Email marketing open rates – what makes them low?

Apr 16, 2019

You’ve carefully prepared your email content, painstakingly collected customers’ email addresses, updated your burgeoning Excel contact spreadsheet, make up superb funny memes, wrestled your email template into submission and sent yourself a dozen tests …finally, it’s time to push the button “send” on that big e-blast. Buhhh!

After a few days, you check out your results and find out that the number of people who opened your masterpiece is disappointingly low…And you’ve realized that all your efforts went down the drain but you don’t have to worry much!

Standard open rate for email marketing

Low “open rate” is a common problem for marketers. But first, what is an open rate? In a nutshell, it’s a number of people who opened your email, divided by the number of people who received it and it’s expressed as a percentage. But for your information, your email open rate is calculated by dividing the number of unique opens by the number of emails sent, minus the number of bounces.

Email marketing open rates

Open Rate = Unique Opens / (Number of Emails Sent – Bounces)

Statistically, the average open rate is about 20%. If your company is above this average it means that you do it well! So out of the people who actually received your email, your open rate is the percentage of people who opened that email.OK, now that you know how to calculate, let’s move on.

If after benchmarking your results, you find that your open rates are way lower than the industry average, you may have a problem that needs to be addressed. There are some examples below why your open rates of an email campaign are low.

The quality of the email list

Although it’s not as obvious as email cover and sends time, your list quality also determines your open rates. Try to build your email list by yourself. No matter how many efforts you have to do at the beginning, you will have a higher score of deliverability, satisfied customers and better results in your email marketing campaign.

But on the other hand, if you purchased an email list, you can expect open rates well below the industry average. (Never, ever purchase an email list!) Check out more here why you should never ever buy an email list! This is why open rates for bought lists are not very cheerful (high list quality implies that everybody intentionally signed up for the email list).

Of course, there are lots of ways to buy an email list but none of them will benefit your campaign. You can ask why? The answer is so simple… the owners of these email addresses didn’t explicitly agree to receive any emails from you. Moreover, they are not your target customers as well.

Probably, there could be more people who don’t want to receive any content from you. You know, you can’t just add any random person to your list and expect to get better results. Focus on people who are genuinely interested in what you have to say and have given you permission to email them.

Segmentation – the key to email marketing and high open rate

When it comes to email marketing, list segmentation is one of the best tools for dividing your consumer base. Segmentation helps you discover untapped potential in your mailing list and see more improvements of it. It also helps you take your message from an email blast „one-to-many” approach to more of a „one-on-one”. If you send the same email to every single person on your list, you’ll never get the kind of engagement you’re looking for. Not everyone on your email list wants the same thing, and it’s up to you to cater to each user and also each subscriber has their own relationship with your brand and it’s up to you to cater to their needs. Check out more info here.

Lots of inactive subscribers affects open rate

If you have a lot of people on your list who are inactive (they haven’t engaged with your emails for a long time), then that will hurt your inbox deliverability and your open rates will plummet.

Re-engagement campaigns are a great way to revive a stale list. But while you can segment your subscribers based on the last time they opened your emails, you can’t know which email accounts are active. You only know if a customer isn’t opening your emails, not whether they are opening other emails — potentially those from a competitor.

Email Activity allows marketers to know when a user was last active with a commercial email. Using that data, marketers can more effectively target their re-engagement campaign efforts, winning back inactive users and boosting open rates.

Boring subject lines also affects email open rate

Nearly ⅓ of people decide whether or not to open an email based on the subject! It’s the main reasons why you may have a low email open rate. There’s a lot to be said for minimalism – users need you to be clear and concise in your subject lines, as time is always an asset. If you really want to improve your open rates, you’ve got to focus on crafting enticing email subject lines. The email subject line will get cut off if it were too long, particularly in mobile devices.

And now with more than 77% of email opens in mobiles, it’s very important that your subject line using fewer characters, not to be so long. If the subject line doesn’t immediately capture their attention, they move on to the next message in their boxes– even if the main body of the e-mail may consist of valuable and useful pieces of information to their business. A more direct subject line may not get as high an open rate, but quite often they deliver a better click-through rate and, ultimately, more results.

The importance of content

When you realize that your subscribers aren’t interested in your content one of the symptoms are slowly decreasing open rate, another can be a low click-through rate. A significant element of email marketing is a relationship. Does a recipient trust you? Does a recipient even know who you are? So…, how do you craft copy that will get them clicking?

There are some really important rules. In fact, no matter how fancy your marketing emails look, if they’re devoid of well-written content, your subscribers will stop opening and start deleting your messages. The key to positive attention in this type of environment is riveting content.

Share stories that people want to listen to, and tell stories that engage audiences with the brand. Think of your email in the same step-by-step journey that your readers would take. The storytelling method resonates with people’s real-life pain points and challenges, helping them to feel the problem the product solves and increasing their desire to purchase. It stirs emotions, it’s shareable and easy to understand.

The timing

Day of the week will generally affect your open rate. The truth is, the stats are all over the place when it comes to “perfect send day”, and that’s because different things work for different businesses. After the test each day you should see some patterns.

The best go-to days for sending campaigns are Tuesday and Thursday, around 10 am and 4:30 pm on both days. Moreover, think of where your subscribers are and what they’re doing when your email hits their inbox. Are they in bed, scrolling down their inbox on mobile to weed out the “deletes” before they get to their desk? Or at their desk, doing their morning inbox check, at the lunch break? – a big piece of cake is always welcome 😀

As a general rule, it’s good to catch subscribers in the morning, but not too early if you want them to open your email on the desktop (especially important if you want them to take action), but there are many exceptions to this rule. In addition to optimizing your mailing times, play around with split testing within your list.

To summarize, email marketing isn’t going anywhere. Try to use your data to understand your customers and play to their unique interests, needs. Use the best practices for writing emails, and avoid using phrases that turn your subscribers off—and you’ll be able to avoid the dreaded “unread” curse, then your open rates will increase. Make sure you are delivering dynamic content that is relevant to your segment. Test your design. Deliver what you promised. And share with us your results!

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