How to Increase Email Open Rates

How to Increase Email Open Rates: The Beginner’s Guide


Email is one of the best formats for inbound marketing you can use.

With email, you make sure that you’re getting your message into your customer’s pocket wherever they are. At the same time, you get the benefit of knowing that you’re not just imposing on their day. You’re connecting with people who chose to hear from you.

Making sure that you can continue to excel with email marketing involves ensuring that you continue to send your messages to the people who want to hear from you.

So, how do you know for sure whether you’re still speaking to a dedicated audience?

Easy. Start with open rates.

Emails frequently get lost in the clutter of a customer’s inbox and can even end up in their spam folder. Examining email open rates helps you to figure out if you’re still actually reaching your audience or not.

What Are Email Open Rates: An Introduction

Let’s start simple.

Email open rates are metrics that track how many of your audience clicks on your email to open it when it arrives in their inbox.

Calculating email open rates couldn’t be simpler. All you need to do is divide the total number of emails opened by the number of emails you sent. Remember to take off any bounced emails that didn’t reach the inbox. Multiply the number you get by 100% to get a percentage.

Once you have your number, you’ll also have a clear insight into various aspects of your marketing strategy. This includes considering the health of the relationship between your brand and the people on your mailing list. You can very easily discover if your subscribers are still interested in what you have to say or offer.

You can also get a better insight into the perception your customers have of your emails. Do your client see your emails as helpful, or are they just being classified as spam?

If your open rates are worryingly low, you might need to think about whether you’ve taken care to build the right list in the first place. Are you getting informed consent before you begin email marketing?

How Do Your Open Rates Measure Up?

If you want to learn how to improve email open rates in 2020, then you’ll need to start by learning how your open rates measure up to the industry standards.

The good news? You can usually find out how good the email open rates in your sector are when you compare them to other information released in your industry. You can:

  • Check the average industry rates measured by Constant Contact. These are also organized according to device, so you can determine how people are choosing to read your emails too.
  • Examine the email open rates from Campaign Monitor: Campaign Monitor suggests that most industries have an open rate of between 20 and 40% according to their studies.
  • Analyze the benchmark reports published by MailChimp. This research covers the average open rate per company size, as well as per industry. The average open rate for all industries according to MailChimp is around 21.3%.Average email open rate

Importantly, the information you’ll find from email companies is only a basic benchmark. Keep in mind that open rates can vary according to the different campaigns that you send. The good news is that having a benchmark to work with can help you to see how much work you need to do to improve.

How to Increase Email Open Rates: Tips for This Year

Okay, now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s take a look at how you can improve your open rates in the modern email marketing world.

1.    Use The Right From Name and Subject Line

When you’re designing the perfect email, it’s easy to get caught up looking at things like CTAs and internal graphics. Things like “from” names are frequently overlooked. However, studies prove that clients are more likely to trust email messages from companies with a branded from name. A recognizable sender name is the main reason customers open an email.

Asana update email

In the example above from Asana, the company uses a reference to something relevant to the customer (Content Library) in the email subject. At the same time, the “Asana” from name makes the email feel more reputable and authoritative.

You can also consider using a personal name alongside a business name, like “Sam Smith from Asana” to make the experience more personal.

Remember, while your “From” name is important, it will only have a positive impact on your audience when combined with a good subject line. The subject line in the example above from Asana tells the reader that they’re getting an email from the genuine Asana company, by referencing the name of one of the boards or teams they’re signed up with.

At the same time, the subject line also gets straight to the point. Research from MailChimp proves that straightforward subject lines get the best open rates.

2.    Get the Timing Right

Timing is absolutely essential when improving email open rates.

Emphasizing the timeliness of your email content in your subject lines is one of the best ways to push customers to click immediately, rather than allowing them to put it off until later.

According to HubSpot, words like “Tomorrow” in your subject line can increase open rates by 10%. Other studies have proven that words like “Weekly” or “Daily” increase open rates too.  The email below instantly tells customers how important it is to click:

Don't miss out email

Crucially, just because nudging your audience is important when boosting open rates, that doesn’t mean that you should indicate that every email is urgent. Pushing your customers to open every email instantly can end up driving them away.

You’ll also need to make sure that you’re sending messages with the right frequency too. A survey from Marketing Sherpa discovered that 86% of customers want to receive monthly promotional emails, whereas around 60% want to receive their emails once a week.

Use your email marketing software to segment your audience according to exactly how often they want to get their emails, and you’ll be able to get the frequency just right.

3.    Optimize the Preview Text

Aside from the “from” name, and your subject line, there’s one other major thing that your audience is going to look at when they get an email from you – your preview text. Otherwise known as the pre-header, your preview text gives readers a basic intro to the contents of your email.

If you want to improve open rates, being extra deliberate with your preview text could be the key to success. Your subscribers will use this text to screen emails and decide if the content is relevant to them. According to Marketing Experiments, a good preview text can increase open rates by 30%!

Look at the preview text in this email from the Apple App Store:

Apple app store open rate strategy

It immediately tells the reader that the apps included in the email were chosen “just for them” from the best options of the week. That lets the reader know that the content is bound to be relevant.

Other ways to improve your preview text include:

  • Immediately providing an offer or discount
  • Offering a short summary of the email body
  • Personalizing the email with the subscriber’s location or name
  • Continuing the subject line

Keep in mind that it’s important to keep the device your customer is using in mind too. Litmus offers a simple guide to how much preview text users can see according to their choice of email client. Ideally, you shouldn’t go beyond 40 characters.

4.    Personalize the Email

One of the best ways to impress your subscribers before they even click on an email is to let them know that you’re sending content tailored to their needs.

Studies have proven that just adding the name of a customer to your subject line can increase your open rates by around 29%.  You can also add your customer’s name to the preview text and the content within the email too.

Aside from just adding a name, another great way to personalize your emails is to make sure your emails are properly segmented. Don’t send the same emails to all your subscribers when everyone has different needs. Data from MailChimp proves that segmented campaigns have a 14% higher open rate.

Long tall sally personalized email

In the email above, the company used gender to pinpoint an important day for customers. Other segmentation methods you can use include segmenting by:

  • Location or area
  • Subscription date or type
  • Amount spent on products
  • Purchasing frequency
  • Engagement level

The more the email seems relevant and specific to your chosen customer, the more likely they are to want to click on it.

5.    Always be Mobile-Friendly

Finally, if you want to boost your open rates today, then you need to be aware of the fact that a lot of your customers aren’t going to be opening your messages on a desktop.

If you’ve ever opened emails on a phone or tablet and discovered that they didn’t load properly, you’ll know how annoying this can be. According to Litmus, mobile opens take up around 56% of all email open rates.

If you’re not designing with mobile in mind, your subscribers are likely to recognize that your emails are often difficult to read when opened via mobile. This means that they’ll start to ignore your emails, even after you’ve decided to improve your design.

Making sure that you’re properly supporting mobile as early as possible will significantly improve your open rates for 2020. Look at how simple this example from FreshBooks looks for instance:

Freshbooks mobile for open rates

The straightforward design combined with a clickable button is sure to instantly delight customers and make them look forward to the next email.

Learning How to Increase Email Open Rates

Open rates are just one of the metrics you need to think about when optimizing your campaigns.

However, they’re also one of the first things you need to measure.

If your customers aren’t opening your emails, then all of the fantastic internal content and offers in the world won’t help to boost your conversions.

With the tips listed in this guide, you should be able to find something that helps to ramp up your opens (even just a little bit). Don’t be afraid to combine the tips you find here with guidance from our other blogs too!


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