13 Simple Ways To Improve Your Average
Email Open Rate (And 5 Practices To Avoid)

If there’s one email marketing metric that you need to give your utmost attention to, it’s your average email open rate. Think about it. Your entire campaign hinges on whether your subscribers open your emails or not. And that’s exactly why you need to do everything in your power to improve your email open rates.

Average Email Open Rate - What is It
(and Does It Even Matter)?

So what are open rates and why should you bother with them?

Average email open rate, in terms of email marketing, refers to the percentage of subscribers who opened an email campaign. For example, if you send a campaign out to 10,000 subscribers and 4,500 subscribers open the campaign, your average open rate would be 45%.

However, if there are instances of bounced or undelivered emails, you’ll have to subtract them from your number of total emails sent. Say, in our above example, 300 emails bounced. Your email open rate will then be (9,700/4,500)X100 = 46.39%.

While many marketers put more effort into improving their clickthrough rates, that is putting the cart before the horse if your average open rate is low. Your first port of call in improving your campaigns should always be improving your open rates. Just a slight increase could result in a boost in sales and revenue.

So why is it important to keep track of your open rates?
Your average open rate is an important metric to keep tabs on as it reveals a number of important things, some of them being:

  1. The State of Your Email List

    One important factor that your email opens reveal is the state of your email list. If your email list is “unhealthy”, your open rates will plummet. Conversely, good open rates indicate a healthy email list.

  2. Your Relationship with Your Customers

    Another reason for keeping tabs on your open rate is that it also shows how good your relationship with your customers is. A declining average open rate indicates that your relationship with your customers is going south. Knowing this will help you implement a campaign to help improve customer relationships.

  3. The Quality of Your Content

    Let’s face it, your subscribers only open your emails for one reason – they find your content valuable. Therefore, a healthy average open rate is a good indicator that your subscribers find your content useful. Once your open rates start dipping, review your c0ontent for any weaknesses.At the end of the day, the most important reason you need to seriously take note of your average open rate is that it’s the difference between your business succeeding or sinking.


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    Understanding Industry Average Open Rate
    And What It Means For Your Business

    I’m sure by now you’re wondering what a good average open rate is. Well, in all honesty, that question doesn’t have a clear cut answer. That’s because open rates are influenced by a number of factors, some of which include:

    • Industry
    • Product
    • Audience
    • Type of campaign

    And this is why you need to understand industry average open rates. These will help you set benchmarks for your own campaigns. Mailchimp’s research revealed that the average open rate across all industries stood at 21.33%. Other interesting takeaways from the report include:

    • The industry with the highest open rate – government with 28.77%
    • The industry with second-highest open rate – hobbies with 27.74%t
    • The industry with the lowest open rate – Daily Deals/E-Coupons with 15.0%

    One reason the industries with the highest open rates enjoy such opens is that they are hyper-relevant in terms of what their subscribers are looking for.

    So what’s the average open rate in your industry?

    Check out Mailchimp’s report and use it to gauge the performance of your campaigns. Remember, it’s not about competing with your industry average open rate – rather, use it as a yardstick to help you improve your campaigns.

    Average Open Rate
    Average Click Rate
    Agriculture and Food ServicesBeauty and Personal CareBusiness and FinanceComputers and ElectronicsCreative Services/AgencyE-CommerceEducation and TrainingEntertainment and EventsGamesGovernmentHealth and FitnessHome and GardenInsuranceManufacturingMarketing and AdvertisingMedia and PublishingMedical, Dental, and HealthcareNon-ProfitReal EstateRestaurantSoftware and Web App

    Source: Mailchimp

    Now that you understand what average open rate means and its implications on your campaigns, let’s dive into how you can help improve this important metric.

    Follow Opt-In Best Practices

    One reason email marketing is so powerful is that it is permission-based. Permission-based marketing means your audience gives you explicit consent to communicate with them concerning the products and services you provide.

    When it comes to email marketing, that consent is given when a person subscribes to your email list.

    Click to preview

    While this may seem like an easy thing to do, it does have it’s landmines. For example, you’ll have to ensure that you’re GDPR compliant. Failure to do so could result in your business being on the wrong end of the law. To ensure proper opt-in, ensure you use double opt-in when signing up new subscribers. Single and implicit opt-in could result in a subscriber ignoring future emails or reporting you for spam. This could especially happen if all they wanted from you was one thing, say a downloadable resource, for example.

    By following opt-in best practices, you ensure that the quality of your list is good, and that results in good open rates

    Manage Your Email List

    Once people have signed up for your email list, don’t assume they’ll remain engaged. Research shows that email lists decay by an average of 22% every year. This is exactly why you need to manage your email list – very carefully. Besides the email decay reducing your average open rate, it could also lead to other consequences such as:

    • High bounce rates
    • Reduced revenue
    • Poor sender reputation

    So how do you manage and maintain a healthy email list?

    Consider these few tips and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy email list and higher open rates:

    • Regularly clean your lis
    • Segment your list
    • Reactivate dormant subscribers
    • Give subscribers control of the frequency with which you send emails
    • Make it easy to unsubscribe

    Regularly maintaining your email list will help you see a great improvement in your open rates. Remember, a healthy email list always results in higher engagement, which is a result of good open rates.

    Work On Your Deliverability

    It goes without saying, if your emails don’t reach their intended destinations, they won’t be opened. In fact, according to a report by Sendgrid, 21% of opt-in emails never reach the inbox. This is why you need to work on ensuring your deliverability rates are high.

    So how can you improve your deliverability?

    Here are a few pointers:

    Segmenting your email list according to subscriber interest gives you a powerful opportunity to cross-sell or upsell. Because the customers in this segment already bought (or showed interest in) a certain product, chances of a well-crafted and highly targeted email can lead them to buy again.

    This method of segmentation is especially powerful as:

    • Check if you’re blacklisted. Blacklisting happens if the mail server you’re using has a lot of spam complaints. If you’re using an ESP and find that you’re blacklisted, let them know immediately so they sort it out.
    • Authenticate your emails. Email authentication is a broad technical term used to describe processes that help prove the emails you’re sending are legitimate (and not spam, phishing, or other malicious types of emails).
    • Always warm up your list. Before you send out massive campaigns to your list, it’s advisable to warm up your list first. Do this by sending mini-campaigns to your most engaged subscribers. This will help email clients trust the IP that your emails are being sent from.
    • Avoid spam traps. Spam trap emails are email addresses that are created, not for communication purposes, but for the purpose of luring spammers. Since these types of email addresses can’t double opt-in, they’re usually a result of poor list hygiene.

    Email deliverability is a crucial part of improving your average open rate. If it seems like a daunting undertaking, enlist the help of professionals like Inbox Army to help you with it.

    Craft Irresistible Subject Lines

    Now that your emails have made it into your subscribers’ inboxes, your open rates will automatically improve, right?

    Not exactly.

    Once your emails reach their destination, one of the most critical elements that can drastically improve your average open rate is your subject line.

    Your subject line, short as it is, is one of the most powerful tools at your disposal when it comes to improving your open rates. This is why you have to ensure your subject line hooks your readers and compels them to open your email. To do that:

    • Understand your audience and their pain points
    • Keep your subject lines short but punchy
    • Use words that trigger desired emotions
    • Employ personalization
    • Highlight a promise/solution
    • Avoid words that trigger spam alerts
    • A/B test your subject lines

    Nailing your subject lines is important when it comes to getting people to click and open your emails. Enlist the help of a great copywriter to help you. Remember, you’re competing with at least 120 other emails in your subscribers’ inbox – in a single day.

    Nail Your Preheader Text

    Next to the subject line, your pre-header text is the other most important element that helps your subscribers decide whether they want to open your email or not. Preheader text is to your email what the “Johnson Box” was to snail mail. It is a concise summary of what your email is all about and is placed next to or under the subject line. It is another opportunity for you to pitch your email to your reader.

    If the pre-header is designed well, more people will open your email.

    So, what makes for good preheader text?

    Not this:

    Here are some tips for crafting a preheader that will help you improve your average open rate:

    • Keep it short and sweet
    • Show the benefits of opening the email
    • Leverage FOMO – what they lose out by not opening the email
    • Personalization is crucial
    • Include a call-to-action

    When people see the preview of your email in your inbox, you have limited real estate to convince them to open. Used well, this limited real estate (preheader text) can make the difference between an open and an email that disappears into the dark corners of the inbox.

    Set Expectations - And Meet Them

    Particularly when onboarding new subscribers (through a welcome campaign), it’s important to let them know what to expect in subsequent emails.

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    How does this impact your average email open rate?

    People want to know what they should expect from you. By clearly setting expectations at the beginning, you:

    • Give them something to look forward to
    • Arouse their curiosity
    • Define the relationship you’ll form with your subscriber

    Not only is it important to set expectations, but make sure to meet them as well. Nothing puts subscribers off more than not getting what they’d been promised in a welcome email.

    Need help with email marketing?
    Employ The Power Of Personalization

    We’ve already talked about personalization in passing. But what is personalization and how does it influence your average open rate.

    Click to preview


    Contrary to popular belief, personalization doesn’t just end with including the recipient’s name in the subject line. Personalization goes further than this and also includes creating content that is:

    • Relevant
    • Timely

    When your subscribers feel like you know them well and deliver content tailored for them, they’ll definitely consume your content regularly. Your average open rate will shoot through the roof.

    Deliver Value In Your Content - Consistently

    Why did your subscribers give you the privilege of being able to reach their inboxes?

    In most cases, it’s because you promised to be delivering valuable content to them. And that’s exactly what you need to do. Failure to do so will result in your email open rates tanking.

    On the flipside, consistently delivering value in your content will result in an improvement of your average open rate. And here’s how you can ensure that every email you send will be value-packed:

    • Have a data-driven content strategy Use data to pinpoint common problems your subscribers have and base your content on that.
    • Incorporate customer feedback. Let your subscribers tell you what kind of content they want. A simple survey can help you get this information.
    • Put your customer first. Putting your business goals ahead of your customers’ needs is like putting the cart before the horse. You won’t get anywhere. When creating content for your emails, focus more on your customer needs.

    When your subscribers know that every email you send will benefit them, they’ll religiously open your emails.

    Timing Is Everything - Almost

    When it comes to getting your emails opened, timing is everything – well, almost.

    Click to preview


    While there’s no particular day or time that has been proven to increase open rates, it’s advisable to send emails at a time when your subscribers are awake and alert. In most cases, when an email lands in their mailbox, it will likely go unnoticed.

    However, getting a notification while they’re awake instills an element of urgency, leading to – you guessed it, an open.

    So how do you get the perfect timing?

    Through experimentation. Try out different times for each of your segments and see which time gives you the best open rates. However, note that a few factors contribute to your timing, factors such as:

    • Location
    • Age
    • Occupation

    So, check your segments and test, test, test until you find the perfect sending time.

    Use Mobile Responsive Templates - Always

    With over 40% of emails being consumed on mobile devices, you just have to ensure all your email templates are mobile responsive. But that’s not the only stat that proves the importance of ensuring your campaigns are mobile-friendly. Consider these 2 (among many):

    • 75% of consumers say they check their mail on mobile devices
    • 70% of emails that don’t display well on mobile end up in the trash folder – without being read

    As long as a subscriber does not engage with your emails for a pre-determined period of time (usually 6 months), they are classified as being inactive. Action needs to be taken with these as they can negatively impact your campaigns and, more importantly, your sender reputation. And that’s one of the main reasons you need to create a segment in your email list for inactive subscribers.

    Being mobile responsive is no longer an option. If you want to increase your average open rate, it’s mandatory.

    Use A Sender Name Your Recipients Can Remember

    Sure you’re sending emails on behalf of your business. But does that necessarily mean you should use your business’s name in the “from” field?

    Well, if you want to increase your opens, it’s best you use a “from” name your recipients will connect to emotionally. And usually, that will be a first name. Here’s an example from CoSchedule:

    Click to preview

    By personalizing the “from” field, the reader will feel like they’re talking to a real person and not just a business. This will influence more readers to open your emails and, of course, improve your open rates. It will also reduce the likelihood of your emails being marked as spam.

    Re-Engage Inactive Subscribers

    Another great way to improve your average email open rates is to run a re-engagement campaign. Re-engagement simply means running a campaign to get inactive subscribers to start engaging with your emails again.

    Click to preview


    In order to nail your engagement campaign:

    • Segment your inactive subscribers. This will help you tailor personalized messages they can relate to.
    • Give them an offer they can’t refuse. What made your subscriber sign up to your email list? Offer then something similar or of more value.
    • Ask for feedback. Ask for feedback. Sometimes people need to know that you care about their needs (and feelings). Asking for feedback is a great way to show that you do care about your subscribers.

    Running a re-engagement will not only get your open rates to increase, but it will also positively impact your bottom line.

    A/B Test Your Emails

    This is where many small businesses miss it. They create a campaign and run it without A/B testing. A/B testing is simply the (good) practice of testing certain elements of your emails to ensure you send the version that is more effective. Elements you should test include:

    • Subject lines
    • Preheader text
    • Email copy
    • Template design
    • Calls to action

    Create variations of your email and test it by sending it to small portions of your list. The one that drives the more opens (and clickthroughs) is the one you should send to the rest of your list/segment.

    How to Improve Your Average Open Rate - 13 Things to Consider

    1. Follow Opt-in Best Practices
    2. Manage Your Email List
    3. Work on Your Deliverability
    4. Craft Irresistible Subject Lines
    5. Nail Your Preheader Text
    6. Employ The Power of Personalization
    7. Set Expectations – And Meet Them
    8. Deliver Value in Your Content – Consistently
    9. Timing is Everything – Almost
    10. Use Mobile Responsive Templates – Always
    11. Use a Sender Name Your Recipients Can Remember
    12. Re-engage Inactive Subscribers
    13. A/B Test Your Emails

    Ready to improve your average open rate?
    Not so fast.

    Before you run off and implement the above tips, let’s quickly clear a few land mines out of the way. Yes, I’m talking bout bad email marketing practices that are harming your campaigns. Let’s get to them, shall we?

    1. Buying or Renting Lists :

      One of the worst practices that can lead to your email campaigns tanking is buying or renting an email list. No matter how tempting it is to buy an email list, growing your own is always better. While buying a list may seem like the fastest way of boosting your campaigns, it will cost you in terms of:

      • Reputation
      • Poor list quality
      • Spam reports
      • Poor engagement
      • Loss of revenue

      At the end of the day, buying an email list is not a shortcut to success, rather, it’s sabotaging your success.

    2. Broadcasting to the Entire List

      Broadcasting a promotion to an entire list is probably the most common mistake that can hurt your marketing. Because broadcast emails are too generic, they don’t elicit a response in a large section of your audience. Rather than sending a one-size-fits-all email, segment your email list and send personalized campaigns. When a campaign is personalized, it drives more opens, clickthroughs, and ultimately, results.

    3. Using “No-reply” (Kills relationships)

      Number 3 on our list of “bad email habits” is using “no-reply” in your email address field. That just kills relationships.

      Your audience will interpret it to mean you do all the talking in the relationship, and their views don’t matter. Your customers need to know that they can easily reach you when they need you. Seeing “no-reply” is a deal-breaker that can cause them to look for another brand that will give them an open communication channel.

    4. Click-baity Subject Lines

      No one likes being tricked into making a decision. Yet many marketers play this trick on their customers by using click-baity subject lines. Never promise something in your subject line that you can’t fulfill in your email. This is a total turnoff that could lead to spam reports.

    5. Taking Too Long to Connect with Subscribers

      When a person subscribes to your email list, you need to launch a welcome series immediately. No, it won’t make you look desperate, rather, it will show your subscriber that you’re excited to have them in your “family”.
      Never, for any reason, delay in sending your welcome campaign. Immediately after they sign up, send the first email. This way, your name and brand will stick in the minds. They won’t have to struggle to remember you when you next send an email.

    Missions InboxArmy Can Accomplish For You:

    • Full-Service Campaign Management
    • Email Template Production
    • Email Marketing Strategy
    • Email Marketing Audit
    • Email Automation & Custom Integration

    Improve Your Average Open Rate - Achieve
    Your Business Goals

    Improving your average open rate is a critical component of e-commerce success. And contrary to popular belief, it’s not as difficult as it may seem you just need to know how to go about it.

    If you need help running and executing email campaigns that move your revenue needle up, don’t hesitate to give us a shout.

    Download this entire post as a PDF


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