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Email marketing can be a powerful tool for businesses – but only if your emails are actually opened and read. 

That’s where open rates come in. Email open rate is one of the key metrics used to measure the performance of email campaigns. But what exactly is an email open rate, and why does it matter?

An email open rate is the percentage of total recipients who open an email. For example, if you send a campaign email to 1,000 subscribers and 500 open it, your open rate is 50%. This metric gives insight into how well your subject lines and email content resonate with your audience. If a low percentage of recipients open your email, it’s a sign that your emails need improvement.

Understanding your average open rate is important. By benchmarking against industry averages, you can set goals and evaluate the success of your email campaigns over time. 

If your open rates fall below average, it may be time to rethink your email marketing strategy. On the flip side, high open rates mean you’re creating compelling content that subscribers want to read.

Now that we’ve covered the basics, we can dive into the average email open rates you can expect across industries – but first, the basics. 

Factors Affecting Email Open Rate

What makes a recipient open an email versus sending it straight to the trash folder? There are several key factors that impact email open rates.

Subject Line

The subject line is the first impression your email makes. Crafting compelling subject lines is crucial for high open rates. According to a recent study by HubSpot, the majority of recipients who decide to open emails do so based on the email subject line. 


Key tips include:

  • Being clear, specific, and descriptive. Subject lines under 50 characters tend to perform best.
  • Personalizing the subject line with the recipient’s first name or company name. This signals the email is tailored for them.
  • Testing different subject line lengths and personalization options to see what resonates most with your audience.

Sender’s Name and Reputation

Who the email comes from greatly influences open rates. Factors include the following:

  • The sender’s domain reputation. Emails from reputable company domains tend to fare better.
  • Building sender trust and recognition. The more familiar your brand is to recipients, the more likely they are to open.

Email Content

Of course, content impacts open rates too:

  • Relevance – Emails should provide value to the specific audience. Off-topic messages get ignored.
  • Clarity and conciseness – Easy-to-scan emails with clear calls-to-action perform better.
  • Images/video – Multimedia elements can boost open rates when used appropriately. But they shouldn’t clutter the email.

Timing and Frequency

Be mindful of:

  • Best days/times – Test to see when your subscribers are most engaged. Early mornings or mid-week tend to work well.
  • Avoid over-emailing – Too many emails are annoying. Focus on quality over quantity.

List Quality

  • Keep your list clean by removing bounced emails and unsubscribes.
  • Focus on engaged subscribers who want to hear from you. Targeted and segmented lists have higher open rates.

Benchmarks and Industry Averages

So what are some benchmark email open rates to aim for? Let’s look at the averages.

Overall Average Email Open Rate

Across all industries, the average email open rate is around 20-25%. If your open rate falls within or above this range, you’re doing well.

Industry-Specific Averages

Open rates vary significantly across industries:

  1. E-commerce – 30%+ open rate: E-commerce brands tend to have some of the highest open rates since their subscribers are already customers.
  2. B2B (Business to Business) – 11-20% open rate: B2B open rates tend to be lower because subscribers are at work and receive many emails.
  3. B2C (Business to Consumer) – 15-30% open rate: B2C open rates have a wide range based on the type of business. Retail and media companies at the higher end, service businesses on the lower end.

Mobile vs. Desktop Open Rates

Mobile open rates now average around 50%, compared to 20-30% on desktop. Optimizing your emails for mobile screens is key.

Geographic Variations

Open rates vary by geographic region. Be sure to benchmark against averages for your specific country and audience.

Knowing your industry average provides an attainable goal. Keep testing and optimizing your campaigns to inch those open rates upward!

Measuring Email Open Rate

Now that we’ve discussed what average open rates are, let’s look at how you actually measure this important metric.

Definition and Formula

As a refresher, email open rate is calculated as:

(Unique opens ÷ Total delivered) x 100

It’s represented as a percentage.

Tools and Email Marketing Platforms

Most email service providers like MailChimp, Constant Contact, etc. will track opens automatically and provide reports. You can also use marketing analytics tools.

Challenges and Limitations

Measuring open rates has some caveats:

  1. Image blocking – Some email clients block images, so opens don’t track.
  2. Inaccurate reporting – Third-party numbers don’t always match email provider data.

Improving Accuracy

Ways to get more precise:

  • Use engagement tracking instead of strictly opens.
  • Factor in spam reports and non-deliverables.
  • Compare analytics across multiple tools.

While not perfect, the open rate is still one of the best indicators of email effectiveness. Just take the numbers with a grain of salt and focus on the bigger-picture trends. For example, studies show that automated welcome emails drive high open rates compared to cart recovery emails. 


Strategies to Improve Email Open Rate

Getting higher open rates takes testing, optimization, and sticking to email best practices. Here are more details on tactics to try:

A/B Testing

This means sending one version of an email to Group A, and a slightly different version to Group B. 

You can test factors like:

  • Subject line phrasing (short vs. long, different calls to action, etc.)
  • Preview text length and content
  • Email content structure (long vs. short copy, more or less images, different calls to action, etc.)
  • Day and time sent (mornings vs. afternoons, beginning vs. middle of week, etc.)

See which version has a higher open rate, and go with what works best for future emails.

Segmentation and Personalization

Divide your list into segments, like customers vs. prospects. Or by interests, demographics, purchase history, etc.

Then customize your emails. Examples:

  • Mention recipients by name
  • Highlight content specific to their needs
  • Send re-engagement emails to past customers
  • Trigger series based on behaviors

Targeted emails have much higher engagement.

Resending to Non-Openers

Identify subscribers who haven’t opened recent emails. Resend the same content again, spaced out across days or weeks.

This gives you a second chance at getting their attention.

Crafting Compelling Preview Text

Optimize the short preview text visible on mobile and some email clients. Tailor it to compel opens.

Email Marketing Best Practices

Follow all recommended design, content, and deliverability best practices. Key elements:

  • Mobile-optimized design
  • Clear, concise copy
  • Strong call-to-action
  • Engaging subject line
  • Good list hygiene
  • Effective re-engagement campaigns
  • Consistent branding

Continually refine and test based on open rate data. Target and personalize. With time, you can build recipient engagement and significantly exceed those average industry benchmark open rates.

Case Studies

Let’s look at some real-world examples of successful email campaigns with high open rates.

Successful Email Campaigns

  • Retailer Madewell launched a mid-week “M(Email)” series with open rates over 50%.
  • Software company HubSpot grew from 15% to over 40% through testing and personalization.
  • Charity:Water uses emotional storytelling and compelling calls to action for 60%+ open rates.

Analyzing Success Factors

What worked for these stellar email campaigns?

  • Targeted, segmented email lists based on preferences and engagement
  • Subject line and preview text optimization through extensive A/B testing
  • Personalized content and messaging tailored to the recipient
  • Mobile-friendly, visual email design
  • Strong brand recognition and trust
  • Consistency with other marketing channels
  • Compelling offers and timeliness

These strategies aren’t one-size-fits-all, but provide blueprints on excelling at email marketing with high engagement. Test, target, engage – that’s the key.

Email Open Rate and Email Marketing Goals

As a final point, let’s connect open rates back to broader email marketing goals.

Relationship with other key metrics

Open rate is an important metric, but doesn’t stand alone. Also track:

A high open rate means little if recipients don’t engage further.

Setting realistic goals

Benchmark against your industry average, but set stretch goals like 25% higher open rates. 

Balance ambition with realism.

Tracking progress and adjusting

Monitor open rates over time and tweak strategies if needed. Be patient – improving engagement takes continual optimization.

Don’t stress over small bumps. Focus on the bigger picture.

At the end of the day, open rate is one piece of your email marketing puzzle. Keep perspective, align it to business goals, and use it to create more value for your subscribers.


Email open rate provides valuable insight into how well your email campaigns resonate. Let’s recap what we learned:

  • Open rate is the percentage of recipients who open your email. Industry averages are around 20-25%.
  • Factors like subject lines, content, timing, sender reputation, and list quality all influence open rates.
  • Keep testing different email elements and targeting specific segments to improve open rates.
  • Monitor your rates over time and adjust strategies if needed. Don’t stress over small fluctuations.
  • Consider open rates in context with other key metrics like click rate and conversion rate.

The most successful email marketers are those who never stop optimizing. Use open rates to create more relevant, engaging messages tailored to your recipients’ needs. And of course, follow email best practices for design, content, and deliverability.

Email marketing is an art and a science. Keep researching and experimenting to boost open rates. But always stay focused on providing value through your emails. With a thoughtful strategy and consistent refinement, you can build connections that convert subscribers into loyal brand advocates.

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