified as spam, whether that’s due to using ‘trigger words’ in the subject line or whether your address isn’t trusted by email providers. 


To solve this problem, it’s best to qualify your list with pre-requisites to confirm that the recipient is within your target market. This is especially important if using an automated email marketing service, which 49% of email marketers claim to use. Qualifying your list with pre-requisites is less likely to be personalized and therefore is at less risk of being identified as spam. When using the Anyleads Prospecting tool, your email list will be pre-qualified with over 40 data points to verify that your intended recipients give you the best chance of a conversion and a lower likelihood of being classified as spam. Alternatively, you can also check your email deliverability to establish how likely your email is to be delivered. 


Whether the customer opens your email is highly dependent on the subject line you choose. Apparently, the average email open rate is between 15-20%, but again, data shared about this online is limited. However, to improve your open rate, there are a few tips you can follow. The open rate is almost entirely focused around the subject line; so the techniques you’ll implement will revolve around this. You could use a clickbait headline, try giving your customer something for free (without using the word ‘free’ as it’s a spam trigger word!), or attempt to personalize the heading to show the reader that your email is specifically crafted for them. 


To ensure that your customer genuinely reads your email (rather than the tried and true ‘open, quick scan, delete’ technique), your email needs to be compelling and provide value. You won’t be able to easily and accurately measure how many of your recipients take time to read the email once opened, and once again, there is very limited statistical information online about this. However, to give your emails the best chance of being read, the best method is to provide value within the body. 


Knowing your target audience, you might already have researched what keeps them up at night, and therefore how your product or service could solve this issue. But, even if the recipient doesn’t convert, they should still feel like your consumer relationship is beneficial because after all, they gave you their email address and should receive something back. Plus, on average,  customers must see the advertiser’s message 7 times before they finally make a purchase! The saying ‘patience is a virtue’ comes to mind, and it’s very applicable here.


The table below shows a mock-up for the difference in figures between an optimized email marketing sequence and an unoptimized email marketing campaign at each of the conversion rate challenges, to demonstrate the effects of the above solutions:


Metrics

Email Sequence not Optimized for Conversions

Email Sequence Optimized for Conversions

Delivery Rate (%)

80

98

Open Rate (%)

12

40

Read Rate (%)

8

35

Conversion Rate (%)

0.12

1.5


Finally, your customer needs to complete the desired action. For this to happen, your entire email or email sequence should revolve around the specific call-to-action which you’re focusing on. For example, if your conversion is defined as clicking through to a link on your website, you should build up all of the positive benefits the recipient can expect to receive when clicking this link within the subject line and body of the email. There are a number of techniques which can be applied to increase your conversion rate: 


  1. Mobile Optimization

  2. List Segmentation

  3. Personalization

  4. Double Opt-In/Automation

  5. Call to Action

How to Increase your Email Marketing Conversion Rate

Mobile optimization is necessary because approximately 80% of users immediately delete non-optimized emails. Considering that at least  50% of the population access emails through their mobile device in 2019, it’s important to recognize how your email will be displayed on a mobile screen, compared to on a desktop. For example, phones limit subject line visibility to only 25-30 characters where desktops allow for 60. This means that you should prioritize your subject line to include the most compelling, curiosity-provoking content first. Some other problems associated with non-mobile optimized emails include: 


  • Overwhelmingly text-intensive, or too long

  • A layout which can’t adjust to the shape of mobile screens, forcing a horizontal scroll

  • Images which can’t adapt to the screen size or shape


Therefore, it’s important to keep emails simple, clear and space-conscious. This will keep conversion rates up by preventing mobile users from feeling overwhelmed and bored by your email. 

Image source: Campaign Monitor


As the image above suggests, mobile optimization includes easy access to your call-to-action button (which is ultimately the key to conversion), form-fitting images and a concise message within the body. This allows the recipient to stay focused on the email without getting bored and presents a clear path towards conversion. 


Personalized email messages improve conversion rates by approximately 10%. This is simply due to these emails standing out, as they are more likely to have specific, relevant content for the reader. Plus, contrary to popular belief, adding personalization isn’t time- or cost-intensive, thanks to the abundance of automation programs available today, most prominently Anyleads’ enrichment tool. Your open rate improves even further when the subject line is personalized. Here are some examples: 

  • [first name], we selected this just for you

  • [friend/ colleagues name] recommended we send you this

  • The ultimate guide to [a grand achievement] in [your industry]


Another highly beneficial way to personalize your emails starts by segmenting your list. Email list segmentation is a technique used by marketers and sales teams to divide up their prospective targets based on certain characteristics. This means that more precise emails are sent to specific recipients, ensuring that each recipient gets only the content most relevant and valuable to them.


So, how do you manage the segmentation of your list to increase your email marketing conversion rates? To start, (legally) gather data on your target audience, including customer preferences, familiarity with your brand and more. If using an automatic email marketing tool, you will also able to see which emails have been clicked through by which prospects. You can use this info to segment your list. For example, it would be inappropriate (and a little stupid) to promote a product to your entire list, if 20% of them have previously bought a similar product from you. If working independently from an email marketing provider, you could sort your list segmentation into a spreadsheet which might look something like this: 


Email Address

Name

Gender

Age Bracket

Job Background

shannon@amazon.com

Shannon

Female

18-24

Content Manager

teddy@greeneking.co.uk

Teddy

Male

25-39

Marketing Manager

tom20rds@manchester.com

Tom

Male

40-55

CTO

lisa2019@starbucks.com

Lisa

Female

18-24

Franchise Manager


The above example is a very simple version of a segmented email list. The benefits of list segmentation should not be taken for granted. It has been claimed that list segmentation can improve open rates by as much as 40%. Also, in terms of the overall return on the investment put into email marketing campaigns, list segmentation has been noted to improve yield by up to 77%.  Either way, segmentation of your list is useful in your overall email marketing strategy, even if increasing conversions isn’t your current goal. 


As mentioned above, automation can also improve your email conversion rates. Specifically, by taking advantage of double opt-in features, you can reduce the number of unsubscriptions after each sales pitch email, supporting the value of your content. The double opt-in is the process of re-confirming every new subscriber or lead with a validation email, in order to ensure the potential subscriber is aware of having, and actually desires to be, signed up to your list. I believe the popularity of using a double opt-in system has skyrocketed because of increased privacy worries surrounding data (think Cambridge Analytica) and of course because of the new legislation brought into Europe surrounding GDPR. Setting up a double opt-in is simple and should be a clear feature of any automated email marketing tool you’re using. 


The image below is an example of a double opt-in email.

Image source: Optinmonster


According to online data, double opt-in systems saw a 144% higher open rate when compared to a single opt-in system, which means the recipient is more engaged and more likely to follow through with the conversion. Using a double opt-in is also more likely to keep your email list free from spam, since bots are less likely to navigate the validation in the confirmation email. Lastly, as previously mentioned, 3 in 10 mobile users unsubscribe due to a lack of mobile optimization. Using a double opt-in system could be the perfect opportunity in determining which device your subscriber uses and thus how to accommodate it. 


Finally, it’s important to mention calls-to-action within email campaigns. These are generally presented as a button or piece of text within the copy and are placed intentionally to draw attention. It’s useful to think of the call to action as the apex of your email, with the rest of the copy priming your reader to convert. Some examples of a call to action include: 

  1. Order now

  2. Read his story

  3. Yes! I want a VIP upgrade


Calls to action work as they remind and compel the reader to take the action you’ve prepared them to take, similar to how the starting gun at the beginning of a race to initiates the event. There are several things to consider when deciding on the details of your call to action. For example, including a button instead of a text-driven link can increase conversion rates by up to 28%. Second, consider the design aspect: which colors work with your brand, which command attention, and which are just too garish for email marketing (goodbye neon yellow!). Third, you should think about the placement of your call to action. Should your button go right at the beginning of the email, to draw attention straight away? Or would it be better to center it, introducing the topic first to better persuade your audience before offering the action? 


With any email marketing strategy, actually testing these techniques on your audience is how to see what works and what doesn’t, and how to maximize your email conversion. 

A/B testing allows you to send different versions of the same content to particular groups within your email list. This means that you’ll be able to directly compare whether your ideal client responds better to a call to action at the beginning of the email, or in the middle, or to one subject line over another. You can A/B test at every step in the formula to ensure that you maximize your email deliverability, open rate, read rate and of course, your conversion rate. 


In general, A/B testing is a well-known golden standard for determining your marketing methods, because even in the same industry, every brand and company has different ideal clients. This means that even competitors with similar products or services might find that opposing marketing methods work better (or worse) for them, in comparison to their competitors. How to tell? The only way is to try and try again. 

Limitations in Measuring your Average Conversion Rate

As previously mentioned, the conversion rate is actually made up of various indicators: the open rate, read rate and response rate. Without a good open rate your campaign is a non-starter! The unsubscribe rate is also useful for determining whether the emails you’re sending suit your ideal client. If you have a high unsubscription rate, this could indicate that your entire marketing could be attracting the wrong type of customer. 


The Open Rate Formula: (the number of emails opened) divided by (the number of emails delivered)


*note: not all sent emails are delivered, some bounce, and this is important to take into consideration. 


You can use the open rate to calculate other metrics, such as the response rate, by simply substituting the overall number of emails opened with your chosen metric (i.e., the number of responses divided by the number of emails delivered). 


However, there are also smaller metrics that can signal the strength of your marketing presence, known as micro-conversions. These can also be the focus of your efforts since they not only affect the conversion rates, but also the general sales made through your website, and your company’s reputation. For example, the average time spent by each customer on each page would constitute a qualifying metric and can enable you to identify whether certain pages or features on your website are essentially blocking the sale. It could also account for some lost conversions, depending on your specific goals and processes. Another factor that is worth looking into is the customer’s engagement with your brand. Do they follow your social media accounts? Do they open every single email that you send? You’re much more likely to convert if you focus on the highly-engaged portion of your audience, or if you spend time increasing the engagement amongst your ideal clients. 


Overall, there are many factors to consider when trying to increase sales or other customer-driven actions by building email campaigns. Once you crack the code of your elusive audience, you can expect maximum results every time.

 

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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