The past few months have brought some anxiety about GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation), which comes into force from May 25th. We are yet to see the impact that it will have on email marketing, for instance. Some consequences will be the reduction in email lists and a change in how companies ask for and store email addresses. Our hope is that companies continue to use email marketing as a key channel to reach, inform, educate and engage target audiences.
Compared to Facebook or LinkedIn, email marketing is a particularly profitable channel as you can reach customers who have already indicated interest in your product or service. According to the DMA’s Marketer Email Tracker 2018 report, ROI for email increased from £30.03 for every £1 spent in 2016 to £32.28 in 2017. Therefore, email marketing should be part of your overall marketing plan. In this blog post, we will outline how you can continue to use email marketing effectively, and even increase email open rates with your opt-in lists.

 

Factors Affecting Average Email Open Rates

First, let’s define Email Open Rates. Email open rates are the % measure of how many email recipients opened your email during a particular email campaign. Email marketing platforms such as MailChimp and Mailjet will give you an open rate for each campaign and also an average contact score for each person on your email lists. Your email open rate depends on many factors. Some factors are:

  • Industry
  • Demographics
  • Geography
  • The content of your email
  • The headline of your email

In 2017, the average email open rate across all industries was 24.7%. The highest email open rates are in Government (44.99%), Legal/Accounting (36.43%) Public Relations (30.15%) and Non-Profits (30.02%) [Source: SmartInsights]

We generally aim for 25% or higher but if you have open rates that are lower than this, don’t worry too much. As noted above, there are other factors out of your control that could affect your open rates. For instance, the UK has one of the lowest email open rates at 13%, while Denmark has one of the highest at 31%. The important thing is that your email campaign achieves the results you want. That could be sales, engagement or simply raising awareness of your company’s activities.

When it comes to technical B2B markets, where there is usually more complex content and perhaps less marketing know-how, we see low to average email open rates. For instance, Engineering/Manufacturing have an open rate of 21.28% and IT see 26.69% of their emails opened by recipients.

How to improve your email open rates

We’ve touched on a few factors that affect how many recipients open your emails. The reason we want people to open our emails is that we want them to take an action. That action could be to click on a link or offer (we will discuss click-through-rates (aka CTR) in a separate blog). First and foremost, we need to understand the audience that we are trying to reach.

Run some tests

The best way to understand your audience is to run tests. A recent study by the DMA reveals that 47% of companies test under a quarter of their emails. 15% don’t do any testing at all. You could run tests on several aspects of your email. For instance, split your email list and send out identical emails but with a slightly different email headline or call to action. Don’t change more than one thing per test otherwise you won’t know which attribute made impact on your email open rate. Make your opening engaging and personal, then test away!

Write to a specific person

When you send out your emails, write them as if you are addressing one person. Use your recipient’s first name in your opening (add <<First Name>> tag). In the body of the email, use ‘You’ and ‘Your’ when possible. For instance, if you are referring to the recipient’s team, write “your team” instead of “the team”. Familiarity and an active tone are likely to draw in your reader. If you have understood your target audience, you will use words and phrases that engage them and ultimately moves them to take action.

email open rates YO! Marketing Yekemi Otaru

Provide relevant content

Have an email marketing content strategy before you start sending out emails. Your strategy must consider your target audiences’ needs and the kind of content that they are likely to engage with. If your email recipients know that your emails will contain useful and actionable information, they will look forward to it and engage with it. Sending predominantly sales-y emails or irrelevant content or content that they can get elsewhere will result in low open rates.

Avoid words/phrases that scream “Spam”

Many email filters flag up emails that have words and phrases like “discount”, “offer”, “xx% off”, “sale” and “promotion”. Avoid using these words in your emails. Also, do not use all caps in your subject line or inside the body of your emails. If your email appears suspicious, your recipient’s email filter will put your email in the spam folder. Keep your email informative and relevant. Limit the number of links to ensure that your email is safe to open.

Send it from a person rather than from a company

Your emails are likely to get a higher open rate if they come from a person rather than from a company. Some email filters mark emails as “promotional” if they come from a company. For small businesses and startups, it is easy to send your email from your company founder or the marketing director, for instance. You will increase engagement and open rates if your recipients feel that your email is personal. Sign off with your first name – it’s a nice touch!

Ensure your subscribers have opted-in

The new GDPR (General Data Protection Regulations) rules are topical as the deadline looms. Under GDPR, you must update your privacy policy to include more information about what you will do with your recipients’ personal data. Email addresses on your list must come from people who know that they are on your list and have given you their details either by filling out a form, becoming your customer or a supplier. There are several aspects to GDPR, which we will not go into in this blog. What we will say is that sending emails to people who did not opt-in will not only lower your email open rates, it will also put you in breach of GDPR.

Best days and times

Some research shows that the best day to send emails is Tuesdays if you want a higher open rate (>19.9%). But Fridays seem to get the highest click-through rate (>4.9%). Avoid sending business-related emails on the weekend or late in the evening. We have found that the best time of day is between 6 am and 10 am to get the most engagement from our email list. But don’t take our word for it! Try sending your emails at different times and days, see what works for your target audience.

Segment your email list

You might have a list of 500 subscribers. Do you send all of them the same emails? If so, you should segment your list and send them only what they are interested in. If you are an IT company, you could have an email segment for IT managers (i.e. decision-makers) and a separate one for IT users (i.e. not decision-makers). IT managers might want to read about cost-efficiency and tips for user adoption to technology. IT users would be more interested in shortcuts to make them more productive in their day-to-day work. When you keep the email relevant, you will see your email open rates increase.

Reward your top contacts

Most email marketing tools will score the people on your email list. Contacts who regularly open your emails will get a 4 or 5 star while those that open your emails occasionally or never open them will receive a 1 or 2 star. Try to offer rewards to your best contacts. For instance, offer an exclusive gift to them or invite them to a preferred contact event. Building a strong relationship with your best contacts will make them even more likely to open your email. Occasionally sending emails only to this group will significantly improve your email open rates.

Content structure: Simple/Complex

One challenge for email marketing is to stand out within an increasingly cluttered mailbox. Companies are finding that their subject lines and content are simply not attracting the attention of their audience. Consider having very brief initial descriptions, coupled with a very clear call-to-action. This is perfect for subscribers who quickly skim their emails. Try short content e.g. an email with just one link to a piece of content.  Then try adding videos and more content to test how your email recipients engage with multiple pieces of content. Remember: fewer links are better.

Optimise for mobile

55% of emails were opened on mobile devices from May 2016 to April 2017 – up from just 29% in 2012 [Source: B2B Marketing]. Therefore, it is crucial that you optimise your emails for mobile. Some quick things you can do are to shrink your images and enlarge the font on the page. Remember that mobile devices automatically flip the orientation of the screen so your email should look good in portrait and landscape formats. One way to optimise for this is to use a single column layout. If you are not optimising for mobile, your email open rates are probably much lower than what they could be.

Have we missed a tip? Share your best email marketing strategies with us!

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