How to Improve Email Open Rates

Open rate is one of the key metrics you should be focusing on when it comes to email marketing. Without a strong open rate, or any opens at all, you’re unable to get your campaign in front of your audience via this channel. There are many ways to improve email open rates but before we jump into that, let’s go back to basics.

What is an Open Rate?

Open rate is the % of users who have opened your email vs those who received it. For example, let’s say you sent an email which was delivered to 10,000 subscribers and 1,800 of those subscribers opened the email. You divide the opens by total emails delivered, then x 100. This is your open rate.

1,800 opens / 10,000 delivered = 0.18 x 100 = 18% Open Rate

How to Improve Open Rates
Inbox of Marketing Emails.

How to Improve Open Rates

I’ve tried and tested various tactics to improve open rates – some have been successful, others haven’t, but it’s important to try everything regardless of other’s results as it could be the tactic that works for you.

  1. Personalisation.

    This is number one on my list that’s worked for all brands I’ve done email marketing for. If you have First Name data available to use within your email marketing (GDPR compliant of course), use it in your subject lines. You don’t always see a huge increase in your open rate but you will stand out from the crowd.

  2. Segmentation.

    If you have a total database of 30,000 subscribers but only 10,000 of those are active i.e. have opened an email within the last 12 months, then your open rates are going to be affected. If you segment your database and only send to your 10,000 active subscribers, you’re going to see much healthier open rates for your campaigns.

  3. Send Date / Time.

    You may not have considered this before but people do have a preferred time of day, or day of the week, to check their emails. For example, I tend to check my personal emails at midday, as well as early evening i.e. 12-1pm and 6-7pm. I also very rarely open emails on the weekend, but more inclined to open them in the first half of the week i.e. Monday – Wednesday.

    Depending on who you’re with for your email marketing i.e. MailChimp or Salesforce Marketing Cloud, you’ll be able to dive into your analytics and see when you’re getting the most opens throughout the week, and the time of day this peaks also. Consider even looking at your traffic in Google Analytics – although this isn’t based on email subscribers alone, it gives a good indication as to when users are likely to be shopping online, so it’s best to catch them whilst they’re active.

  4. A/B Test Subject Lines.

    The only way you can perfect your subject lines is by A/B testing them with your audience. Got a promotion? Try split-testing a direct call-out i.e. “Free Delivery This Weekend Only” verse a subject line which builds curiosity i.e. “Did Someone Say FREE?”. Try different examples for 3-5 emails to get an average of which type of subject line clearly performs best.

    Consider testing other areas of your subject line too, not just what it reads. Here are some examples: inclusion of emojis, length of subject line, capitalised or lower case and punctuation.

  5. A/B Test Preheader.

    The preheader is the additional line of text which sits alongside your subject line and is your opportunity to provide more information to encourage email opens. Consider stating a USP for your brand/service but also test additional content here too. If split-testing your preheader, it’s best practice to keep the subject line the same for each test. If you have a different subject for Test A vs Test B, you won’t know for sure which content was the driver for more opens.

  6. Find Out What Your Subscribers Want to See.

    This is a long-term project rather than a quick win. Over some time, set-up automated journeys and split-test campaigns to see what content your subscribers are engaging with. This will help you segment your audience and target them only with content you know they’ll engage with. Once your subscribers are used to receiving content they want from you, their open rates will improve as they know they’re getting what they want from your brand.

Have you tried any of the above tactics to improve email open rates? Share your results in the comments below. If you have tried and tested any additional tactics, be sure to share those too!

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