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Email Marketing Benchmarks and What We Learned from Them

Email marketing is a personalized way to reach a targeted audience right in their inboxes. If you’re collecting customer emails and not doing email marketing, you’re missing out on customer retention and up-sales opportunities. If you’re not collecting emails, now’s the time to start.

Silverpop recently did a study that revealed benchmarks in email marketing by industry. Whether you’re new to email marketing or have been using it for years, this report can help you gauge whether you’re on par with your industry in terms of opens, click-throughs, and other metrics.

Open rates and click-through rates are the most important high-level metrics most marketers measure in email marketing. Of course you want to study conversions and ROI, but this study didn’t dive into those metrics.

Open Rate

The open rate for an email message is the percentage of recipients who opened the email. Open rates don’t measure reads or actions, simply opens.  Below are the open rates by industry found in the Silverpop study.

Email Marketing Open Rates
As you can see, Education had the highest mean open rate and was the top performer by far. “Travel & Leisure” and “Computer Hardware, Telecom & Electronics” had the lowest averages. The 13% difference between Education and the other 2 could be attributed to many factors:
  • Subject lines
  • List targeting
  • Delivery rates
  • Spam filters
  • Time of day
Open rates are highly dependent on how targeted the recipient list is and how engaging the subject line is. Work to send appropriate content to your list, and entice them with a catchy, but not misleading, headline.

Click-Through Rate

The click-through rate measures the number of clicks compared to the number of delivered messages. It doesn’t measure against the number of opened messages; that’s the click-to-open rate, discussed below.

Email Marketing Click-through Rates
Again, Education was the top industry, and Computer Hardware, Telecom & Electronics was at the bottom. This trend is, not surprisingly, aligned with open rates—if recipients don’t open the email, they can’t click on it.

Click-to-Open Rate

The click-to-open rate measures the percentage of people who opened the email who also clicked on a link in the message.

Email Marketing Click to Open Rates
Education was again toward the top, but healthcare was the winning industry. “Computer Hardware, Telecom & Electronics” and “Nonprofits” had the lowest-performing averages. A lot of factors can affect click-to-open rate, including:
  • Quality of Content – If recipients don’t like the content once they open the email, they won’t click through.
  • Number of Links – If the email message doesn’t have links to click, for instance, if all the content is already in the email, the click-through rate is going to be low. If there are multiple “Read More” and other links, on the other hand, there will be more clicks.
  • Calls to Action – Does the email message ask readers to click? Use “Click here to…” and “Learn more” calls to action to drive up click-to-open rates.

Bounce Rate

Bounce rates are calculated as a percentage of the total number of email addresses that are incorrect or no longer in use. High bounce rates often indicate outdated data. Bounce rates are especially high with purchased email lists, which we don’t recommend.

Email Marketing Bounce Rates
If your bounce rate is high, consider cleaning up your list. Use a service to find and remove bad email addresses.

Unsubscribe Rate

The unsubscribe rate is what it sounds like—the percentage of recipients who unsubscribe from your email marketing. Again, unsubscribe rates are much higher with purchased lists than with your own list.

Email Marketing Unsubscribe Rate
If your unsubscribe rate is higher than average, you could be targeting the wrong list, or your content may not be suited to your audience. Email marketing is all about providing great content to the right people at the right time. It’s easier said than done.

Get the whole email marketing report from Silverpop.