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Increase your email marketing open rates (15 strategies for 2018)

I am going to outline 15 ways in which you can increase your email marketing open rates this year.

Why improve email marketing open rates ?

  • Email Marketing beats social marketing by 40 times for customer acquisition according to McKinsey.
  • Email marketing campaigns can generate e-commerce companies between 4% and 19% of their monthly revenue.
  • So for a £1 million turnover business that could be between £40k and £190k per annum.

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Email marketing as a website traffic and sales channel

I analysed 4 ecommerce websites and the sources of their website traffic and revenue.

The 2 businesses under 2 years old generated between 4% and 5% of revenue from their email marketing campaigns.

Whereas the more mature businesses (older than 2 years) generated 11% and 19% of revenue from their email campaigns.

Email marketing is therefore a vital element of your marketing strategy.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

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Typical email campaign open rates for businesses

Use the Smart Insight Survey email statistics report to check your industry email open rates.

For advertising and marketing, 18.31% open rates and 2.06% click through rates are typical.

For e-commerce businesses, 16.82% and 2.48% click through rate is the average.

Email open rates by industry chart

Chart of email marketing open rates by industry
Chart of email marketing open rates by industry

Seeing these email statistics cheered me up a little but I’m not satisfied with industry averages, I want the best return on my email marketing investment.

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Only send email marketing campaigns to active openers

If you send a single email blast to everyone on your mailing list, the chances are your open rates will be low.

If you are going to send a single email to everyone you can filter out those who haven’t open emails recently.

For example, on my email lists

  • 1349 total – 774 have opened or clicked on any of last 4 emails.
  • 1349 total – 463 have not opened or clicked on last 4 emails I sent.

If I don’t email those who don’t open, then statistically the email open rate will improve.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

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Basic email campaign segmentation

Look at this email from Zara promoting their new women’s denim clothing.

An email campaign about ladies clothing sent to a man.

You don’t have to be a digital marketing genius to work out sending non gender specific content will lower email open rates.

Zara, a major fashion retail brand, don’t appear to take the time to segment their email campaigns by gender.

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Advanced email marketing segmentation

There is a marketing strategy called RFM.

RFM is an abbreviation for Recency, Frequency and Monetary and can be equally applied to digital marketing.

Your best source of business and revenue will come from customers who recently purchased, purchased frequently and those who made a large revenue purchase.

Email segmentation results in a 760% increase in revenue according to the DMA (Direct Marketing Association).

With this statistic in mind, it makes sense to target existing customers and use some form of segmentation strategy.

Segmenting ecommerce email marketing campaigns

Segmentation is built into MailChimp email broadcast software.

They have pre built segments such as a new, active and inactive subscribers.

If you use Shopify as your ecommerce platform you probably have 2 lists; one for buyers and one for people who subscribed to your mailing list for news and updates.

You can segment by those who purchased and have not purchased.

You can segment within Mailchimp based on customer behaviour.

  • Potential customers.
  • Those who recently purchased in the last 30 days.
  • First time customers.
  • Repeat customers who have purchased more than twice.
  • Lapsed customers who have not orders in the last 8 months.

Then you can segment your customers and data based on MailChimp’s predictive demographics.

  • Male
  • Female
  • Age

Knowing that segmenting users in your email campaigns is more effective and the tools exist, now you can start to tailor the message and content for your audience in your email campaigns.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

Segmenting business to business email marketing campaigns

I have a lead generation website selling digital marketing solutions to businesses.

My digital marketing strategy is as follows:

  • Generate leads from organic, social and direct traffic.
  • Add leads to CRM.
  • Send targeted and relevant emails, using Drip, to those leads.
  • Nurture, educate and sell over time.

I segment my database in the following ways.

  • Lead Score
  • Service, page and interest tagging
  • Customer and non customer
  • Job Title

Lead Score

Each subscriber is given a lead score based on the pages they visit on my website and the emails they open.

They are assigned 1 point if they open an email or visit a page and 10 points if they visit my service order pages.

Lead scoring is built up over a period of time; I send around 2 email campaigns per month.

Segment by service, page and interest

I have set up rules within Drip to apply a tag to a users profile when they visit a page on my website.

For example, if a subscriber visits my link building page, a link building tag is applied.

So when I run an email campaign offering a link building training course I target those who are tagged with link building.

Customer and non customer

This is very simple segmentation; I send different email communication to customers who have purchased from me.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

Segment by Job Title

The main job roles of prospective customers that I identified in my business were as follows:

  • Web Designer
  • Web Developer
  • Business Owner
  • Content manager

The reality of this segmentation was not what I expected.

There is an overlap between being a business owner and being a web designer.

And there is a blurred line between being a designer and a developer.

However I also have the ability to segment my email database as follows.

  • Date subscribed
  • Active or inactive
  • Lifetime value
  • Sign up source
  • Time zone

Although I have not used these options as of yet.

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From Address

The from address in an email marketing campaign may appear to be a trivial factor.

I have received emails from companies that I have opted in to and they don’t email you in months or years.

Then you receive an ad-hoc email from, for example, Bob Fredman.

You either ignore or delete his email because you are not familiar with this sender.

And it turns out you actively follow his company on all social channels but the email never included his company name in the From Address.

I always struggle writing the from address in my email campaigns.

Do I use my company name, full birth name, email address or a combination of them all?

  • Company Name
  • First Name Last Name
  • Email address
  • First Name Last Name | Company Name
  • First Name | Company Name

These are the from address options open to me but notice how part of the text is cut off when I view my gmail inbox.

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Personalised email subject lines

A survey by Cheetah Digital suggested that personalising email subject line in promotional emails increased the email open rated by 18%.

And just over a third of brands use the customer name in their promotional mailings.

The 3 email marketing systems that I use; Drip, MailChimp and Business Catalyst all enable you to insert the first name field or tag in the subject line.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

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Create urgency in the email subject line

One service I offer is called broken link building that helps to boost links to a website.

Email marketing is a vital tool used to earn these types of links.

The open rate, click through and response rate of these campaigns are higher than other outreach email campaigns.

Simply due to the urgency contained in the email subject line.

If you send promotional emails here are some examples of urgency contained within the subject lines.

  • when a promotion ends
  • a discount code ends
  • when stock runs out
  • last remaining tickets
  • last remaining seats
  • only 10 left in stock

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Expiring Links

If you need to deliver urgency or create a sense of limited supply, you can use that emotion in your subject line.

Thanks to features such as expiring links with Drip, you can fulfil limited supply.

  • Create a link url
  • Add the expiration date
  • Add the link url after expiration
  • Insert the expiring link in your email body.

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Use the email pre-header to boost email open rates

What is the email pre-header ?

It is the short summary text that follows the subject line when an email is viewed in the inbox.

Think of the pre header as the meta description field.

I don’t think about the pre-header text very often when I create email campaigns.

But if I can use this greyed text to enhance open rates I will.

Look at this email from

  • Promotional code inside.
  • Save 10% on your next stay.

Whilst the email is very sales driven the pre-header text caught my attention.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

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Personalised email salutation

99% of the email marketing campaigns that I send start with Dear Fraser or Hi Fraser.

It’s polite.

It signals to the user that you know them.

I was having a telephone conversation last week and I could not remember the name of the business owner.

It was embarrassing and I think he could sense my hesitance when attempting to address him.

Email salutation is just one form of personalisation.

Let’s go deeper into personalisation.

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Personalised email marketing

A study performed by Experian found that personalised subject lines increase open rates by 29.3% across all industries.

What are some email personalisation strategies beyond the first name personalisations ?

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

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Add product recommendations

For e-commerce websites that use MailChimp there is a built in feature that enables you to send product recommendations.

Insert product recommendations into an email and subscribers receive personalised emails with personalised product suggestions.

MailChimp analyse previous purchases and suggestion products.

This saves store owners a lot of time composing email campaigns.

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Increase relevancy

One of the best email campaigns that I’ve received was from Ryanair.

ryanair email campaign screenshot

They knew that I had previously travelled to Portugal with them.

So I was the recipient of an email with an sentimental offer to re-visit Portugal.

Read the copy in this email; for me, it’s like Ryanair are actually talking to me like a real person and pulling my emotional strings.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download

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Build anticipation

In Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing book from 1999 (my first ever Amazon purchase) he outlined the 3 tenets of permission marketing.

  1. Personalised
  2. Relevant
  3. Anticipated

I purchased a training course online a couple of years ago.

Students like me were drip fed new educational content each Monday morning for 12 weeks.

I was definitely waiting anxiously each Monday morning for these emails as I was eager to improve my skills and implementation from the course.

Think about the emails you look forward to and analyse those emails with the previous emails you send to your customers and prospects.

Look at this email offer and wording from Eric Prydz offering ticket availability before they are publicly available.

Of course you can only do with type of anticipation marketing with a strong brand, a large email list and you know demand will outstrip supply.

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Here are just some of the reasons people don’t open your email campaigns.

  • People are too busy.
  • Their email inbox is bombarded with hundreds of emails a day.
  • Too many emails try to sell to them.
  • Most emails are not anticipated.
  • Most emails are not relevant.
  • Many emails are not personalised.

Many email marketing software providers enable you to resend your email campaign to those who did not open it on the first delivery.

Here’s an example from my last email campaign.

Original Email Campaign

  • Sent 532
  • Opened 225
  • Open rate 42.3%

Resend email

  • Sent 307
  • Opened 53
  • Open rate 17.3%

In total 278 emails were opened from 532 recipient which equates to a 52.3% open rate.

By re-sending to those who did not open the first email I increased my open rated by 23%.

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Best day and time to send email campaigns

The best days across all industries to send email campaigns are Mondays and Fridays but any mid week date is fine.

Avoid sending on Saturday and Sunday.

The best time of the day to send an email campaign is between 8 am and 11.59 am.

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What’s your best tactic for boosting email open rates ?

I am sure there are more than 15 tactics to increase your email campaign open rates.

If you have recommendations please leave them in the comments box before for other readers.

Download : 15 Ways To Increase Your Email Marketing Open Rates Download
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