Email open rate is the percentage of emails opened out of the number of emails delivered. At a base level, it’s a measure of how compelling your subject line and preheader text is, and how engaged your recipient is with your brand emails.
Right now, the average email open rate is benchmarked at around 20%, depending who you choose to believe. The stats do vary by a couple of points across different platforms and sources, but in broad terms, you can consider a good email open rate as being anywhere close to or above 20%.
Unfortunately, figuring out if you have a good email open rate is a little bit trickier. While you can take the overall averages as a top-level indicator, you shouldn’t take it to heart too much, as there are a lot of factors to consider, such as location and industry.
A good email open rate for the engineering and manufacturing industries in the UK is around 18%. This takes into account the global industry average (20%), and the slight drop in engagement (around 2%) when it comes to contacts in the UK.
If you’re averaging a little less than that, don’t fret. Unless your open rate is way below the average you’ve no need to panic. Even if you are coming in below 10%, it just means there’s some work to be done.
Now you’ve taken that first step of asking what a good open rate is, let’s take a look at what “good” actually means, and what you can do to improve your open rate.
What is a good email open rate?
Let’s back up for a second. There are a lot of different things that influence what constitutes “good” when it comes to email open rates. As previously mentioned, industry and location are probably the two most important.
This is because the variation across industries is stark, and it’s easy to understand why given things like the difference in demographic, the type and volume of emails, and the motivation of contacts who have given their consent for marketing.
For example, in the retail sector, emails can be hit and miss. This is likely because the demographic is broad, the volume of emails is quite high, and the importance of emails is relatively low. The result is a high quantity of not-so-engaged contacts. With that in mind, hitting around or above 12.6% would be considered great (according to Campaign Monitor).
On the flip side, in the nonprofit sector the average is 25.5%. The demographic in this sector is likely narrower, and would include donors and others with a real interest in what the organisation is doing. The type of emails are likely to be more educational than promotional, making them seem more valuable, and the volume of emails is likely to be lower. The result is a more targeted contact base.
Location is also a huge factor when it comes to open rate benchmarks. If we look at open rate data for different countries/regions, once again you’ll notice here there’s quite a big difference — though less so than industry.
If the majority of contacts receiving your emails are in the UK, you’ll want to adjust your benchmark down around 2% against the global average. However, if they’re in Australia, you’ll want to mark it up 2%.
Why is your email open rate important?
Before you jump into how to improve your open rate, you might be wondering why you should care. Well, your email open rate is important because it adds context for how successful your emails are, and guides where you should focus your attention to improve.
For example, let’s say your email is sent to 5000 people, is opened 4000 times and gets 50 clicks. Your email open rate is fantastic, but your click-through rate doesn’t look so good. So, in this instance you’d want to improve your email content.
On the flip side, let’s say your email is sent to 5000 people, is opened 100 times and gets 50 clicks. Your click-through rate looks great. Phenomenal actually, given the circumstances. But suddenly it’s your open rate that needs some serious work.
Despite being sent to the same number of people and getting the same number of clicks the open rate guides what needs to change.
This is quite a crude example, but nonetheless also illustrates that these data points rely on one another for context, and can be misleading on their own.
Email opens: The long-term view
Your email open rate will change over time, so you should keep track on a month-to-month basis. Your month-to-month benchmarks will change too, and will become more accurate with every email you send.
You will find there are natural peaks and troughs in open rate performance that result from things that are outside of your control. Consider things like the growth and decline of the wider economy, interest in your brand or your industry in general. Even the time of year can have a huge impact with things like school and public holidays meaning people are less likely to be checking their inbox.
But there are also things that are well within your control.
Now that you know what makes a good email open rate, you should be experimenting with ways to improve not just your open rate, but your performance in general.
The more you try, the more you’ll learn, and the better you’ll become at delivering the right email, to the right people, at the right time.