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Email Marketing
7 min

Average Email Open Rates, and How to Surpass Them in 2022

A March 2021 study showed that the average email open rate was 16.97%, with a 10.29% clickthrough rate.

In 2020, however, taking the average of three benchmarks, the open rate was higher: 20.4%. The good news, according to some analysts, is that based on historical data, each time there is a decrease, it’s always followed by a strong period of growth. 

Of course, these growth rates will vary by region, by industry over time. As a marketer, this is the right time to be aware of the averages and to make efforts to surpass them.

Here, we’ll be going through:

– Calculation: what’s the yardstick?

– Benchmarks: global, regional, and industry averages

– Expert Advice: how to boost your open rate, no matter which industry you’re in.

How is Email Open Rate Calculated?

Very simply, an email open rate is calculated by dividing the number of unique emails opened by the number of emails sent –  after making sure to deduct the number of bounces.

how to calculate email open rate

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Click-through and bounce rates are other important metrics, but an email open rate is generally seen as the foundation upon which you can get results.

Email Benchmarks Across Industries

Email open rates are dependent on a number of factors. The health of your email list is important, as well as the industry you’re in. Powerful subject lines also boost open rates.

Even with the above being the same, email open rates can vary across geographies. The best thing to do, therefore, is to look at the email marketing statistics suggested by different sources across industries and then get an average for your own.

We’ve already mentioned the earlier study, which indicated that the average email open rate is 16.97%, with a 10.29% clickthrough rate. Here, meanwhile, is 2020 data from Acoustic (formerly IBM marketing and commerce) for 750 companies representing 3,000 brands in 40 countries. It is broken down by industry.

email Benchmarks

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If you go back a little to 2019, MailChimp indicates that the average email open rate for all industries analyzed was 21.33%.

For them, these were the Top 3 categories:

  • The highest open rates were for government-related emails: 28.77%.
  • Then, there were emails sent by hobbies entities: 27.74%.
  • Emails about religion came third: 27.62%

Another large-size survey was done by Campaign Monitor. It analyzed over 100 billion emails sent globally between January and December 2020 and found an average open rate of 18%.

Another study, done by Tidio, showed that the open rate for marketing emails averages about 18% globally.  

Here are their figures, broken down by industry:

2021 global email benchmarks data

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HubSpot, however, found that the Real Estate industry and Education industry had the highest open rates. And the computer/electronics industry had the lowest open rate.

Their average across all industries was 20.94%. This was based on email metrics of 19,033 customers from November 2018 – November 2019.

This table gives you industry-specific figures.

Email Open-Rate-by-Industry

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In yet another study, Constant Contact’s March 2021 figures showed an average email open rate of 16.97%, with government, religious organizations, and childcare services significantly above average.

Another study showed that open rates also vary from country to country. The average in 2020 was 21.3%.

Constant Contact’s March 2021 email benchmarks data

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As you can see from all of the above, there are variations among time periods and regions. It’s best not to get too hung up on a specific figure. Depending on the industry you’re in, from the charts above, if you’re a few percentages up or down, you’re meeting the average.

The challenge, of course, is to not be average but to exceed expectations. In the next section, this is what we’re going to explore.

Expert Advice on Exceeding Average Rates

There are many variables that can significantly boost email open rates. No matter which industry you’re in, the following best practices can push up the performance.

Overall, you should keep in mind the words of tech and marketing consultant Benjamin Murray: “Emails may be cost-efficient but it’s no excuse to not produce quality content to give to a targeted audience”.

a) Subject Lines

About the first thing that any digital marketing guru will tell you about increasing open rates is to use subject lines effectively. There are many ways of doing this. They could be newsy, containing dates of promotions or other events. They could be personal, containing the name of the prospect. They could convey a sense of urgency. They could contain interesting statistics. Above all, they should be short and snappy, and if possible memorable. Feel free to test and experiment. This could be the single most important step to increase open rates – one study shows that 35% of email recipients open an email based on the subject line alone. An interesting tip by marketing mentor Vanessa Lanham-Day is to use relevant song, film, or book titles.

best-email-subject-lines - in email marketing

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b) Personalization

This is a subset of compelling subject lines, touched upon above. It includes a detail relevant to the recipient. It could be their name, profession, purchase history, or other behavioral detail. Personalized subject lines get more emails opened, and after that, personalized content helps in transaction rates and revenue.

c) Sender’s Name

In some cases, using the actual name of a person sending the mail can boost open rates. This works in fintech, for example, with customer relationship officers. It can also add a nice personalized touch. To link the sender’s name to the company, you could consider a brief mention of both. For example: “R. Kumar, ABC Finance.” This helps in establishing a relationship between the sender and receiver to build familiarity.

d) Refresh Lists

It’s important to maintain up-to-date and robust email lists. There could be many consumers on it who are inactive or who, for whatever reason, simply haven’t engaged with your communication for ages. This makes open rates drop. This can also happen if you’ve purchased a public email list. Many people on this may just not be the right target audience for you. It’s best to build an effective list through website pop-ups, social media, and calibrated marketing programs.

As Simon Washbrook, founder and CEO of Popcorn, says: “When it comes to improving your open rates, you can spend all the time in the world perfecting your subject lines, finding the optimal broadcast time and improving your server reputation, but if you’re not sending it to contacts that are in a buying cycle, then you’re wasting your time!”

e) Day and Time

Email open rates are also affected by the day of the week in which they are sent, as well as the time of day. The optimum will depend on the industry you are in. Those in the entertainment sector, for example, may find that weekend evening is best. In comparison, those in finance could find that a weekday morning offers the best results. Reviewing your open results will indicate when most emails sent by you are opened. As with other aspects, it’s a great idea to test different times. In general, studies indicate that the best day to send promotional emails, such as weekly newsletters, is Thursday, followed closely by Tuesday.

f) Segmentation

This again is a best practice recommended by experts. This is a powerful tactic to gain leads and conversions throughout the email marketing process — but it’s the way that the segmented content of the email is captured in the subject line that counts when it comes to open rates. Specifically, behavioral cues can be triggered and other aspects such as age and interests can be leveraged. Here’s a partnership that will let you send the right emails to the right people.

g) Optimize for Mobile

In 2016, a report found that 68% to 79% of consumers delete an email that isn’t mobile optimized. The figure has only grown since then. At a time when almost half of all web traffic is from mobile devices, optimizing your email for mobile screens is essential to boost open rates. The body of the email apart, to get a prospect to click on it, you need to ensure that the fonts are readable, the width is engineered for smaller screens and in a single column. All this will go a long way in presenting your message in an optimum manner to a consumer who is on their mobile phone.

Wrap Up

As you’ve seen, email open rates can vary widely, depending on industry, geography, and time. In every case, however, it should be possible to boost your numbers to raise them significantly above the average. Testing is important to achieve this — find out how why A/B testing and Multivariate testing are a marketer’s best friends.

We’ll leave you with words of wisdom from Kate Barrett, founder of eFocus Marketing –

In the long term, the most important and effective way to improve your open rates overall is to make sure that your subscribers:

  1. Understand and trust that it is you who is sending emails to them
  2. Expect to receive the content you’re sending and when you’re sending it
  3. Want to receive emails from you because they’re relevant, interesting, helpful, and/or inspiring

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