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The email open rate is the metric that indicates the percentage of opened emails for a specific email marketing campaign. Usually, it defines an email’s success in terms of conversion as the more people who open and read an email, the more chances there are for higher conversion.

Email marketing works because you can reach customers where they are every day — their inbox. Email subscribers are said to drive more traffic and revenue than social media users or search visitors and for every dollar, a company invests in email marketing, it gets over $40 in return. However, you might not be able to see those great results if your subscribers do not open your email and read your content.

So, how can you ensure your emails get opened?

How do you measure the email open rate?

Μost people consider the open rate as the number of people who open your email. This is not quite the case, though. An email counts as opened when the reader enables images to be displayed in the preview pane or full view or the recipient clicks a link in it.

Email service providers (ESPs) measure the open rate by calculating the number of people who open your email and dividing it by the number of emails sent that did not bounce, i.e. failed to reach the recipient. For example, if your email campaign was sent to 1000 recipients and 200 of them open it, while 100 emails bounce, your open rate will be calculated as follows:

200 / (1000-100) = 22.2% open rate

According to statistics, the average open rate for email was steady at around 24% globally, between 2015 to 2018. However, in 2020, the average open rate dropped slightly to 21.3%. This a very usual drop-in open rate and by no means does it signal that email marketing is going away. On the contrary, based on historical data, each time there is a decrease, it is always followed by a strong period of growth, meaning that we are expecting an increase again in 2021. We have compiled these strategies to get you ready.

Strategies to achieve higher open rates


1. Invest time in your subject line

Your subject line is maybe the most important line of your entire email. When it comes to email open rates, your subject line is everything. Similar to an article headline or the tagline of an ad, your subject line is meant to capture audience attention and get them interested in what you have to offer. You have to make them stand out.

Generic subject lines like “March Newsletter” or “News from [Your Company Name]” probably are not going to cut it. Invest some extra time in your subject line before hitting send and constantly test subject lines to see which gets you a better open-rate.

For some great subject line tips, we’ve written a blog post on crafting subject lines that sell.

2. Optimize the preheader text

An optimized preheader can boost your open rates and get your campaign off to a great start. Situated next to the subject line in your inbox, the preheader gives a preview of the email inside. It is the next thing in the reader’s eye line after the subject line and it occupies a strategic, precious space you can use to improve your email open rates. Studies have revealed that brands that use preheaders effectively increase open rates by up to 30%. Use this space wisely!

3. Properly fill in the “From” field

People are skeptical of emails when they do not recognize the sender. Make your send-from address clear. The “from” field informs recipients regarding who an email is coming from. You must carefully think about the information you put into these fields or else you can make it difficult for people to recognize your email when it lands in their inbox.

Email Open Rate Infographic

4. Test send days and times

Many studies have been conducted on the best days and times to send emails. However, this may vary. Every email list is different when it comes to the best day and time to send emails. Many emails are opened as far as 2 days after they are sent.

You have to test what works for you and the times and days when your readers are more likely to open and read your emails. An easy way to find the best day-time combination to send is to segment your list and send the same copy of your email during different days and different times (morning, afternoon, and evening). Try this for a few different email campaigns and keep track of which version gets the highest open rate.

5. Optimize for mobile readers

According to IBM Watson Marketing “2018 Marketing Benchmark Report”, nearly half (49.1%) of all emails are read on mobile devices throughout the world.

You do not want to miss out on getting an open from a mobile reader, so make sure that your email is optimized for mobile reading. The obvious tip here is to make sure your email is mobile-­friendly, but also consider the fact that mobile screens are smaller, so long subject lines will not be viewable on mobile devices.

6. Segment your emails for better targeting

The more relevant and targeted your email communications are, the more likely people will engage with them. Readers want to feel that they are investing their time in something that was specially meant for them. Segment your emails as precisely as possible to better give them that personalized experience with your emails.

Keep in mind that segmented emails always outperform generic emails. A study conducted by the DMA concluded that segmented and targeted emails generate 58% of all revenue. Take the time to create list segments and tailor your email marketing accordingly, and you will for sure see significant returns on your investment.

7. Keep your email list clean

How clean is your email list? Do your subscribers still want to hear from you? Have they changed email accounts? Investing time in improving your open rates will make no difference if you are mailing inactive or uninterested email accounts.

It is important to keep your list fresh and filled with engaged subscribers, periodically removing inactive subscribers. You can do this by sending an email campaign to try to re-engage them or use an email verifier to verify an account’s validity.

By cleaning up your email list you can focus your marketing efforts on the people who can turn into customers. It improves your open and click-through rates, reducing bounces and spam complaints, which will improve your sender reputation.

8. Always write engaging content

Make sure you are offering valuable content. The content inside your email is essential for your open rates. If your subscribers are happy with your content, they are more likely to open them in the future. They may even start anticipating them. On the other hand, if a subscriber is not pleased with your content, they probably will not open your emails again, and they may even unsubscribe.

Send emails that your subscribers look forward to reading. Every time you email your subscribers’ list, deliver consistent quality content and something of real value. The higher the value of your content, the more loyal your subscribers will become, resulting in increasing open rates.

Improve your email open rate with your next campaign

Use the above strategies to improve your open rates and make email marketing work for your business. Do not get discouraged if you do not see things changing immediately. Patience is a virtue, so aim for long-term results, not for ephemeral glory. Use an intelligent email platform to power up your email marketing strategy!

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