What is a Good Average Open Rate for Email Marketing?

What is a Good Average Open Rate for Email Marketing?

No matter what industry you are in, there’s little doubt that email marketing is still invaluable. This is true, despite the fact that many of us get a lot of emails every day. Besides, email programs increasingly distinguish between commercial content and things that require immediate attention.

Here’s the thing, though: email marketing is still super popular. People love the fact that they can open an email, and then not take action on it until later. For instance, if you’re a fashion brand that’s throwing a sale, someone might open the email in the morning. Then, they’ll log on later and look for the perfect pair of pants. With that in mind, what is a good open rate for email marketing? Let’s take a look.

What is an Email Open Rate, anyway?

what is a _____?

In a nutshell, an average open rate for email marketing is a reflection of how often emails are opened by their recipients. From a numbers standpoint, it is calculated this way: (total unique opens / total recipients) x 100. Your result is ultimately expressed as a percentage, making a highly useful KPI.

There is, however, some debate when it comes to which recipients to count. Specifically, some subtract bounced emails from total recipients. The thinking is that bounced emails never had the chance to be opened anyway, so they don’t truly reflect the effectiveness of an email. However, I prefer to keep them in as a measure of total list health because if you prune your list regularly, bounces should be kept to a minimum. Bounces still cost money to send, so it’s in your best interest to minimize them.

Why is a High Open Rate Important?

No matter what kind of products or services you sell, you want your emails to be seen, right?!?!? Having a high average open rate for email marketing means that people are interested in what you have to say. It also indicates that your subject lines compel people to open that email. With that in mind, here are some statistics that can help you decide what your brand should expect.

Mailchimp Data from October 2019

There’s no question that some industries do better than others. With that said, the average for all industries was determined to be 21.33%. This number equates to just over 1 in 5 emails getting opened.

Some industries, though, beat this number by a large margin. The highest industries were government (28.77%), hobbies (27.74%), religion (27.62%), Arts and Artists (26.27%), and Non-Profits (25.17%). These industries tend to be either informational or something with a high level of interest from recipients. Some are even a major part of the recipient’s life.

On the other end of the scale, the lowest open rates were for vitamin supplements (15.03%), daily deals/e-coupons (15.06%), ecommerce (15.68%), beauty and personal care (16.65%), and marketing and advertising (17.38%). These industries have a lot of competition, are bought occasionally, or have low levels of brand loyalty. For example, even necessary ecommerce items like fashion are not typically bought every week. A lot of consumers will buy a bunch, then stop for a while and not open emails.

Constant Contact Data from May 2021

A couple of years after the Mailchimp data, Constant Contact found that the average for all industries is 19.84%. That gives us a decline of around 1.5%, and means that a bit under 1 in 5 emails are opened. This could be a shift in consumer trends, or it might be a natural fluctuation in behavior patterns. A larger number of emails being sent can also explain this decline.

Yet when it comes to industries that do well, many kept their place while others moved up or down. Industries with the highest average open rate for email marketing were Independent Artists, Writers and Performers (34.40%); Education (34.12%); Travel & Tourism(32.60%); Faith Based Organizations (32.48%); and Recreation, Sports & Entertainment (29.23%).

To be honest, the shifts are unsurprising. For instance, we see a lot of people going on vacation now that the yearlong cabin fever from COVID-19 has worn off. The same goes with both education and sports, both of which took a backseat last year.

Also unsurprising was the list of industries with the lowest average email marketing open rate. These were Repair and Maintenance (6.17%), Legal Services (12.89%), Retail (12.90%), Manufacturing (13.78%), and Transportation Services (13.88%). People are on the move, and these industries may be taking a backseat somewhat. On the other hand, retail performed much better in 2019. World events do affect what gets opened and when!

Get Response data from June 2020

Get Response’s measurement of average open rate for email marketing was published at an interesting time. However, what it does do is give us an interesting comparison with other datasets.

This survey found that the average open rate is 22.02%, a percentage that’s higher than others cited in this article. But not by much: it looks a lot like the 2019 numbers.

With that said, the highest industries were Non-profits (30.85%), Restaurants & Food (30.09%), Real Estate (28.37%), Health Care (26.88%), and Arts & Entertainment (25.97%). At the other end of the spectrum, the lowest were Internet Marketing (14.97%), Communications (19.56%), Technology & High Tech (19.87%), Publishing (22.17%), and Education (22.42%).

Acoustic Campaign data from December 2020

Another survey from just a few months later shows that the average open rate for email marketing is 15.4%. This is significantly lower than 2019 and 2021 numbers. Then again, it’s also December, when there are a lot more emails due to the holidays.

Perhaps unsurprisingly given the uncertainty of that time period, the highest industries were Energy & Environment (31.2%), Insurance (30.0%), Hospitals & Healthcare (29.9%), Government (27%), and Computer Software (25.5%). And since everyone was stuck at home and plenty of people were out of work, the lowest industries were Travel Agencies & Services (8%), Retail (12%), Media & Publishing (13%), Consumer Services (13%), and Leisure Sports & Recreation (14.5%).

Campaign Monitor from December 2020

During the same period as Acoustic Campaign, our friends at Campaign Monitor also did a survey and found the average open rate for email marketing is 18.0%. This is a significantly higher percentage than the other survey taken at the same time.

However, the other results were unsurprising. The highest industries were Government & Politics (26.7%), Nonprofits (25.5%), Education (24.9%), Financial Services (24.8%) and Healthcare Services (23.4%). Likewise, the lowest industries were Retail (12.6%), Food & Beverages (15.2%), Travel, Hospitality & Leisure (17.7%), Other (17.8%), and Consumer Packaged Goods (18.1%). These findings are consistent in terms of what topics do better than others.

Hubspot data from November 2019

This survey by Hubspot is similar to the one done by Mailchimp the month before. Hubspot reported an average open rate of 20.94%. Their highest industries were Real Estate and Construction (26%), Education (25%), Manufacturing (23%), Financial Services (23%), and Others (23%), largely reflecting the optimism of the time. Similarly, the lowest industries were Computer & Electronics (19%), Business Services (20%), Software and Internet (20%), Media and Entertainment (21%), and Telecommunications (21%).

It’s easy to see that the average marketing email from some industries, such as ecommerce, usually trends on the low side. There’s a lot of competition for these dollars, and people tend to not have a lot of brand loyalty. On the other hand, Abandoned Cart Emails have an average open rate of 40.14%, and the open rate for welcome emails is a whipping 82%!

I see a distinct lesson from these last two statistics, at least as it applies to ecommerce. In general, getting people onto your website is a large percentage of the battle. Oftentimes an abandoned cart email contains some kind of coupon, which is well-known to boost sales. In addition, welcome emails are sent when someone has just agreed to take emails and has a high level of interest.

What are the Email Marketing Benchmarks You Should Aim for?

What are the Email Marketing Benchmarks You Should Aim for?

At the end of the day, your average open rate for email marketing is only one of many measures of success. Rather, there are others, such as click-through rate and conversion rate, that should be tracked. This is important because, no matter how often your email is opened you need to get true return on investment. With that said, if you are exceeding the average for your industry, then you’re well on your way to success in the other areas.

How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

Whether you have a high average open rate for email marketing or not, there’s always room for improvement. If you want to impress everyone and smoke the competition, try a few of these email marketing tips. And if they don’t work for you, keep trying until you succeed.

Summarize main points from an article

Summarize main points from an article

One of the great things about email marketing is that it lets you distribute content directly to people’s inboxes. However, sending the entire article isn’t always the best tactic. Consider sending summaries and encouraging people to click through and view the entire thing. This has the added bonus of drawing them onto your website.

Segment your emails

Another strategy to boost your average email marketing open rate is segmenting your emails. To segment, you send targeted emails to particular customer groups. For instance, if you are a fashion brand that designs for both men and women, then you might only send men’s fashion emails to males, and vice versa. Brands with a children’s line could target people who have bought those products, or who have indicated they’re the right age to have kids.

Further Reading: How to Use Email Segmentation to Boost Marketing Conversions

Personalize the contents

Personalize the contents

Think about it this way: would you rather get a clearly mass-produced email that’s exactly the same as everyone else’s, or one with your name on it? For most people, the small gesture of personalization means a lot, even though it’s easy with email marketing automation. Personalized emails could also be for a known birthday or anniversary.

Improve subject lines

This is sort of like writing a catchy clickbait headline for an online publication. If you write subject lines that draw people in, you’re more likely to get it opened. Use emojis or make the text compelling. Either way, you win.

Improve deliverability

Improve deliverability

These days, it’s easy for your email to end up in the spam folder. Or worse, blocked by the ISP for being junk mail. Luckily, there are tips which you can use to improve deliverability. By getting the emails where people can see them, you’ll automatically improve your open rate.

Leverage pre-header text

Similar to the preview segment in a Google search, the pre-header text for an email tells someone what’s in it. Typically, this is the first sentence or two, so make it count. Furthermore, it’s worth pointing out that most of us throw out commercial mail if the first couple of lines don’t attract attention. Pre-header text is the email equivalent.

Optimize for mobile

Another easy tip is to make your emails easy to read on a mobile device. This works well largely because people love to check their emails on their phones or tablets. Many of us even check it before doing anything else each morning. For that reason, an email that they know is readable that way is more likely to get opened.

Send on the right day at the right time

If you send a flash sale email that’s good only for a few hours during a time that the recipient is asleep, it’ll probably get deleted. However, it isn’t always so stark: Some people are more available at different times. You should always study your analytics data to determine when people are most likely to open YOUR emails.

Prune your list regularly

There are people who, for whatever reason, lose interest in your brand. In some cases you can revive it, but this doesn’t always work-especially if your products are tailored for a certain life event or stage. In addition, people quit using emails all the time. When you see that an email address is nonproductive, or if the emails bounce, you should remove them from the list.

Make sure you set expectations vis a vis frequency and don’t go overboard

As they say, sometimes less is more. Most nonprofits, for instance, won’t want to send an email out every day. Rather, they’ll send a newsletter once a week or so. On the other hand, ecommerce websites are famous for going overboard. Let your customers know how often you like to send emails. If you’re a frequent sender, also consider asking people for preferences on which ones they want.

The average open rate for email marketing varies widely across industries. Besides certain generalities, degrees of success often depend on world events or customer tastes. However, that isn’t to say that your industry open rate is the destiny of your brand’s emails. There are plenty of ways to boost your open rate and, at the same time, your email marketing ROI.

Further Reading: How to Improve Your Email Open Rate

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Neal Schaffer
Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation of sales and marketing through consulting, training, and helping enterprises large and small develop and execute on social media marketing strategy, influencer marketing, and social selling initiatives. President of the social media agency PDCA Social, Neal also teaches digital media to executives at Rutgers University, the Irish Management Institute (Ireland), and the University of Jyvaskyla (Finland). Fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese, Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has been invited to speak about digital media on four continents in a dozen countries. He is also the author of 3 books on social media, including Maximize Your Social (Wiley), and in late 2019 will publish his 4th book, The Business of Influence (HarperCollins), on educating the market on the why and how every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal resides in Irvine, California but also frequently travels to Japan.

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