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Improve Your Email Marketing: 15 Tips To Increase Email Open Rates

It is said that email marketing is the king of the marketing kingdom, earning $40 for every $1 spent, consequently giving an impressive ROI of 4000%. It is for this reason that email marketing technology is used by 82% of B2B and B2C marketers.

The illustration below shows the superiority of email marketing showing per dollar returns, compared to other marketing avenues.

Email Marketing ROI

While the ROI is said to be good, is your business achieving its best? One of the measures of this success is the open rate.

B2B and B2C companies both have steady open rates for their emails, ranging from 30-35%, as seen in the illustration below.  This could serve as one of the benchmarks for your business.

Email marketing statistics

Are you anywhere near these results?

As we said, the success of your email marketing efforts is measured in a number of ways including your email open rates.

Now, could your business be achieving a low ROI in your marketing efforts due to low open rates?

This piece will guide you on how to increase your open rates and maximize on your email marketing ROI.

Before we begin, here is a short table of contents to help you navigate the article:

  • What is Email Open Rate?
  • How To Calculate Email Open Rate
  • What Is An Ideal Email Open Rate?
  • Average Open Rate For Marketing Businesses
  • 15 Tips To Increase Your Open Rates

Let’s get started:


What is Email Open Rate?

Email open rate is a measure, normally represented in percentage, of the number of people in your email list, who opened or viewed a particular email campaign. As long as either a tracked link in your email is clicked or an image loaded, then the open will be recorded, contributing to your overall open rate.

How To Calculate Email Open Rate

Basically, it is an expression in percentage, of emails opened divided by emails received (emails sent-bounces) as expressed in the formula below:

Open rate= Emails Opened

Emails sent-Bounces


A 30% open rate for example would mean that for every 10 delivered emails (emails sent- emails bounced), 3 were actually opened by the recipients.

What Is A Good Email Open Rate?

One of the biggest questions that email marketers ask themselves is whether their email open rate is good enough or not.

Well, what is the ideal email open rate?

This is a very difficult question to answer especially when you need us to put a number to it. As you will notice in our next sub-topic, average email open rates are dependent on your industry.

Some other important factors for an ideal open rate include:

  • Your list size- As the size of your email list increases, your open rate tends to decrease. This is probably because smaller companies tend to have a more personal relationship with their clients as opposed to bigger companies.
  • Type of topics- More specific niche topics tend to have a higher open rate than broad topics.
  • Your timing- As you will see, the timing of your emails has a significant effect on your open rates
  • Industry- Some industries have more frequent purchases. For example, you cannot compare an ecommerce venture and a marketing consultancy.
  • Social trends- In ecommerce ventures for example, business peaks during holidays such as black Friday. At this time, a significant number of emails are opened.

To give you a rough estimate:

Don’t expect 80% open rate or anything well above 50%. People are too busy to read emails and inboxes are sometimes too full.

As you will notice in the industry averages we will discuss, an email open rate of between 20% and 40% is great.  Actually, from the image below, you will notice majority of businesses experience 20% email open rate.

E-mail open rates

Take away point:

Anything above 20% is good.

Average Email Open Rates for Businesses

Email open rates vary from one area or niche of business to the next. Therefore, it is important that you set your ideal open rate based on open rate averages in your particular industry.

In terms of company size, company sizes of 50+ have the highest open rates (23% )while 11-25 sized companies have the lowest email open rates of 20.92%. This information is based on a MailChimp study which scanned hundreds of millions of email campaigns.

The image below shows us average email open rates dependent on company size:

Email open rates by Company Size

A different source, Signupto, conducted a study and released a 2016 UK Email Benchmark report, showing open rates per industry as shown in the image below:

Email open rates

Why Bother About Average Industry Email Open Rates?

The main purpose of showing you the average email open rates per industry is to use this information as a benchmark when you set your email marketing strategy.

Benchmarks give your business an indication of how well or bad you are doing compared to your competition, showing you where you need to improve in order to be the best.

Now, you have analysed your open rates and realized that you need to improve them.

What do you do and how do you do it?

Here are 15 actionable tips on how to increase your email open rates:

15 Tips To Increase Your Email Open Rates

1. Include the sender name

When email behaviour study was conducted, it was realized that certain recipient behaviours and perceptions affected email open rates.

A majority of the survey respondents, which was 64%, stated that sender name was a reason to open an email.

A summary of this study is presented in the image below. (Please note that this image will also form a basis for points 2-4).

Increase Email Open Rate

So, why does sender name matter?

A sender name serves as your brand recognition. At a glance, your recipients should be able to tell whether the email is worth opening or not, based on where it came from. Lack of which, will cause these types of recipients to ignore your emails.

Usually, a sender name will contain a company name, individual name or combine the two. While this sounds pretty straight-forward, did you know that there are ways you could twist your sender name in an effort to increase open rates?

Briefly, we will look at 2 of them:

  • Personal or corporate sender names? Choose whichever is more popular. For example, depending on what a/b tests would show, TruConversion would decide to send mail as Truconversion or Hammad Akbar, the CEO.
  • Use exclusivity to lure your recipients- You can add a few words, which describes your target audience, to your company name.

Let’s observe this example below:

Good subject lines for business emails

The business Sephora, is sending participants in the Beauty Insider reward program an email. As a member, I would feel that this email is exclusive to me, hence open it.

2. Include Recipient Name When Writing Email Subject Lines

Well, you understand that it is better to state “who you are” by having a great sender name. But, is it also important to include the recipient name?

Well, YES!

In a detailed article titled ‘The Psychology Of Personalisation: Why We Crave Customised Experienced’, Erik Devaney talks about the importance of personalised marketing.

Within the post, Erik quotes Dale Carnegie, author How to Win Friends and Influence People:

What to write on the subject line for email

The power of personalised marketing is proved in a 2014 Science of Email Marketing Report, which showed that emails which included the first name of the recipient in the subject line had higher click through rates than emails that did not.

With this understanding, any email marketer would now understand the importance of including the recipient’s name in the email subject line.

Please note:

We both know that these emails are sent in bulk and you are addressing a group of people. However, being careless in how you do this could cost you future open rates.


You started the email by addressing the recipient, whom you identified by name. Well, very good


The content of the mail instead addresses a group of people.  Words like ‘most of you’, ‘all of you’ should therefore be avoided, lest the email stops feeling personal, costing you an important lead.

3. Use 6-10 Words To Write Catchy Subject Lines

A study by Retention Science found out that subject lines with 6-10 words, on average 8, had the highest open rate while subject lines with 21-25 words in the subject line had the lowest open rate as showed in the graphical representation below:

Email subject line tips

But why?

  • Most email browsers tend to cut email subject lines which are too long. So, what if you decided to write a story in your subject line and the email browser cut it before your recipient got to the relevant information? Simple- The recipient would not open the email.
  • The size of screen. Currently, 55% of emails are opened on a mobile device, which obviously has a smaller screen size than a desktop computer or laptop. Actually, Samsung Galaxy S4 for example, displays a maximum of 33 characters in portrait mode, yet this is one of the larger Smartphone screens. With this in mind, you cannot afford to have a long subject line.
  • Human attention span is less than 8 seconds. This means that within these seconds, you should convince your recipient to open your email. Failure to which, it will be ignored.

4. Have an offer

What is the one thing that someone will walk away with after reading your email? As we saw in the graph in tip one above, 26% of your recipients will open your email based on an offer.

Why are offers or incentives so crucial for any business?

I will give you 3 reasons why offers or incentives are good for business.

  • They Promote sales- Companies that run an incentive program increase their response rates by 20% to 25%.
  • Lukewarm customers can be turned to returning business- A survey by Technology Advice showed that 80% of people prefer doing business with a company that runs an incentive or loyalty program.
How to write an effective email campaign
  • Incentives set your company apart- In a world where different companies are selling the same product as you are, you need to find a way of standing out. Offers and incentives are one of them. No wonder two companies will send an email to the same person but the one with an offer is the one which will be opened.

Clearly, you can see the value your customers attach to incentives and offers. It is for this same reason that you need to include this in your email campaigns in an effort to increase open rates and consequently, conversion and sales.

So, how do you include offers in your email?

  • Give promo codes
  • Give a free gift
  • Indicate free shipping in the subject line
  • Give dollar value or percentage based discounts

Let’s see how Memebox does it:

How to write a good marketing email

From the image, you can see that the business gives an up to 50% offer. Now, who wouldn’t open such an email?

 5. Use flattery

Flattery has been used by several marketers to persuade their clients and leads for many reasons, the main reason being that flattery brightens a person’s mood.

In an experiment, psychologists Anthony Pratkanis, Craig Abbott, and their team approached two categories of people in a shopping area.

In their first test group, they stopped passersby and  complimented them on an item they were wearing. Afterwards, they requested them to participate in a “stop junk mail” campaign by sending complaint cards to chronic junk mailers.

With the control group, the psychologists simply asked the passersby what time it was.

The results showed that compliance increased with 10% with those who were flattered.

To prove this point, Pete Caputa from Hubspot shows us how flattery can give you up to 25% response rate.

6. Optimize your preheader text

A preheader text is basically a preview of what the body of an email contains. Usually this snippet is displayed below the from name and email subject line in a subscriber inbox.

It is from this preview that your recipient will decide whether to open the email or not.

So, how do you optimise your preheader text to ensure that your email subscribers actually read your email?

  • Use the right character limit

While there is no limit to the number of characters that a preheader text can contain, different devices have different average characters they can display in a preheader. From this information, you can decide the length of your preheader text and optimise.

For example, windows phones show only 40 characters before cutting the message off while yahoo email clients show 45 characters only.


Keep your preheader text as short as possible.

  • Include strategic words in your preheader text

Use words such as ‘promo code’,’ free for a limited time’ for example, which will make the subscriber curious and want to click on your email. You can also create and include a CTA that will cause your subscribers to click on the email.

  • A/b test

Of course, the best way to know the best preheader text is to run an a/b test.

7. Segment your Email list

Did you know that your list quality has a significant effect on your email open rate? 4 main factors affect the quality of your list.

  • The quality of your subscribers
  • How you proactively manage the list for inactive subscribers
  • The extent to which you add high quality subscribers
  • Whether you refine your email targeting by segmenting your list.

Why is email list segmentation important and how do you do it?

Usually, your subscribers will fall in different categories, hence will have different interest and needs. This is why you need to divide and segment your list in order to send emails to the relevant recipients.

Here is an example of how you could do it.

  • Use demographic data and segment based on:
    • Their gender
    • Where they live or stay
    • The type of jobs they do and their title
    • Their marital status ( if you deem fit)
  • Behaviourial data (What is their behavior or attitude towards your business or product)
    • What do they buy?
    • What do they do with your product?
    • Are they free or paid users?
    • When did they last click on an email and can you tell why?
    • How often do they buy from you? Do they buy on special occasions?
  • Customer sign-up date
    • Do you intend to find new users?
    • Are you rewarding your best customers?
  • Customer email client data
    • Are they browsing on mobile or desktop?
    • When do they want to receive emails
    • Have they marked you as spam before?
    • Have they tried to unsubscribe before?

Basically, dividing your audience based on particular criteria will help you send the most relevant email to the right audience, reducing chances of a low open rate.

Where’s the proof?

Research from MailChimp shows that segmented campaigns have a 13.07 per cent higher open rate than non-segmented campaigns.

8. Avoid the spam filter

One of the reasons why your open rate is low could be because your emails are always sent to the spam filter. Factually, more than 100 billion emails are flagged as spam every day.

Why does this happen?

Well, I will address this in form of a question:

Did you know that there are certain words and phrases that could send your email into the spam folder? In an extensive list, Mannix Marketing gives 100 spam-trigger words and phrases you should avoid. These include:

100% satisfied
All natural
Call free
Cents on the dollar
Click to removeAll new
Billing address
Buy direct
Extra income
For free
Free and FREE
Free installation
Free leads

You can learn more words to avoid in your email subject line in this post by Econsultacy

9. Use double opt-in for subscribers

Why use a double opt-in for subscribers instead of single opt-in?

Here are the advantages of a double opt-in for subscribers:

Other than helping you evade the spam filter, using a double opt-in for subscribers helps you get a dedicated audience, which comprises of people who made a conscious decision to subscribe to your emails.

In my opinion, by the simple fact that these people made a conscious decision to receive your emails, then, they will most likely open them.

Better yet, double opt-in process usually advises subscribers to add the email address to their contact list, preventing incidences of emails landing in the spam folder.

As a business, a double opt-in process helps you create a better quality list. The fact that people will actually have to log into their email accounts and confirm the subscription, will eliminate the possibility of building an emailing list that has typos or contains inexistent email addresses.

This is also your opportunity as a business to make an initial contact with your subscribers and even give them your first offer.

10. Use automated emails instead of ‘business as usual’ emails

It is reported that on average, automated email drives 70.5% higher open rates and 152% higher click-through rates than business as usualemails as demonstrated in the figure below:

How to write an effective marketing email

What other reasons make automated emails better?

  • CAN-SPAM (and other country’s laws) rules and guidelines, prohibits transactional emails from containing promotional content. Each separate email that violates this law attracts a penalty of uptp $16,000.
  • To by pass this legislative hurdle, you can use automated emails which are a direct response to a user request or site visit and are part of an automation flow, with highly personalized and relevant content

 11. Best Days and Times To Send Emails

In marketing, timing is of essence, and this principle definitely applies to when you send your emails. To understand the best time to send your emails, we will look at both the best day and time.

Best Day of The Week To Send Email

In a case study to understand the best time to send mails and get the highest open rates, Get Response found that the best day to send emails in order to get the highest open rate is Tuesday, as seen in the graph below:

Ee-mail open rates by day

A different study by MailChimp, who analysed more than one billion emails, reiterated the study by GetResponse, showing that Tuesdays to Thursdays offered the best chance for a high open rate, as shown below:

Please note;

If you are keen enough, you will notice that in the MailChimp study, open rates began dropping on Friday yet in the Get Response study, Friday was actually the second best day.


Test your own audience and see when your open rates are optimum.

Best Time Of The Day To Send Emails

A study by MailChimp showed that readers are more likely to open emails after 12 p.m. And that 23% of all email opens occur during the first hour after delivery .After 24 hours, an email’s chance of being opened drops below 1%.

This is explained in the image below:

A different study by MailChimp, who analysed more than one billion emails, reiterated the study by GetResponse, showing that Tuesdays to Thursdays offered the best chance for a high open rate, as shown below:

Email open rates by Day of Week

Please note;

If you are keen enough, you will notice that in the MailChimp study, open rates began dropping on Friday yet in the Get Response study, Friday was actually the second best day.


Test your own audience and see when your open rates are optimum.

Best Time Of The Day To Send Emails

A study by MailChimp showed that readers are more likely to open emails after 12 p.m. And that 23% of all email opens occur during the first hour after delivery .After 24 hours, an email’s chance of being opened drops below 1%.

This is explained in the image below:

Email open rate by hour

12. Don’t spam: Send with the right frequency

How many email campaigns should you send per month?

I understand the importance of keeping your leads and clients abreast with your latest campaigns. However, you need to strike a balance between keeping your leads in the know every step of the way and spamming their inbox, which is annoying and overwhelming, consequently costing you some leads.

In a case study that Hubspot conducted with their client base, the business wanted to see how number of emails per month affected email open rates and click rates.

Before we continue, please note that unlike other emails, campaigns are targeted and sent to only a portion of the database. This means that if you do this right, then you could get impressive open rates.

As Hubspot found out, companies sending more than 30 emails per month began experiencing lower email rates. According to the study, it is best to send 16-30 emails per month, which could give you click rates twice higher than companies which send 2 or fewer campaigns a month.

The graph below shows us the open rate trend when you send between 1 and over 30 email campaigns a month.

Email campaign open rates

Email Frequency For Your Company Size

Well, an average of 16-30 emails per month is a great general figure. However, it is important to know if this applies to the size of your company, because as Hubspot found out, this figure sort of changes with the size of company.

The graph below shows us how different companies behave with different email frequencies per month.

Email open rate by company size

From the graph, you can see that companies with 1-10 and 26-200 employees have the highest open rates when they send 16-30 emails per month, with a media open rate of 35.3%.

Companies with 11-25 employees have the highest open rates of 32.4% when they send 31+ emails per month while companies with over 201 employees have their highest open rate of 32,2% when they send 3-5 monthly emails.

 13. Optimise for mobile

According to US Consumer Device Preference 2015 Report from MovableInk, mobile email opens surged to an all-time high in Q4 of 2014. During this period, 66% of all emails were opened/ read on smartphones or tablets and 34% on desktop.

49.5% of all mobile opens were on a Smartphone (58% on Apple devices and 7% on android devices) and 16.8% on a tablet.

This information is summarized in the image below:

Increase email open rate by Mobile Optimization

What does this information mean for marketers?

In an IBM whitepaper titled “Email marketers have a huge opportunity to reach consumers anywhere, any time, on their mobile devices” an interesting excerpt stands out as shown in the screenshot below:


In an effort to change their stragegy, email marketers need to learn how to optimise their images for mobile.

So, here are 5 ways to optimise your emails for mobile.

5 Easy Ways To Optimise Email For Mobile Devices

  • Be Wise With Words

An iPhone for example displays only 30-35 characters of the subject line when the device is held vertically. This means that the first 30 characters of your subject line must be interesting enough to cause your recipients to open the emails.

Failure to do this, you risk your email getting ignored.

  • Break up text

In content marketing, we are advised to have as much white space as possible because online readers are skimmers and would want to read content as fast as possible.

It is for this same reason that your email contents should not be displayed in long unending paragraphs.

  •  Make Your CTA finger-friendly

A typical adult finger covers 45 pixels when pressed on a mobile screen, an important factor you should consider when creating emails for mobile users. Additionally, the CTA images should be padded to avoid frustrating tap errors.

The easier it is for your recipients to click on a link, the more likely most of them will. However, if you don’t optimise your links and make them clickable, your recipients will get frustrated and ignore your subsequent emails.

So, do you use bullet-proof buttons for your CTA or images?

It is advisable that you use bulletproof buttons for CTAs instead of images. This is because bullet proof buttons are built using CSS and HTML, which makes the more efficient and east to run on mobile phones, compared to images.

Lastly, ensure that your links are clear enough. Usually, smaller screens make links and unclear, especially when they are surrounded by a lot of text. To curb this, make sure that you design your links to stand out by using a contrasting colour and make them easy to tap on.

  • Reduce Image File Sizes

It is reported that 69% of mobile users delete emails that aren’t optimised for mobile, no wonder 89% of email marketers are losing leads and opportunities because they are not optimising their emails. One of the ways to optimise for mobile devices is using the right image files sizes.

But you could ask, must you use images?

Well, yes.

In an infographics, MDG Advertising shows that 94% of more total views on average are attracted by content containing compelling images than content without images.

But, you need to be careful on how you use images in your emails especially when it has been showed that mobile load time is slower than on desktop, and one second delay in load time will lead to an average 7% loss in conversions.

So, what do you do:

In a bid to decrease page load time, use services such as FastStone Photo Resizer and JPEGmini  which can reduce image file size by 80% without reducing the image quality.

  • Test, test and test

The importance of a/b testing can never be over emphasised, even when it comes to mobile optimisation for your emails. Lack of testing is actually one of the reasons why email marketers cannot track the effect of changes in their email marketing strategies.

Take for example findings in the Email barometer 2015 – 2016 report, shows that 57.41% of B2B marketers and 41.03% of B2C marketers did not know what impact optimising their email design had on their marketing efforts as shown in the image below:

Mobile Optimize your Email to increase open rate

Make sure you test, track and analyse your results to increase your email open rates.

 14. Resend your emails

Sometimes, the reason why your recipients don’t open your emails could be a badly designed subject line. This is why we really insist on a/b testing different elements in your email.

Once you test, you need to resend your improved emails and you will notice better open rates.

Where is the proof that resending emails has worked?

I will give you two good examples:

Example 1: Neal Taparia Experiment

In an experiment, Neal Taparia realized that he could increase his email open rate by resending the email to those who didn’t open the first email.

Here is how he did it:

The original email was sent to 2723 people and 579 opened it, giving an open rate of 21.3%. At the same time, 224 clicked on the CTA, hence an CTR of 8.2%.

Neal and his team realized that they usually open emails based on interest and timing, hence opted to resend the email to people who did not open last time, hoping that the second time would be perfect timing.

The result:

After sending the email to 2144 people who didn’t open last time, 309 opened  the email and 114 clicked on the CTA.

At the end of the exercise, Neal and his team was able to reach 53.2% more people, received 51.1% more clicks compared to the first time and get 32.6% unique opens between both emails.

Example 2: Noah Kagan

Noah Kagan modified Tapariah’s approach and by changing the subject line and emailing ‘non-opens’ a week later.

The result:

Noah increased his open rate by 30%.

Quick tip:

Make sure that you don’t spam your recipients’ inboxes all in the name of hoping they will open the email this time round.

15. Send SMS to unresponsive subscribers

This is usually the last attempt to get your subscribers to open and read your emails, and it works.

Do you know why?

The open rate of SMS is 98%, compared to 22% for emails and one company, Mailigen discovered with one of its clients, from the pharmacy industry. After sending an email newsletter, the pharmaceutical business had an open rate of 23.7%, a figure that drastically increased after they sent SMS to unresponsive subscribers.

Quick tip:

Draft a very short and straight forward SMS because 90% of all incoming SMSes are read within 3 minutes.

Next steps

You now understand what email open rates are and have even compared your business email open rates with the average industry open rates. With that information, do you know where you business stands at the moment?

Can you identify any issues that could be costing you a good open rate? Well, it is time to implement the tips you have learnt and begin tracking your performance.

Are there any other tips you know? Have you used them and what impact did they have on your email open rates? please feel free to share with us in the comments section below.

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