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How To Increase Email Open Rates

Average email open rates hover around 21.33%. In this guide, we'll run you through the strategies to increase your open rates.

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email open rates

For any marketer who prioritizes email marketing, higher open rates are the holy grail. There is no use in creating good-looking emails that do not get opened. Average open rates for emails hover around 21.33% and marketers are always looking out for ways and strategies to increase their email open rates. Email marketing remains one of the most cost-effective yet potent ways of communicating, maintaining relationships, and selling to customers. In this article, we will dive into the technicalities of open rates and look at 16 ways to increase them.


What Is An Email Open Rate?

In very simple terms, an email open rate shows the number of unique subscribers who have opened an email versus the total number of subscribers the email was sent to. Open rate data gives you an idea of the number of subscribers who have expressed interest in your email by opening it. Most Email Service Providers like tinyEmail give you more information such as the email address and name (if applicable) of the subscriber as well as how many times they have opened your email.

Email open rates are calculated by dividing the number of unique subscriber opens by the total number of emails sent, then multiplying by 100. Also, take note that the number of bounces is not included in the total email count. If an email bounces, that means it never got to the intended recipient. It therefore cannot be counted as sent. So, let’s say you have an email list of 100 subscribers. If 20 people open your next email campaign, you would have an email open rate of 20% for that campaign. This breakdown should make it easy to understand: (20 subscribers ÷ 100 total subscribers) × 100%.


Email Open Rate Industry Standards

Now that we know what open rates are, the next thing to consider is the industry standards or benchmarks. Knowing the benchmarks for your industry will help you to understand your email campaign performance. Marketers usually compare their open rates to the industry open rates to see how their campaigns are faring. As of May 2022, the overall average open rate for emails was about 30.35%. You would be forgiven if you thought email open rates were much higher, especially if you are new to the field. Industry benchmark rates for emails are often in the lower percentage figures.

Open Rate stats e1658248489574
Industry benchmarks from Constant Contact

Email Service Providers usually gather and share their own industry benchmarks. As a result, the percentages may vary based on the providers, however, they are usually within a close range. Compare your email open rates to your industry to determine if your campaigns are meeting the standard or not. Depending on the responsiveness of the subscribers on your lists, you may even experience higher percentages than the industry benchmarks. The best way to determine your average email open rates is to take note of your email open rates for a few months and then calculate the average figure.



Ways To Increase Your Email Open Rates

1. Clean Your List

Email lists are a gold mine filled with contacts who have expressed interest in your brand. You need to constantly manage this list to make sure it stays valuable to you. Subscribers can stop engaging with your emails for reasons best known to them. It is your job to establish which subscribers consider you relevant and which ones don’t. Look out for inactive subscribers and re-engage them with a win-back campaign. You can add a survey to inquire about why they aren’t engaging with your emails. Do they find it irrelevant or the frequency of your emails is too high? You will not know until you ask. Add incentives to entice them to engage with the win-back campaign. It could be a gift card or even a free product. Subscribers who re-engage can update their preferences and continue to be active in your list. Those who do not re-engage can be removed from the list to keep it healthy.

2. Use Segmentation

Segmentation simply means dividing your email subscribers into smaller groups based on their interests, preferences, demographics, purchase history as well as other important user behavior metrics. Segmentation is important because it allows you to send emails that your subscribers really want to read. This also means your open rates are likely to go high.

Segment your subscribers based on parameters like purchase history and frequency, demographics, and engagement rates. Send your latest women collection to only the women in your email lists or send a VIP voucher to your most engaging subscribers. The possibilities for segmentation are endless. Before you begin segmenting your subscribers, you would need some data about them. Start asking for basic personal information and preferences in return for a valuable resource.

With time, you will have an email list rich enough for segmentation. With predefined segments in tinyEmail, segments are automatically created for you based on data from your integrations, information about your subscribers, and engagement from your campaigns.


3. Personalize

99% of marketers vouch that email personalization amplifies their customer relationships. Personalized emails make customers feel like they are known and cared for by your brand. Personalization begins with knowing your subscribers well enough. Names, preferences, and demographic information are usually good starting points. Other parameters include purchase history, birthdays, and milestone celebrations. Wishing subscribers a happy birthday may seem trivial, however, personalized birthday messages generate 342% higher revenue than the usual promotional campaigns.

Addressing subscribers by their first name in subject lines is a personalization tactic that works very well. It creates a sense of friendliness and subscribers are more likely to open those emails. Preference-based personalization also allows subscribers to get emails they are actually interested in. Suggest products or helpful resources as a follow-up to customer purchase history to entice them to open their emails.


4. Craft Compelling Subject Lines

Subject lines are the first impressions subscribers get from your emails. They should be concise and straight to the point. A good subject line gives the reader a glimpse of what to expect whilst maintaining suspense. Personalize subject lines to create a warm and familiar feeling. It goes a long way to address a customer by name instead of a generic greeting. If you have any offers, sales, or discounts, subject lines provide a great avenue for announcing them. Humorous and shocking subject lines also do well because of their unconventional nature. They immediately draw attention and plays on the curiosity of readers to get them to open the email.


5. Use A Preheader Along With Your Subject Line

Preheaders and subject lines go hand in hand. They are the block of text you see after the subject line. Think about preheader text as an opportunity to give the reader a sneak peek into your email. It should be good enough to catch their attention and whet their appetite. Create curiosity by providing just enough context to summarize what is in the email. Preheaders have character limits so keep it in mind to make the summary brief. Around 80 characters should be ideal if you are looking for a number. 

Preheaders should complement the subject line instead of repeating it. Remember, the space is meant for you to add information that will get your email opened. Ask a question you know they want an answer to and consider adding a call to action. Preheaders are excellent opportunities to create a sense of urgency among your subscribers. For instance, if your subject contains an offer, you can add the end date in the preheader to encourage subscribers to take action. Finally, don’t forget to personalize your preheaders as an added touch. Emojis can also grab attention but limit their usage to only when necessary.


6. Be Friendly

Emails are similar to any other messaging channel out there. Just like traditional letters, they are primarily used for communication between people. If you want your marketing emails to be read, you need to make them feel like it is from another human. There are a lot of automated emails with a “mechanized” tone. For your email to stand out, it needs to be different. Greet subscribers with a personalized salutation containing their first names. Show them that you know and care about them by making references to their purchase history or previous user behavior. You can even reward your most engaging and loyal subscribers to make them feel special. Give them access to an early release of your new product or add them to your VIP group if you have one.


7. Avoid Spam Filter

You do not want your emails to end up in the dreaded spam folder. Nobody opens emails from their spam folder. If this fate should befall your emails, your open rates would fall. In email marketing, your reputation plays a huge role in getting your emails delivered. Keep a good reputation by avoiding the use of words that trigger spam filters. You can find our resource containing 200+ words you should avoid in this article. Subscribers in your email list should have opted to be there as well. Avoid purchasing email lists online. They usually have nothing in common with you and might result in high bounce rates and your emails being reported as spam. Other ways to avoid spam filters are making sure your emails are not badly designed emails and do not contain faulty code. Always include your address and most importantly, provide a link for subscribers to opt-out of your emails.


8. Add Value

As much as we are tempted to think emails are meant simply for communication, I’d like to think that they are not. Every marketer should aim for their emails to communicate value instead. Subscribers receive hundreds of emails a day. The only way to get them to open your emails is when you communicate value. Value means different things to different people. Ensure that you know what your customers consider valuable and segment them accordingly. If you don’t know, ask them.

A simple way of checking for value is by asking yourself what customers are getting from your emails and if it is good enough? Your emails should offer valuable resources your subscribers need like how-to articles, white papers, ebooks, and more. For eCommerce brands, use segmentation to send updates about subscribers’ favorite products. Furthermore, do not forget to occasionally send out offers to celebrate milestones and birthdays.


9. Add Hero Videos and Images In Your Email

Utilizing videos and images in your emails will make your emails more appealing. Emails that have videos have been found to have about 96% click-through rates than others without. So, including visuals in your email and letting your customers know about it in the subject line is bound to do wonders for your open rates. Create or include visuals that have value and are relevant to your audience. It could be an instructional video or an informational video on a topic of interest. For images, infographics usually work well. They contain graphical information about a topic. They are easy to digest and share.


10. Use Humor To Connect With Your Audience

I hope you know your emails do not have to be “uptight and formal” every time, right? Depending on your brand tone and voice, you can slip in some humor and jokes in your emails to keep subscribers opening them. Look out for jokes and memes in your industry that your audience can relate to. It’s fine to give them a good laugh through your emails. Try not to go over the line with your jokes and if you aren’t sure, ask for a second opinion or avoid it. You don’t want to be offensive when you genuinely intended for people to laugh.


11. Find The Right Time To Send

The timing for your email campaigns is as essential as the value the email contains. Believe it or not, certain times affect your email open rates. Imagine sending emails at 3 am when most of your subscribers are fast asleep. It will most likely be drowned by other emails by the time your subscribers are awake. It is up to you to find the best time your subscribers will interact with your emails. Start by A/B testing your emails at different times over a period. Gradually, you can average the best times to get results. There are also industry benchmarks you can use as a guide. Weekdays are often your best bet with some studies showing Tuesdays as the best day.

12. Sender Name and Email Address Matters - Get Them Right

Sender identities are the identities that show the origin of your emails. Subscribers can see your sender identity as soon as your email comes in. It is a major factor that decides if your email gets opened or not. Best practice for brands is to set up sender identities that are recognizable by customers. Set it up as a human instead of a department. For instance, instead of “Sales Department – Your Brand,” make it “Your name – Your brand.” Customers are more likely to feel connected to a human than to a department. Moreover, it will help if your email address is your domain email instead of free generic email providers like Gmail. A domain email adds credibility to your emails and makes your emails easily recognizable. Open rates can increase as much as 35% by just having a branded domain email.


13. Optimize For Mobile Viewing

As much as 80% of people delete emails not optimized for mobile. This is a caution for marketers considering that 4 out of 10 emails are opened on a mobile device. Any marketer who doesn’t optimize for mobile viewing is throwing good leads out the window and their emails will not be read. Make sure your email service provider has responsive templates and template editors like tinyEmail does. It will save you time and stress especially if you don’t know how.


14. Use Viral Trends, Local festivals, and News

Using local events and holidays can improve your email open rates significantly. How? The reason is that these events are well known and celebrated by your audience already. The familiarity makes your email relatable and is more likely to be opened. Take viral trends and news for example. Your audience may have already interacted with them on social media. Seeing an email with a similar trend feeds their curiosity. Add your twist by creating Holiday offers or giveaways. For instance, a subject line like “Christmas Day sales” works for your audience who celebrate Christmas.


15. Keep Testing All Your Elements

Email marketing is a game and testing and tweaking till you find what works best for you. A/B testing is integral to your open rate success. Test all the elements of your emails to determine which ones stick to your audience. Test subject lines and preheaders because they are the first thing your audience sees. Test other elements within your email like images, copy, and CTAs. You can even test multiple sender identities to see which your audience likes the most. A/B testing often requires patience, so test for a good amount of time before drawing conclusions. As you test, you will gradually learn more about the kind of elements your subscribers react to the most.


16. Follow Email Delivery Best Practices

Finally, to ensure that your open rates keep improving, you have to keep up with email delivery best practices. When gathering email addresses for your list, ensure that you have permission from subscribers before emailing them.

Go for double opt-ins if you want to be 100% sure. Avoid buying email lists from the internet. They may be full of mistakes and can hurt your email reputation in the long run. You do not want people reporting you as spam and recording high bounce rates.

Politely ask subscribers to whitelist you by adding you to their contact list. It shows email providers that they trust you and are willing to hear from you.


Constantly clean up your email list by segmenting and removing inactive emails. Try sending win-back campaigns from those you haven’t heard from in a while and allow subscribers to opt out voluntarily.


Wrapping Up

Email marketing is a powerful marketing channel that can grow your business. However, you need your audience to be able to open your emails first. Thankfully, email marketing allows marketers to explore and find strategies that best suit their needs. These 16 tips will help you take a different approach to increase your email open rates. Feel free to experiment as much as you can till you find what is best for you.

To unveil the full email marketing potential for your business, try our email marketing solution packed with features that make your emails stand out. Sign up to tinyEmail for free.

Yaw Biney

Yaw Biney

Yaw is a digital marketer who enjoys writing about growth marketing and technology. | LinkedIn

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