December 1, 2014 | John Goethert

Average Email Open Rates: Goals for 2015

Email Open Rates

It’s not rocket science—if customers don’t open your email, you can’t promote your services or sell your products.

Before you hit the send button, you carefully craft your subject line to attract customers and optimize everything you can think of. Pretty soon, you can see the fruits of your labor—the data about your email’s performance. But that data isn’t always easy to interpret.

Say your email has a 20% open rate - is this awesome, or did you totally blow it? How do you know? For starters, you can compare your performance to the rest of your industry.

Average email open rates vary greatly by industry and target demographic, so there’s no general average rate that will be helpful to you. Most email services break down their customers’ average open rates (and bounce, click-through, and opt-out rates) by industry or business type.

Here are examples from two of the most popular email tools:

Constant Contact Average Email Open Rates

Mailchimp Average Email Open Rates

Looking at these charts, you’ll see that a 20% open rate really is awesome - if you’re trying to promote your tourism business, where the industry average is 16.5%. However, that same 20% could definitely use some work if you were sending an email to your museum patrons, because your industry average is 24.7%.

The point is that while your internal numbers make great reference points, you should really determine if your open rate is more Monet or Monte Carlo before you start patting yourself on the back. Here are a few more things to consider:

List Segmentation

If you haven’t tried it yet, modifying your email to be more focused on the challenges of a particular group will have a major impact on your open rate.

According to Jupiter Research, relevant emails drive 18 times more revenue than general, broad-based emails. To reap this benefit, divide your email list into groups of people with similar needs or motivations, and craft email versions tailored to those potential customers.

Subject Line Wording

I could write a whole blog post about how to write a compelling email subject line (in fact, I think I will - stay tuned).

If you take anything away from this, just remember to think of your newly segmented groups. When you write your email, what you say to people shopping for a Mediterranean cruise will be very different from what appeals to college students hunting for a Spring Break deal. Always keep your buyer personas in mind!

When writing subject lines for these folks, there are a few things you can do to catch your readers’ eyes. Tactful personalization is key. It makes people feel like you’re talking to them, which can increase customer engagement. But personalization means more than just using first names – you can add locations, recent interactions, and much more.

What personalization will be most successful depends on your industry and buyer persona. For one client, we’ve found that mentioning recipients’ hometowns increases opens, even though saying their names slightly lowers opens. Automated workflows can also help you personalize communications more subtly, for example by mentioning topics they’ve expressed interest in and the pieces of content they’ve recently downloaded.


Marketing data from Epsilon shows that triggered emails get 119% higher click-through rates than "business as usual" messages do. If you think about it, this makes sense - the longer it takes you to get in touch with people after they make first contact, the less enthusiastic they will be about hearing from you.

Instead, automate some of your contact with potential customers. If they subscribe to your blog, you can use a tool like HubSpot to automatically send an email within a few minutes thanking them and letting them know about an ebook or a few recent blog posts they might like.

Also consider the day of the week and time of day. Again, knowing your buyer persona can help. Is your email going to a parent with young children? Late night may be the best time for engagement, since the kids will be in bed. For business professionals, sending it in the morning will place it on top of the pile when they get to work and sift through their inboxes.

Don’t Forget Testing

Even though average open rates are helpful, they include many different buyer personas – hardly specific to your target audience. A/B testing will allow you to hone in on what really works and what doesn’t. In the end, the only numbers you can trust are your actual results!

With all this talk of open rates, don’t forget that getting the email open is just the first step.

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John Goethert

John Goethert

John Goethert served as VIEO’s senior inbound marketing project manager for many years and enjoyed using his varied expertise on behalf of our clients.

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