Low email open rates are a pain. Fix it now.

It’s every marketer’s headache: You spend time crafting the perfect message for your subscribers with a clever subject and creative body. You hit send and, voila! Or so you expect.

Instead, your open rate tanks. A small segment of your audience reads your message. You waste time and don’t get the ROI you expected.

Low email open rates are a pain. What’s going on?

Before you can determine a solution, you need to understand what went wrong. Even more frustrating? Open rates can be low for a variety of reasons.

Don’t fret. If your open rate is low, here’s what to do.

Benchmark your open rate

The average open rate across all industries is 20.81%, according to MailChimp. That means, on average, about 1 out of 5 subscribers open a business’s marketing emails.

But these numbers vary widely by industry. For example, emails related to hobbies have an open rate of 27.35%, but daily deals emails have an average open rate of just 14%.

You can see how you stack up against your competition in MailChimp’s report here.

You should also know how your metrics have evolved over time. Marketers should track KPIs including open rate, as well as click through rate and deliverability.

Here are a few questions to ask when benchmarking your open rate:

  • Did the open rate suddenly drop, or did it decrease slowly over time?
  • Is my open rate lower only on this particular campaign, or across all campaigns?
  • How do my open rates stack up against the competition?

My open rate is low. What happened?

OK — your open rate really is low. Let’s assess what could have happened:

You are hitting toxic data.

Symptoms: Poor deliverability, high bounce rate.

Your subscribers aren’t interested in your content.

Symptoms: Slowly decreasing open rate, low click-through rate, no segmentation, good deliverability.

You triggered inbox spam filters.

Symptoms: Using all caps or words like “free” in the subject line.

You aren’t targeting active users.

Symptoms: Slowly decreasing open rate, sending to an old list, not cleaning your data.

I know why my open rate is low. Now what do I do?

Clean Your List:

Even marketers who use best email collection practices — such as only adding subscribers who have actively opted in — can collect bad data on their list. This poor data can even be due to typos and other user errors. In fact, we found that 8.4% of data entered on webforms is invalid. That’s a lot of bad data.

But dirty data results in poor deliverability and high bounce rates. This, in turn, can harm your email reputation.

The best way to get rid of poor or toxic data on your email list is with Email Validation. Regular list hygiene and real-time Email Validation will ensure you send to accurate email addresses and avoid toxic data.

Gather Strong Customer Data

Personalization and segmentation are key to sending relevant messages to the right customer at the right time. The only way to personalize your content and segment your list is to know your customers.

Collect user data via webforms at signup or via customer surveys. Then, supplement that data with additional context, including third-party customer demographic data.

Segment Your List & Personalize Your Content

Segmentation is when a marketer organizes or groups contacts by behaviors, traits, personas or other defining factors. These groups, or segments, can then be sent similar marketing content because their traits are similar.

Once you’ve collected the relevant data you need, you can segment customers by similar traits to target with marketing content.

Segmentation allows marketers to inch closer to one-to-one marketing, or hyper-personalizing content for each individual. By grouping contacts together, segmentation makes personalization more manageable.

Now that you know your customers and you have them segmented into groups, you can send them more relevant content. When customers receive more relevant, personalized content, they are more likely to open.

Target Active Users

Re-engagement campaigns are a great way to revive a stale list. But while you can segment your subscribers based on the last time they opened your emails, you can’t know which email accounts are active. You only know if a customer isn’t opening your emails, not whether they are opening other emails — potentially those from a competitor.

Using Email Activity data can help. Email Activity allows marketers to know when a user was last active with a commercial email. Using that data, marketers can more effectively target their re-engagement campaign efforts, winning back inactive users and boosting open rates.

Write Great Content

Even after you’ve cleaned your list and segmented your customers, you still need to write a great subject and content. Don’t forget — the subject and content should be personalized, too!

Great email subjects pique a reader’s curiosity and create a sense of urgency. Think about it: Why should your contact open your email now? Make it meaningful for them.

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