How to Get a Good Email 'Open Rate'

There are a lot of opinions on what a good open rate is. Some 'experts' claim something around 20-25% is great. Others swear by 40% and above. As you'll see from our data, 50% or more is possible.

So, who's right?

Time to share our customers' open rates, publicly.

Audience: The Heart of the Matter

First things first, let's talk audience. Picture this: A niche boutique's loyal clientele versus a mega retailer's diverse customer base.

Different strokes for different folks, right?

The golden rule? Know your crowd like the back of your hand. Because at the end of the day, no two inboxes look the same. Dive deep into who they are—their demographics, interests, purchasing behavior, and even the time they prefer to check their emails.

Why? Because in the vast ocean of emails, personal relevance is the beacon that guides your message to the shores of their attention.

Segmenting your audience isn't just marketing speak; it's about crafting messages that resonate on a personal level. You don't have to start here, but if you go really deep, you can group your audience based on shared characteristics or behaviors—be it age, location, past purchases, or how they found your brand. This way, you're not just sending an email; you're starting a conversation.

Engagement doesn't end at open rates. Dive into how different segments interact with your emails. Do they click through? Do they make a purchase? Or do they drop off at a certain point? Understanding these patterns can reveal much about what works and what doesn't for each segment.

A short word on Buy Rates

Now, don't get us wrong. We love a good open-rate chat. But if we're talking turkey, it's the buy rate that really gets the registers singing. So time to check it, if that matters to you!

The Ultimate Goal: Conversions

Consider the journey your reader takes from opening an email to hitting the 'Buy Now' button. Every element of your email should guide them smoothly along this path. This means clear, compelling calls to action, straightforward navigation, and a frictionless checkout process. Imagine guiding a friend through a crowded market to a hidden gem—your email should serve as that friendly, unobtrusive guide.

To convert opens into purchases, your email communication must resonate deeply with your audience's needs and desires. This goes beyond flashy images or catchy headlines; it's about creating a narrative or offering that aligns with their aspirations, challenges, and pain points. Use storytelling to connect on an emotional level, making the value of your offering clear and compelling. Why should they care? How will it make their life better, easier, or more enjoyable? Answer these questions within your email content.

Once you actually get the click (or the buy), you can do post-communication to really take it all the way. Follow-up emails, thank-you messages, and feedback requests can further enhance customer loyalty and encourage repeat business. These communications can also provide valuable insights into customer satisfaction and areas for improvement.

So what's a Good Email Open Rate?

Again, while a loaded question, let's let the data talk.

Here are our customers' open rates straight taken from our internal analytics:

Big Senders:
These folks have sent +10,000 emails.
Open rate: 52%.

The Middleweights
Sending 1,000 to 10,000 emails.
Open rate: 55%

The Lightweights
Sending 100 to 1,000 emails.
Open rate: 60%

Interesting, no?

Start sending emails with Plunk and perhaps you can reach those rates too ;)

So we see a few things. Super high open rates for one, and getting higher as the sending volume goes down too.

The Open Rates Analyzed

Obviously, our customers all run mostly internet businesses. Most of our users are so called 'indiehackers' or at least small teams working on relatively small projects. Their audience will likely be more engaged.

It's also important to know, these open rates include emails from our customer's 'transactional' and 'automation' emails. Meaning things like welcome flows, password reset emails, confirmation emails, ...

These results also could be because of potential decreases in list quality as size increases, or simply due to the higher volume of emails sent. These factors, however, were not analyzed in this little test.

Increased Open Rate with Lower Sending Volume

So let's look at that increasing rate. The data suggests a clear trend: as email volume decreases, open rates tend to increase.

This raises important questions about the trade-offs between expanding reach and maintaining high engagement levels. Are bigger email lists inherently less engaged, or are there strategies big senders can employ to close the gap?

I think both!

An audience of a smaller sender will definitely be more engaged. Smaller user base, more friends and family or actual fans. As this list gets bigger, the chance of a non-engaged person joining is just higher. And, email addresses go dark sometimes. The chance of that happening on a 10k list is just higher than on a 100 person list of contacts.

How To Improve Open Rates

A few things we've covered already, but let's put it into bullet points and expand:

  • Know Your Audience: Use data analytics to understand your subscribers. Tailor your emails to match their interests, behaviors, and preferences.
  • Segmentation: Divide your list into smaller, more targeted groups. Customize your messages for each segment to increase relevance and engagement.
  • Dynamic Content: Use technology to personalize content within your emails based on user behavior or demographics. A personalized subject line or offer can significantly boost open rates.

A few thoughts on optimizing content:

  • Be Clear and Concise in your subject line: Your subject line should make an immediate promise of value. Avoid being overly cryptic; clarity trumps cleverness.
  • Be Clear and Concise in your content: Write simple, concise yet informative. There are a bunch of articles out there to learn. Or, you can even use ChatGPT to write the basis of your content, if you prompt it well.
  • Create Urgency: Without resorting to clickbait, imply a sense of urgency or exclusivity to encourage prompt opens.
  • A/B Testing: Regularly test different subject lines to see what resonates best with your audience. Keep refining based on the data.

Keep Your List Healthy:

  • Regular Cleaning: Remove inactive subscribers to maintain a high-quality list. A smaller, engaged list is more valuable than a large, disinterested one.
  • Re-engagement Campaigns: Try to win back inactive subscribers with a compelling offer or message. If they remain unengaged, it’s time to let them go.

Deliver Value in Every Email

  • Content is King: Ensure each email provides value, whether it's informative, entertaining, or offers something exclusive. If subscribers know that your emails consistently offer something worthwhile, they're more likely to open them.
  • Feedback Loops: Encourage and monitor feedback from your subscribers to continually adapt and serve content that meets their needs and interests.

Use Technology Wisely

  • Email Automation: Use automation to send timely and relevant emails triggered by specific actions, such as a welcome email series for new subscribers or a birthday discount.
  • Mobile Optimization: With the majority of emails now opened on mobile devices, ensure your emails are mobile-friendly, with responsive design and easily clickable links.

You can do both, and much more with Plunk :)

Go for it!

Improving open rates isn't just about tweaking a subject line or choosing the right send time; it's about fostering a relationship with your subscribers.

By understanding their needs, delivering consistent value, and using data-driven insights to personalize and optimize your emails, you can see a marked improvement in your open rates. Remember, each email is an opportunity to deepen your connection with your audience, so make every send count.

Here are a few more articles to get you to a higher open rate:

Crafting the perfect email campaign using the AIDA framework - Plunk Blog
Email automation allows you to send out emails at the right time and with the right content.
Converting free trial users to paying customer with effective email strategies - Plunk Blog
Buckle up as we delve into the art of converting free-trial users to paying customers using cunning email strategies.
Grow Your SaaS Start-up with These Basic Email Marketing Automation Strategies - Plunk Blog
Email automation allows you to send out emails at the right time and with the right content.
Hard vs Soft Email Bounce and How To Avoid - Plunk Blog
How to increase your email deliverability and avoid both Hard and Soft bounces
Carlo D'Agnolo
CarloFounder & Head of Growth at Plunk