We’re going to walk you through the best ways to increase email open rates, so you can get your email marketing strategy back on track. Often you don’t need a complete overhaul of your strategy, you just need a few simple tricks to work out how to increase your email open rate.
The expert team at Website Builder Expert did an overhaul of our own email newsletter, increasing our own email open rates. Read on to discover more about how to increase yours.
Despite being an age-old marketing tactic, email marketing is still as relevant as ever – according to a 2020 survey, around 50% of people buy from marketing emails at least once a month.
An email open rate is the percentage of subscribers who open your emails versus those who don’t. For example, if you have 100 subscribers on your mailing list and 70 subscribers open your emails, on average, your email open rate would be 70%.
Most email marketing software will calculate this for you to give you a quick overview of how your email marketing strategy is performing. If your email open rate is low, then your subscribers are not being enticed to open your emails, and therefore your email marketing strategy is falling short of your targets.
The overall average open rate for emails in 2022 was 22.86%, whereas here with the Website Builder Expert newsletter we were able to get an email open rate of 60.76%, and we’ll share with you how we did this throughout the article.
Email open rates offer an important way to measure the success of your marketing strategy. If you can get subscribers to open your emails, you are giving them something of value, while maintaining their customer loyalty. Not only can it consolidate your existing customer base, but it can also draw one-time customers back to your online store or website.
The more subscribers open your emails, the more people are seeing your content – whether you’re promoting a sale, announcing important updates, or sharing exclusive content, the more open rates you have, the more effective your emails will be.
If you’re wondering why email marketing itself is even all that important, we asked 65 business owners which digital marketing channels they thought were the best. They outlined that SEO (search engine optimization) and email marketing were the top priorities.
With a whopping 24% stating that email marketing was an impactful digital marketing channel. But of course, email marketing means nothing if nobody is opening them to begin with.
Email marketing can be one of the most effective ways of communicating with customers and maintaining your customer base. Reach your customers in the place they check everyday – their inbox!
Despite seeming like an age-old marketing tactic, email marketing is still as relevant as ever – it’s 40% better at converting compared to Twitter (or X now) and Facebook. Also every $1 invested, is typically seen a $36 dollar return.
In 2023, the average email open rate was between 21.90% and 48.8% depending on the industry. Back in 2021, the overall average open rate dropped and stood at 16.97%, but trends indicate that after that slump, is now on the increase again.
When it comes to your own email open rate, the percentage may be different for different industries. Open rates in the insurance industry, for example, are much higher than those in the healthcare industry.
It’s always best to judge your email open rate based on the performance of your campaign as a whole. For example, if you consistently reach a 15% open rate, yet your campaign is delivering results, it’s clear that your email marketing campaign is not under performing, even if the email open rate is below the “industry average.”
For example, the Website Builder Expert newsletter’s average email open rate was just above 53% a few months ago, and now it is at average of 60% – which is great news both across industry’s but more importantly the trend is going upwards.
People change emails for all sorts of reasons, so don’t assume old emails in your database are still current. We’d recommend scrubbing your email list at least a few times a year to increase email open rates and click-through rates. This will help you focus your marketing efforts on the people who can actually turn into customers.
Cleansing your email list will also reduce the risk of the emails bouncing and spam complaints. These factors count towards your sender reputation and make sure your emails are seen by your active subscribers – the subscribers most likely to purchase.
Before removing inactive subscribers (i.e. someone who has not engaged with an email in the past six months or more), try sending them a last email to win them back and re-engage your inactive subscribers. There are plenty of win-back emails that successfully reengage customers. For example a clothing store that sends an email with incentives for new products.
Don’t have a list? Learn how to get email lists here.
“Use an email verification tool to clean your mailing list.”
Use an email verification tool such as Kickbox or Mail Floss to clean out inactive or invalid addresses before sending. Simply import your subscribers and you can validate them in bulk. The nominal cost of cleaning your list using one of these tools is worth it: you reduce the risk of damaging your sending reputation and can ensure that your list is healthy and results in opens and clicks.
You’ll want your subscribers to recognize the emails they receive from you – after all, if they know and trust your business, they’re far more likely to open the email and take a look.
A big part of this is eye-catching content that is consistent with your marketing and branding strategy. Consider using your business name in the subject line, using a branded email address, and a consistent voice and tone for content.
For example, we previously had a red banner that no longer suited our brand. Instead we opted to create an email with brand colors and icon images to suit our website re-design.
Make it as easy as possible for your subscribers to recognize your emails and foster trust with consistent content and a clear value offering. For example, every time you create an email, ask yourself, what is in it for the subscriber? Why should they open this email, and why should they then take action?
“Try not to focus too much on your company in your emails. You want them to visually understand the brand is you straight away, but then focus on the benefits your emails and website provide the reader. Always focus on building a rapport with them with what you offer, that’s the best way to gain trust. Think about it, would you trust someone constantly trying to sell you items? Or someone who offers you valuable information and occasionally tries to sell you something.”
33% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone. A snappy, eye-catching subject line can be the difference between an email that gets opened, and one that doesn’t. From our own experience, here are a few tips for writing email subject lines that will make subscribers want to click:
- Use your own brand voice and strike a conversational tone
- Keep it short, remember that people will now open emails via mobile
- Use active verbs to draw people in and convey a sense of motion
- Use power words to draw an emotive response from your subscribers
- Inspire curiosity or encourage them to engage
- Use emojis in email subject lines where it feels right to capture attention
- Personalize your subject lines with the subscriber’s name
There are so many tips and tricks to craft enticing subject lines, ultimately it’ll differ from business to business. We’d recommend crafting a few different ones and A/B testing them with users to understand which ones would work better for your audience. You’ll also be able to see how your emails appear on cell phones.
Here are some examples of killer subject lines (some of which are our own that performed well):
- Cowabunga, Dudes!🏄These Online Products Are Far Out!😎
- Become a selling machine in 9 steps 🤑
- 10 ways businesses are already using ChatGPT, TikTok’s future in doubt, and more, this week in tech
- 5 reasons to attend [name of your event].
- Don’t miss the December [specials/offers/events].
- The daily update awaits! Don’t miss out.
- 🤫 Pssst! We have top secret tips to share.
“Be careful when using certain words in your subject lines, as these can mean your emails end up in the dreaded spam folder and are never even seen! It’ll also affect your sender reputation.”
Try to avoid using the following words in your subject lines so your email won’t be treated as spam:
- Cancel at any time
- Click here
- Great offer
- Order now
- Special promotion
Using your subscriber’s name in the subject line is a great way of breaking the fourth wall and making them feel like you’re just sending the email to them, and no one else. Adding a name to your subject line and making it more personal can increase open rates by around 18.30%.
Of course, this isn’t true and the subscriber knows that. But the personalized nature of the subject line instantly draws them in, particularly when the email is written in a tone that is directed at the individual rather than the audience as a whole.
It feels less like a mailing list and more like an email from a friend. You can shape this by striking a conversational tone, and offering them personalized offers that speak to their interests. You can use data to include key recipient information, so you can insert their name into each subject line.
This may seem like a minor point, but it’s important to increase email open rate! Over 70% of the readers use cell phones to open their emails, typically in the morning too (although it depends on your email list). Checking that your emails look as good on cell phones as they do on a desktop browser, could be the difference in open rates.
Try using as few words as possible in your subject line, so that it doesn’t get lost when the screen size is smaller. And finally, make sure that you test your emails on a cell phone before sending them.
One of the first things that your subscribers will look for, is whether the email is relevant to them. If it’s not, they’re unlikely to open it. To increase the relevancy of your email campaigns, we recommend segmenting your data so you can personalize emails based on:
- Role or job title
- Stage in the sales cycle
- Average order value
- Time on email list
Lyris found that 39% of businesses who segmented their email lists experienced higher open rates, 28% experienced lower unsubscribe rates, and 24% experienced better deliverability and greater revenue:
You could also segment your data by grouping your subscribers into different categories. For example, you could group them according to similar pain points, desires, likes, and dislikes.
Finally, you could use behavioral segmentation to target subscribers depending on how they behave on your website. For example, you could send subscribers an email when they visit a specific page on your website.
A/B testing is the practice of sending two email campaigns to test which version performs better, for example whether your audience likes the new button idea you have or the new subject line.
You send out two emails, one like your original and one with your new inventive idea on it. There should be an area in the software you’re using that allows for A/B tests. Then you can look at the analytics and see which email got more open rates and click rates.
This is vital in understanding what your audience actually wants. As I found when re-creating the Website Builder Expert newsletter, I noted:
“When I started making changes to the Website Builder Expert newsletter I had so many ideas that I thought the audience would love! The truth is they didn’t, they had very specific interests that if I didn’t do A/B testing I would have never discovered.”
That’s why working from data you receive from your email list is important for increasing email open rates. Once you know what they’re interested in clicking in, that’s when the real work begins. As we found, it can even vary on topics, for example, we found that our email list loves learning about website design and aesthetics.
One thing you can do in the majority of email marketing software is find the analytics for your campaigns. You should be able to get information on your open rates along with:
- Click Rates – How many people are clicking on your emails to either return to your website or buy a product.
- Bounce Rate – How many from your list are opening your email and leaving immediately.
- Email Unsubscribe Rate – How many are unsubscribing from your email list to no longer receive emails.
- Clicks and Opens – The rate at which people are opening and clicking.
Data Paints a Picture
This data paints a picture that open rate alone can’t. For example if you have a 70% click rate, a 5% bounce rate, and a 7% unsubscribe rate and 77% click/opens, you can breathe easy knowing that those that are opening your emails are enjoying the content. They likely aren’t leaving immediately for something else, and are heading towards the links you’ve provided for them.
However if your bounce rate is at 70%, and click rate at 0.10% then there’s something that needs solving, you’re likely not providing the value your list is seeking.
Use The Data
Start by collecting the data either in a spreadsheet or data software of your choice. Every time you A/B test a feature, or try new subject lines, add the data into the sheet to see how your campaigns perform over time.
Collecting the data on our newsletters was honestly a game changer. I was then able to see what topics performed well, what subject lines got the most opens, and what layouts got the best click rates. That kind of information is invaluable if you want to improve email conversions and open rates.
Research is important for any project, and this is no different. One effective way to increase email open rates is to head into your inbox and see which emails you’re clicking on. Take a look at the subject lines in there and which ones have naturally led to you clicking.
That’s not to say copy directly what your competitors are doing, but it’s a good way to gain some inspiration on what kinds of emails are getting clicks. Also scour through the content to see what the layout and information is like. I was advised when starting out in reshaping the Website Builder Expert newsletter to subscribe to Really Good Emails, or even just browsing the website to get some design inspiration. You can also check out our page on monthly newsletter examples to help you get started.
Subscribing to other newsletters can offer some neat insights into what others are doing in the field of subject lines. For example, here’s one I clicked on straight away without hesitation as it was very effectively written:
Sometimes, it’s really a question of timing. But with an email list made up of people all over the globe, how do you get the timing right for everyone? We’d also encourage you to consider: what kind of information are you sending? And to whom? These are important factors to think about when deciding the best time to send emails.
You can ensure that your emails are sent at the same time of day depending on time zone by segmenting your data according to subscriber location. Unfortunately, there is usually no “golden hour” when your subscribers are most likely to open your emails. The best way to find out when your subscribers are most responsive, is to test.
This is what MailChimp has to say about optimal times:
The one thing the most studies have in common is that weekends are the worst possible time to send emails. But, remember that these studies were done with someone else’s email list – not yours.
The best way to find out the optimum time to send emails is to experiment by sending emails on different days, and at different times.
Subscribers will likely be receiving several emails a day from different mailing lists, so how can you make sure your email stands out from the rest? Well, that’s easy. Make your content as enticing, informative, and consistent as possible by providing value, keeping it short and sweet, and injecting a bit of humor to lighten the mood.
Subscribers are far more likely to open your emails, engage with the content, and stay subscribed if they feel that it’s worth their time. Give them a reason to keep reading!
And remember, less is more. The best emails are ones that demonstrate value in as few words as possible, making them digestible and more engaging to your subscribers.
So, now you know how to increase open rates on emails!
Clearly, email marketing is not going anywhere. In fact, 80% of retail professionals indicate that email marketing is their greatest driver of customer retention – so it’s really important that you nail your email marketing campaign using email marketing best practices!
Make your emails as recognizable and valuable as possible by maintaining consistency with your content and branding. Test, test, and test again to understand when is best to send emails, what kind of content resonates with your subscribers, and what kind of subject lines draw them in.
Segment data and personalize subject lines emails to increase the relevance of your emails, so you can develop trust in your brand with your customer base.
Introduction Statistic: Sales Cycle
We’d say the best place to start is to compare your emails with others in your inbox. What do other email marketers do well? Which subject lines make you want to click most? And what content is visually pleasing and valuable to you?