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Sales Best Practices

Email Open Rates: Which Benchmarks Matter Most?

Audrey Weber's Avatar

Audrey Weber

Associate Content Editor

Our working lives revolve around email: many of us check it as soon as we wake up. Email marketing is a core element of the buyer journey, serving as one of the earliest touchpoints in the sales cycle (at Outreach, we refer to the optimized series of such touchpoints as Sequences). As a result, most enterprises consider a high email open rate a barometer for gauging campaign success.

The trouble is that this metric doesn’t tell you much on its own. That’s why it’s essential to know which email statistics matter, how to compare your performance against industry benchmarks, and ultimately, fold these metrics into a better understanding of buyer sentiment.

To help you leverage email metrics to better gauge buyer sentiment, we’ve compiled a guide to email metrics and how they reflect customer behavior. Read on to learn how they inform Sequences and campaigns, how they relate to buyer sentiment, and how to use these insights to refine your own email strategy.

What is Email Open Rate?
Email Marketing Metrics Across Industries
Email Open, Click, and Reply Rates Can’t Accurately Predict Customer Behavior
Focus on Intents and Outcomes to Anticipate What Your Customers Will Do

What is Email Open Rate?

Email open rate is the number of emails opened divided by the total number of emails sent. This percentage is used as an overall indicator of email campaign health: the higher the open rate, the better. But since this percentage doesn’t tell you much about why an email was or wasn’t opened, email open rate is typically reviewed within the larger context of several other metrics, which we’ve listed here.

In the following sections, we’ll offer some strategic guidance on how to make emails more effective by better aligning with your prospect’s expectations and needs. With an optimal outbound strategy, you can as much as double your SDR team’s performance, so you’ll want to understand these metrics and have a sense of what general benchmarks to strive for.

Email Performance Benchmarks

Email open rate

Since the email open rate reflects how many delivered emails were opened, a high email open rate generally correlates to campaign success. For every 250 deliveries, a great Sequence has a 27% open rate or more, so this data point is a relevant detail in the bigger picture of buyer sentiment.

Top line response rate

The top line response rate is the percentage of individuals who respond at some point in an email campaign. A “response” can be any form of contact triggered by the email, such as a reply or a returned call. Attaining a high response rate can be tough, but you can boost your top line response rate up to 52% by identifying the right prospects, creating authentic campaigns, and A/B testing emails. For a cold outreach Sequence, expect a 12% response rate.

Email response rate

Email response rate is the number of responses you receive divided by the total number of emails you've sent. Though it can vary with the type of campaign, you’ll generally want your response rate to hover around 2.9%. Most companies also break this down into positive and negative reply rates to get more granular—and for a good reason. An increased positive response rate has a 33% higher correlation with booked meetings.

Click-through rate

Click-through rate represents the ratio of people who clicked on an embedded link in an email to the total number of people who saw the email. That link might direct them to a relevant blog post, it might activate a coupon code, or it might even invite them to initiate a call, for example. A high click-through rate reflects that you’ve accurately identified something the recipient needs, and that accuracy matters when it comes to gauging buyer sentiment. Understanding your audience and tailoring your emails to their expectations yields measurable results: Personalized emails improve click-through rates by 14% and conversion rates by 10%.

Bounce rate

The bounce rate is the number of emails intercepted and returned by recipients’ mail servers, divided by the total emails sent. Usually, a high bounce rate means that your emails are getting flagged as spam. Adjusting the frequency of your emails and working with your IT colleagues to improve your data sources can fix this issue. Continue monitoring these activities to keep your bounce rate less than or equal to 2.8%.

Opt-out rate

The opt-out rate is the number of people who unsubscribe after an email is sent, divided by the number of people who received the email. Unsubscribe links are essential to include in every email, because replies sent requesting to be unsubscribed can erroneously inflate your response rate metrics. A high opt-out rate can be a red flag that your messaging simply isn’t right, but increased email privacy options have also made it more challenging to keep this rate low. Overall, you should aim for an opt-out rate of less than 1.1%.

As new user privacy options limit a sender’s ability to obsessively track and index the recipient’s behaviors, it’s time to examine email metrics in a new context. Leveraging buyer sentiment analysis goes beyond numbers to understand what’s driving a prospect’s responses (or lack thereof).

Let’s take a quick look at the current benchmarks for email marketing metrics, so that you can start thinking more strategically about what their data contributes to buyer sentiment analysis.

Email Marketing Metrics Across Industries

Email marketing benchmarks can differ depending on the type of business you’re working for and where your clients work. Let’s take a look at these metrics across several industries:

Industry

Open Rate

Click-Through Rate

Bounce Rate

Opt-Out Rate

Agriculture and Food Services

23.3%

2.9%

0.3%

0.3%

Business and Finance

21.6%

2.8%

0.4%

0.2%

Computers and Electronics

19.3%

2.1%

0.5%

0.3%

Ecommerce

15.7%

2.0%

0.2%

0.3%

Education

23.4%

2.9%

0.3%

0.2%

Entertainment and Events

20.5%

2.4%

0.3%

0.3%

Gaming

21.1%

3.7%

0.4%

0.2%

Health / Fitness

21.5%

2.7%

0.3%

0.4%

Insurance

21.4%

2.1%

0.7%

0.2%

Marketing and Advertising

17.4%

2.0%

0.4%

0.3%

Media and Publishing

22.1%

4.6%

0.1%

0.1%

Pharmaceuticals

18.6%

2.2%

0.4%

0.2%

Real Estate

19.2%

1.8%

0.4%

0.3%

Retail

18.4%

2.2%

0.2%

0.2%

Software and Web Apps

21.3%

2.5%

0.6%

0.4%

Travel and Hospitality

17.8%

2.0%

0.3%

0.2%

Source: Campaign Monitor Benchmark 2021 Global Email Benchmarks

With few and subtle fluctuations across industries, you can start to identify general benchmarks to think about when studying your own email open rates and related metrics. With the big picture in mind, let’s take a look at how to translate these insights into meaningful strategy.

How To Use Email Metrics To Inform Sequences and Campaigns

Email metrics are important data points, but effective campaigns depend on how those insights influence your overall strategy and synthesize into a larger picture of buyer sentiment. When optimizing Sequences, sales and marketing teams should consider these strategic elements:

Be Strategic In Your Timing

Time of day might have more of an effect on your email performance than you think. Try to be the first email in targets’ inboxes when they get to work. Aim for 9 - 11am in recipients’ time zones. Day of the week matters, too. The best day to send email is Monday, with an open rate of over 20%.

Make Your Emails as Deliverable as Possible

14.5 billion spam emails are sent every day, so it’s no wonder companies are getting more and more stringent about the emails they allow their employees to receive. If you find that your bounce rate is high, make sure that your emails are delivered properly. Ensure you are authenticating your mail through DKIM and SPF, update your email lists, refine your opt-in process, and avoid sending spammy content by personalizing your messages.

Opt for Snappier Subject Lines

Subject lines shouldn’t be a throw-away phrase—they should be an exciting preview for the content inside. Opt for subject lines that are short, personal, and relevant to catch the recipient’s attention.

Don’t Skimp on Details

Killer copy and a beautiful layout can make an unforgettable first impression. Formatting informative content in an engaging way keeps subscribers wanting more. Beyond that, adding personal touches can make the reader feel like you’re talking to them specifically, even if your emails are automated.

A/B Test for Consistent Opens

Your emails have to generate enough curiosity for people to open them. To build recipients’ anticipation, tease new offers, communicate urgency, and highlight social proof from your best customers. A/B testing is a fantastic way to figure out which of these strategies (or others) are working and which aren’t.

Compel Readers to Click Through

Just like click-to-open rate, click-through rate is influenced by reader interest. Your copy, messaging, and offers must be persuasive and powerful enough to push recipients to action. Highlighting customer quotes, particularly noteworthy parts of a blog post, or brand new, competitive features often compel readers to click for more.

Drive Positive Response Rates with Personalization

The key to eliciting a response is to hyper-personalize your emails. Make a strong entrance with a snappy subject line, and then follow with 2 to 3 sentences tailored to the individual and their role to show them you’ve done your research. It should be abundantly clear how your message will help them achieve their goals or solve their problems.

Pay Attention to Bounce Rate Factors

People change jobs fairly often or sign up with personal emails they don’t use very often. Over time, these patterns can make much of your email list obsolete. To avoid bounces, establish a process for keeping your mailing list clean and up-to-date, use a reputable email provider, and implement a double-opt-in subscription workflow.

Understand Opt-Out Behaviors

If there’s one thing you should never do when it comes to marketing, it’s making your emails sound like a robot wrote them. Inauthentic emails trigger unsubscribing behavior, sinking your strategy from the get-go. Instead, write thoughtful, genuine emails that connect to your audience and make them more likely to keep reading.

Now that you have a better understanding of the most important email marketing metrics and how you can improve your performance against industry benchmarks with a strategic approach, you might be wondering, can I rely on these metrics to predict what my prospects are likely to do? The short answer is no.

Metrics are only one piece of the puzzle: understanding buyer sentiment is the solution to better Sequences and campaigns.

Email Open, Click, and Reply Rates Can’t Accurately Predict Customer Behavior

Email metrics have long been the standard when it comes to evaluating marketing performance. And while they can provide relevant benchmark information, clicks, opens, and reply rates are essentially vanity metrics. Does opening an email actually say anything about how your customers feel? Not really. Does a low click-through rate mean that prospects won’t ever be interested in your products? No, not necessarily.

Without a working knowledge of standard email metrics and industry benchmarks, successful sales outreach can feel like a mystery. Getting familiar with email open rate, click-through rate, bounce rate, and opt-out rate can give you a directional understanding of how your campaigns and Sequences are being received. Activity metrics can be misleading, especially regarding buyer intent. Just because someone constantly opens or even replies to your emails doesn’t always mean they have a keen interest in buying, or are in the right stage of the funnel to make a decision. Retrospectively examining buyer behavior is not enough. Accurately analyzing and optimizing your interactions in real time drives fruitful customer encounters.

Focus on Intents and Outcomes to Anticipate What Your Customers Will Do

Buyer sentiment analysis identifies your email recipient’s true objectives and attitudes, providing nuanced insights that go beyond basic benchmarking and vanity metrics. Instead of over-indexing and reflecting raw data, buyer sentiment analysis empowers you to accurately and positively influence future buyer response. With this more holistic viewpoint of their audience, sales reps can make more meaningful connections with prospects and nurture them effectively through the funnel, setting the stage for well-targeted prospects to convert.

At Outreach, we rely on this technology to go beyond the surface-level snapshot of buyer behavior that metrics provide to a firm grasp on buyer sentiment. Our buyer sentiment tools gather, interpret, and extrapolate sentiment data to yield more accurate pipeline predictions than simply tracking and reporting metrics ever could. With this level of intel, your team can personalize their communication to truly connect with prospects. In fact, we’re so passionate about helping sales teams go beyond basic benchmarking that we’ve put together this free, in-depth guide to buyer sentiment to help you start folding statistics into the bigger picture and start creating Sequences and campaigns that truly resonate.

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