December 5, 2019

Why Email Open Rates Matter, and How to Improve Them

According to Campaign Monitor, the average expected click-through rate of an email campaign should be around 2.5%. If you’re spending a lot of money on email-based advertising, this statistic can be sobering. However, you have a number of different knobs you can turn with the goal of either meeting this number or improving on it. Below we’ll look at how we can improve email open rates, which will necessarily drive click-through rates, and see how we can improve the success rate of your email-based marketing campaign.

Why Does “The Open” Matter?

Simply put, you can have the best advertising campaign in history, but if nobody sees it then it might as well not exist. Every dollar you spend on an email advertisement is wasted if you can’t get your recipients to open your messages in the first place. As such, the first step to improving the success of your email campaign is going to be improving the number of messages opened by a recipient.

Improving Email Open Rates with Better Subjects

For most of your email recipients, the only chance you’ll have to get them to open your message is your subject line. If your email campaign is not performing as you hope, this should be the first place you are directing your attention. Your subject needs to have a clear hook that sucks the reader in, and ideally drives the user to click on the message and read the internal contents.

A lot of this is basic marketing design applied to a very small form factor. The challenge you face is how to present your USP in a way that not only rises to the top of the user’s attention, but then drives them to click on the subject. Creating a sense of urgency, fostering interest, and providing a clear call to action are all elements of a successful subject that piques user interest and drives further content interaction.

Improving Opens With Super Subjects

Another tool to improve your open rates is your “Super Subject.” Most mail clients don’t show just the subject line, but also the first few lines of message content. This provides the email recipient with the opportunity to get an idea of the message’s content at a glance, allowing them to make a quick decision as to its relative importance as compared to other items in their inbox. By making the first content in your marketing email a call to action, or some other enticing the user to click on the message, you can leverage this email client functionality to improve your message open numbers. Proper construction of a super subject entices the user into reading further, resulting in more opens and, ideally, more click-throughs.

Contant Contact put together this great infographic on some “Super Subject” line examples:

12 Ideas for Subject Lines FINAL

Improving Opens with Customer Segments

While the subject and super subject tend to be the primary tools you have at your disposal to drive email open rates, one oft-overlooked improvement is your recipient audience. If you’re advertising basketball to a mailing list devoted to baseball fans, you’re likely not going to see a lot of success with getting people to open your messages. By dividing your email list into customer segments focused on different aspects of your product, you can drive increases in open rates in your campaigns. This approach hinges upon the information you gather about each email address in your list. The more information you’re able to obtain from a user when they provide you with their email address, the better job you’ll be able to do at presenting the user with relevant content. Accordingly, the first step of building these segments will be revamping the signup process for your mailing list to begin allowing the customers to segment themselves. A customer who tells you they are interested in shoes is going to be far more valuable to you when you are ready to advertise the newest pair of shoes you have for sale.


Email open rates are absolutely critical to the success of an email-based marketing campaign. While the content of your message will often be the primary driver to your desired call-to-action, this content will never be effective if it isn’t seen by the reader. By leveraging the basic marketing techniques above, you can improve your email open rates and get your marketing content in front of more users.

If you want to learn more about how to use email monetization to drive higher engagement and revenue, check this out.