Email marketing is a popular marketing channel for businesses around the world, but if you’re simply sending messages without considering the results, you may not realize that your strategy needs an upgrade. Understanding your average email open rate will help you analyze how your campaigns are performing and understand where you can improve.

In this article, we’ll help you set a benchmark for your email open rates based on your industry, then provide tips for you to achieve or exceed your goals.

Average email open rate

The average email open rate across all industries hovers around 19% to 22%.

For the most part, if your company is exceeding that 22% benchmark, it’s faring pretty well—or, at least, it’s not doing bad.

It’s hard to say exactly how well your company’s email marketing campaigns are doing with just a generalized open rate in mind. To get the full picture, you need to take a closer look at industry averages instead.

Average open rates by industry

When you compare email open rates in specific industries, you’ll find that they vary greatly—ranging from about 15-28% in a study by Mailchimp. However, within each industry, there’s much less variance. When you know what a good open rate looks like in your specific line of business, you’ll know how you’re faring in comparison to your competitors and you’ll have a stable benchmark to use.

Using data from studies by Mailchimp, Constant Contact, and trusted brands, we compiled a list of average email open rates in a variety of industries, so you know what range you should fall within or exceed.

While metrics vary from study to study, the highest open rates are consistently seen in industries like the following:

  • Religion: 27-29%
  • Government: 25-29%
  • Education: 23-27%
  • Nonprofits: 21-25%
  • Healthcare: 21-23%

Other standout industries noted by Mailchimp include agriculture and food services, sports, media and publishing, arts, and hobbies.

Within these industries, your emails actually need an average open rate that exceeds the generalized 19% benchmark to succeed, once again showing how important it is to consider the competitive landscape.

On the flip side, these industries consistently had the lowest average email open rates:

  • Retail: 12-18%
  • Manufacturing: 13-19%
  • Real estate: 13-19%
  • Restaurants: 15-20%

Constant Contact further found that the automotive companies, consultants, personal trainers, and technology services trended on the low end (sometimes with open rates as low as 10%). Beauty, personal care, vitamin supplements, and ecommerce companies also failed to reach a 17% average open rate, in Mailchimp’s study. Within these industries, it’s easier to beat the competition, but it’s also harder to capture shoppers’ attention.

Other industries, on average, have open rates that tend to fall somewhere in the middle, rarely reaching 22%, but rarely dropping below 16%. Common industries that fall in between the extremes include:

  • Business services
  • Digital apps
  • Entertainment
  • Finance
  • Fitness centers
  • Legal services
  • Music
  • Travel

Improving your email open rates

If your average email open rate falls below your industry average, you need to start taking action as soon as possible. Improving your open rates can take time and practice, so the sooner you get started, the sooner you can maximize your email marketing efforts.

Even if your open rate is at or above your industry benchmark, there’s always room to improve. Your open rate is a measure of how satisfied your customers are with your marketing content, so listening to this metric is an extension of your efforts to provide the best possible customer experience. Working to improve your average open rate can also help you boost your ROI from every email campaign.

With these four tips, you can achieve higher open rates in no time.

1. Write mobile-friendly copy

Email is one of many marketing channels that are shifting to mobile. Over 80% of shoppers check their emails regularly from their smartphones, which means the first place they may see your message is likely to be on their mobile device. If you want to increase the total number of opens you receive for every campaign, you need to write copy that’s designed to be read on a smaller screen.

As a rule of thumb, your email subject line should be no longer than 30 characters, to avoid cutoff on the vast majority of smartphone screens. However, if you can limit your subject line to just 21 characters or less, you’ll get even better results.

A study found that these short subject lines led to significantly higher open rates, despite only being used in 5% of emails. This means cutting back on words can help you achieve far better email engagement than your competitors right off the bat.

Similarly, we recommend limiting your preheader text to 55 characters to ensure most email recipients will receive the full preview.

Treat your sender name the same way. For businesses with longer names (for example, “Polished Nail Salon and Spa”), you may consider shortening your company name to something that still represents you, but is easier for smartphone users to read (like “Polished Nails” or “Polished Nail Salon”). Always customize your sender name instead of just using your email address for a cleaner look.

2. Write better email subject lines

If your email subscribers still aren’t opening up your promotional emails after you’re certain they can see your subject line, then your copy may not be interesting enough. Here are some tips you can use to write better subject lines:

  • Use numbers: Customers are drawn in by numbers, so you may catch their eye by highlighting your email’s value—like “5 tips” or “50% off”—right on your subject line.
  • Personalize: You don’t have to limit personalization to your email content. Address your customer by name on the subject line to grab attention.
  • Add an emoji: Emojis add color and personality to your subject line. Just limit yourself to one or two per email (more can look spammy) and consider whether or not they fit your brand identity.
  • Ask a question: Lead customers in with an intriguing question that sparks their curiosity.

As you’re making your subject lines more interesting, make sure you’re not leaning on clickbait to draw readers in. Clickbait may work once or twice, but when shoppers realize the substance of your email content is never up to par with what they expect, it may be your unsubscribe rate that goes up instead.

3. Rethink your email marketing schedule

Sending too many emails to your subscribers may be the reason your subscribers are getting disinterested in your content. If your average email open rate is declining with no changes to your strategy, there’s a good chance this is the case for you.

Your disinterested shoppers will soon unsubscribe if you don’t make quick changes. In fact, nearly 70% of consumers unsubscribe because they’re receiving more emails than they’d like. Sending fewer emails can not only help you retain shoppers, but also make your emails feel more interesting each time your messages land in their inbox.

There’s no magic number for how often you should send emails, but keeping your email rate between one to three times per month can be enough to keep your brand in your subscribers’ minds without bombarding them.

4. Consider other email benchmarks

Your open rate isn’t the only email marketing metric you need to pay attention to. Sometimes, other email metrics can show you the real reason your subscribers aren’t opening your emails, beyond just your subject lines. For example, a poor email click-through rate (CTR) or low conversion rate may indicate that your customers aren’t seeing much value from your emails altogether.

Beyond the metrics for individual campaigns, you should also take a closer look at your email list. If you notice any subscribers listed as hard bounces, you’ll want to scrub them from your lists to protect your email deliverability and keep your average email open rate as accurate as possible. Some email service providers will automatically do this for you.

Exceed your email marketing benchmarks

Keeping your average email open rate high is critical when you want your marketing message to be seen. When your metrics are up to par with your direct competitors—or better yet, much higher—you’ll know that your email marketing efforts are creating results. As you start to exceed your industry benchmark, perhaps getting impressive open rates that are higher than 30%, your email conversions will be better than ever.

If you want to get even more impressive open rates for your campaigns, you can consider taking on a whole new marketing channel. SMS marketing can help you achieve average open rates as high as 98%, which means you’ll reach even more subscribers every time.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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