What is "Email Open Rate" & How Can You Increase Yours?

Email Marketing Open Rates

Despite the fears of spam and annoying ads, email marketing is alive and well. Yes, there has been some necessary strategy alterations and applications of new data, but marketers continue to invest in this tried and true tactic. But how do marketers determine their email marketing strategies? One of the most important stats we look at is the “email open rate”. You may not know what this means, or worse, you may think you know what it means. Whatever the case, we’re going to let you in on all the knowledge to perfect your email marketing tactics and increase your open rates.

What is “email open rate”?

So, the logical answer to this question is that an email open rate is how many people open an email campaign you sent. Unfortunately, logic doesn’t prevail here. The calculated email open rate statistic consists of two things:

  1. Whether the recipient allows an image to download in the the email, or
  2. They click on a link in the email.

These are the factors that go into the calculation of the percentage you see from your ESP (Email Service Provider). But how do they get the magical number? They divide the number of emails you sent (and were successfully delivered) by the number of emails that were “opened” (according to the criteria above). For example, if you sent and delivered 100 emails and 10 people “opened” them, that campaign would have a 10% open rate.

How to increase your email open rates

So, we get that email open rates are important…but how do you bring them up? We’ve compiled a list of 9 quick tips to help increase your email open rates. Take a gander:

Write a compelling headline

We know this should go without saying, but you’d be surprised. Your headline needs to incentivize the reader to open the email. There a number of ways you can motivate email opens, but a few of our favorites include:

  • Indicating a coupon. Example: “Happy Friday! Here’s our gift to you…”  
  • Providing a teaser of some kind. Example: “Want a chance to win something really cool?”
  • Making an announcement. “And the winner is…”

The best way to craft a compelling subject line, however, is to play to your audience. Perform some research to learn about your key demographics’ online activity, and mold your headlines around them.

Send to a person from a person

Personalized emails (the ones that say “Hi, Bill” instead of “Dear Valued Customer”) are a major contributing factor to open rates. Most email marketing software presents the option to send personalized emails. The open rate for personalized promotional emails see as much as a 27% difference in unique click rates and 11% higher open rates. This little extra step could make a noticeable change for your open rates (Source).

Not only should you be sending your emails to a person, but you should also be sending from a person. You might not see as dramatic of a change with this, but this is a step that will bolster loyalty over time, gradually increasing email success. People tend to distrust businesses in general. So, receiving an email from “Sarah, Email Marketing Specialist” instead of “Big Hardscape Company” will increase trust in your brand, making people feel more comfortable opening your emails.

Make it mobile-friendly

Mobile Email Marketing

This is another one that might not make a super obvious change at first, but the long-term difference is not to be ignored. Neither is the percent of mobile email opens in 2017 – 54% of emails are opened on mobile devices before a desktop (Source). Now, over 27% of email users say they favor mobile-aware email marketing campaigns (Source). If your campaign is not mobile-friendly, then mobile openers won’t hang around long enough to let an image download or to click on anything. It only takes one tedious experience with an email to send your followups directly to the spam folder (which is basically the email marketing graveyard).

Have something to say

Don’t send an email simply for the sake of sending an email; make sure you have something of value to share with your customers. Even sales-y emails (which should be limited) need to offer something your customers can take advantage of, like a coupon or contest, or information about a new service you’re offering. Readers see right through the fluff and pomp of emails that have no point. Make sure you have a point, or you’re just wasting your time and your customers' time.

Strategize send times

There’s no clear cut “best days and times to send emails”. It changes from industry to industry, target to target. But, we will fill you in on the generally considered key days and times you should try to schedule around (Source):

  • Days: Weekdays, specifically Tuesdays see the highest email open rates. Weekends see a drastic drop.
  • Times: Regular office hours, between 8 am and 5 pm, are usually the best times, with the highest peak around 10 am.

While you should definitely be strategizing and scheduling around ideal days and times, don’t be afraid to experiment. You may find your business’ email marketing sweet spot.

Avoid spam filters

So, email carriers have specific “spam filter” words and indicators that trigger spammy emails, and these filters are getting increasingly intelligent. To avoid ending up in the spam folder (open rate disaster), watch out for words in your headlines like “deal” or “rich” or “sale”. Also, be selective about the amount of links you include in the content of your email (Source).

Segment your lists

And don’t just segment them, segment them meticulously. That means dividing your big master list into smaller lists based on things like age, previous projects, and time since you last interaction. According to Mailchimp, segmented emails see 14.32% more email opens than, non-segmented ones, so, don’t take this lightly.

Resend unopened emails

What’s the advantage of doing this? Not only can it increase your open rates drastically (some have seen up to 50% more opens after a resend (Source)), but more importantly, it helps you learn about your target audience. Before resending an email, you can change the headline and the send time – two factors very helpful for campaign strategy.

Include a video, and then say that it includes a video

We say this all the time because it’s true: videos dominate web traffic more than any other form of content. As a result, including a video in your emails can drive your clicks way up. But the other very important half of this tip is to make plainly in the headline that your email includes a video. How will they know if you don’t tell them?

Be careful, though. Slow load times can be an open rate nightmare, so make sure your email still loads speedily by using a less dense clip, or your campaigns will suffer.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

This may seem counterintuitive after explaining all these tips, but consider them a guide, not a rulebook. Every industry, every business, every person reacts differently to emails and content, so, you can’t treat all your recipients the same. Be creative and experiment with different send times, headlines, segmentation, etc.

And most importantly, don’t stop reinventing. The world of email marketing is ever-evolving. We have to keep A/B testing, experimenting with new ideas, and perfecting our strategies as marketers in our industry.

Caitlin Weiner