This was the estimated number of global emails sent in 2021, according to research organization Statista. This number is expected to jump to 333 billion in 2022 and go as high as 376 billion by 2025. An average inbox is crammed with various messages, from promos to fundraising to customized offers. How do you ensure that your newsletter doesn’t get lost in the sea of unopened emails?
Crafting a well-planned and well-researched email is a challenging but satisfying experience. You put together engaging and interesting content that you know your audience will want to read. You also carefully consider the design, fonts, and images that best compliment your theme. However, once your email has reached your customers’ inbox, your work is far from over. In fact, the biggest challenge is to get them to actually open your email.
What is an email open rate?
Email remains a major channel for digital marketers, particularly during the lockdowns where everyone transitioned to online services. According to research from Gartner, the retail industry had the highest website traffic increase because of hyper-targeted email campaigns. Other industries that primarily used emails to drive engagement and conversion are financial services, travel and hospitality, manufacturing and natural resources, consumer goods, and healthcare.
To gauge the success of your email campaigns, there are certain metrics that you should regularly measure to improve the ROI (return of investment). One of those metrics is the open rate, which is the percentage of your email recipients who opened your email. The open rate is necessary because email campaigns won’t do a thing unless your subscribers are actually reading your messages. Additionally, if customers open emails, they are likely to have a higher click-through rate (percentage of people who clicked a link within the message) than if they were browsing social media, according to Statista.
7 tips for increasing email open rates
Here, we’re sharing 7 tips that our customers have used to increase email open rates across various industries, including SaaS, eCommerce, real estate, and more
1. Create value
There are two main reasons why people subscribe to email newsletters:
to learn more about a topic that interests them and
to stay up-to-date on the latest content from a particular website.
In other words, your newsletter shouldn’t just be a compilation of unstructured ramblings — it should provide an actual benefit to your customer. If your customer believes they will gain something from reading your email, they will open it.
Here are a few examples of our customers and the main benefits a reader will get for subscribing to their email newsletters:
SaaS (Software as a Service) start-up: sign up to receive thought leadership pieces, special promotions, and product updates.
E-commerce retailer: sign up to find out about special promotions and sales, new product releases, and news about offline events.
Real estate agency: sign up to get tips on how to approach the buying process, market trends, and new property listings in your area.
Two major tools drive value: segmentation and personalization.
Some companies fail to consider audience segmentation in their email campaign strategies. Segmentation is the methodology of dividing your customer base into different groups based on demographics, shopping habits, preferences, or actions taken on your website. Mass sending a generic email lessens the value that customers derive from your newsletter, so creating those audience segments allows you to send different messages to different segments, personalizing their experience with your brands.
One of the things that makes Ortto unique is the ability to cut through different data types, including action-based data. Want to find a segment of people who have clicked on a product page in the last week and have the first name John? You can do it.
While customizing your clients’ names in your emails is a great touch, most companies stop at this and call it a day. The good thing about being able to capture essential customer details is that you can use the data to get to know your clients a lot better, including understanding their buying preferences, the products and services that interest them, and even their preferred method of communication. With the rising popularity of AI-driven data analytics and algorithms, personalization can truly become a tipping point to converting a casual browser to a lifelong customer. According to research firm PwC’s 2021The Future of Consumer Markets report, marketing campaigns will become even more hyper-personalized in the coming years, with buyers being emailed the day’s deals based on the stores they enter.
If you’re currently trying to build your email subscriber list, we suggest placing your benefits-driven sentence along with a lead capture form on your website to start building your email list.
Check out the examples below — each of these brands summarizes their proposition with just a few words to ensure that subscribers understand what they’re getting while maintaining their unique brand voice. Many of these forms appear as pop-ups or banners and, in some cases, after entering their email address, subscribers will be led to a more detailed form where more information is provided.
These more in-depth user detail forms can gather valuable demographic information to help you segment your audience and deliver each segment more valuable, relevant content.
According to entrepreneur Neil Patel, writing effective subject lines can increase email open rate by a staggering 203% AND keep you flying under the dreaded spam radar. Here are some tips for creating subject lines that are more likely to make people open your email instead of sending them straight to the trash:
Keep your subject lines short; about 6-10 words tend to generate the highest open rates.
Use a tone and style that appeals to your target audience.
Subject lines should inspire curiosity without making any false promises.
Personalized emails deliver six times higher transaction rates than generic emails; follow email personalization best practices by using the reader’s first name in the subject line and 2-3 times in the body text.
Avoid spam trigger words in the subject line like credit, discount, gimmick, obligation, or click here.
Don’t use all caps or too many exclamation points that tend to look unprofessional.
A/B test your subject lines to see what garners your audiences’ attention.
Don’t just stop at the subject line; consider the preheader text right after it. Give enough additional info to convince recipients to click and know more.
If you're an Ortto customer, you can use Ortto AI to sense-check your subject lines. Ortto AI has millions of data points informing its recommendations, and will predict the open rate of your email AND suggest subject lines that have been proven to generate more opens. If you're not yet a customer, you can try it out with our free AI subject line tool here. Simply enter a proposed subject line, and the tool will predict the open rate and suggest alternatives that will improve your performance.
5. Consider your content balance
A solid principle in how to approach your email newsletter content is to out-teach your competition. While your competitors are busy selling via email (explicitly or implicitly), focus your attention on providing value. Awareness and conversion will follow. A good rule of thumb is to shoot for 95% teaching and 5% selling in your emails.
One approach is to write all-new content for each newsletter, tailored specifically to your readers. But in reality, who has time to do that on a regular basis? An easier and more exciting approach is to use your newsletter as a digest of fresh content, new product information, and other updates from your business like you see in the Deepgram and Instead examples below. Use dedicated emails to announce major sales events, but remember to make them engaging, like the Chipotle example below.
The beauty of this newsletter format is that you can repurpose hard-created content like industry best practices, customer stories, or thought leadership pieces — or use an interesting piece of news item to link it to a recent blog article you’ve just written. When it’s time to buy, your audience will come to you because you’ve been staying in touch and providing value through teaching, not selling.
To write compelling content, keep the following types of email newsletter readers in mind:
Skimmers: People who will read the headlines, look at the pictures (and occasionally click), and do nothing else. Focus on writing headlines that give this group the main messages, even if that’s all they read.
Sponges: People who read every word of your email. They’re after the details in addition to the main messages and, because they invest time, are more likely to love or hate particular blogs.
Socialites: They’re our favorite because they click through all of your links and frequently share your content with their networks.
Another thing to remember is to mix and match different types of marketing emails, depending on your customer base. Here are some examples of marketing emails:
This type needs to be handled well because it can include a lot of technical information that most customers might not be interested in or have trouble understanding. Keep it simple and straightforward. More importantly, highlight why it would benefit customers to know what’s new with your products or services. Most companies prefer to send these updates monthly or even quarterly, depending on how urgent these updates are.
New website sections/content announcements.
Some businesses might start as an ecommerce site and eventually build enough content to create a thriving community of users and even publish content in different formats (podcasts, videos) on various social media platforms. The key is to let your customers know that you are offering add-on information that might be interesting to them, such as content on a topic related to your business, deep-dives into the science or technology behind your product, customer testimonials, and so on.
Webinars and marketing events are great ways to establish your brand as an industry leader in your field. Whether it’s a conference for the latest technology within SaaS or the hottest property and marketing trends, sending invites to your customers gives them a sense of community. It also builds networking opportunities not just for your business but for like-minded individuals who can eventually become your brand ambassadors through word of mouth.
Remember, there’s no one sure way to increase email open rate. However, understanding your audience’s needs and how your businesses can fulfill those needs, plus communicating that well in your emails, will always be crucial to establishing a loyal customer base.
6. Be consistent
There’s no prescribed schedule for an effective email newsletter distribution. However, consistency will always be your best friend. It doesn’t matter if you send it once a week or once a month; you just need to stick to the plan. Your customers will appreciate this because they’ll know what to expect from you, plus you’ll be able to give yourself a deadline to meet. Having a consistent email schedule will also build anticipation among your established readers, especially if they’re looking forward to updates on a specific product or a continuation of a really interesting thought leadership piece. The worst thing you can do is leave them hanging.
To ensure that you have a regular content release schedule, we highly recommend establishing a content calendar. This can help you track the types of information you’ve already produced within a month and pencil in ideas that you can develop later. Having a content calendar can also help you avoid repetitive information and give you enough time to develop materials instead of scrambling at the last minute. It’s not just about releasing content consistently; it’s also making sure that you’re not sacrificing quality in the process.
7. Track and test
Most email marketing platforms provide metrics and results. While rough industry benchmarks exist, newsletter performance varies by industry, customer demographics, geography, or business model - so make sure you carefully track the following:
Total number of contacts: Every member of your team should know your customer database size. Make sure you set quarterly/annual goals to grow these!
Click-through rate: What percentage of subscribers who opened the email clicked a link or call-to-action in the email? Typically, 3-8% of general newsletter opens will click. But highly targeted messaging backed by a compelling offer can drive this up to 50%.
Bounce rate: This measures how many subscriber email addresses are no longer active or typed incorrectly. By observing this metric, you’ll get a good idea if subscribers are using fake emails or your opt-in forms might be encouraging typos.
Unsubscribe rate: Once you have a groomed reader base, which means you’ve sent four or more monthly newsletters to the same list, then if you’re seeing unsubscribe rates that are more than 0.3% after each newsletter, you will need to revisit your targeting, content, or send frequency
Leads attributed: How many leads or conversions are your emails producing? Add UTM tags to your email URLs to track conversions produced from emails
Customer and feedback: How are people responding to and engaging with your newsletters? A good way to find out is by asking your subscribers what they think via an NPS survey or by asking a series of questions using a data enrichment email journey (see below).
Spam complaints: The number of times recipients mark your messages as spam can lead to your email service provider blocking you or flagging down your messages.
The final word
While we don’t suggest you attempt to quickly mash these tips into one giant experiment to increase email open rate, we do suggest that you start testing what you’ve just learned — bit by bit. Once you get the hang of it, you’ll soon start seeing your open rates increase.