4 Ways to Improve Email Open Rates

Guest Author

For an email campaign to be successful, one of the first things that needs to happen (after delivery to the inbox) is for recipients to actually open your message. It’s hard to drive a new site visit, let alone a lead or sale, if your audience simply deletes your email without ever opening it. Recent studies suggest the average open rate for commercial email (across all industries) is about 21%. But, whether your average open rates are already above the average or you’re still working to reach that number, most email marketers are interested in getting more recipients to open their next email.

There is no shortage of tactics to help increase open rates, but here are just a few to keep in mind when you’re planning your next campaign.

1.Deliver a Killer Subject Line

This is probably the most obvious tactic for increasing open rates, and with good reason. There are only two pieces of information that a recipient is likely to see before making a decision to open, file, or delete an email (along with the sender name). With this being the case, the subject line is your best chance to catch attention and entice a recipient to open your email. There are numerous guides, white papers, and entire books written on how to create the perfect subject line. So, I won’t attempt an in-depth analysis here, but three things to keep in mind.

  • Keep your audience in mind – What would your audience find interesting? Coming up with the coolest subject line that your marketing team loves isn’t necessarily the best way to capture your audience’s attention.
  • Be clever, but not too clever – As marketers, we all love coming up with clever copy. A subject line is a great place to insert a little humor or cleverness, but keep it simple. Sometimes being too clever is either a turn-off, or some recipients won’t ‘get it.’
  • Stay on brand – Always remember your brand image. If you have a fun, irreverent brand image, than don’t be afraid to use it in your subject lines. But, if your brand is a bit more straightforward, keep that in mind as you write your subject lines.

2. Strategically Segment your Email Lists

You’re probably already segmenting your audiences into various email lists to provide more relevant and engaging content and maximize response. But, the same tactic comes in handy when trying to optimize open rates. You might even consider creating an additional layer of audience segmentation that goes beyond audience demographics to include past email response behavior. If you can identify an audience segment that has especially substandard historical open rates or overall response, you might set them up as separate campaigns focused on getting that first engagement and eventually you may simply remove them from future mailings if they fall into a high-volume non-responder category.

3. Think Mobile

Just about every usage statistic shows that mobile is now the most popular method of surfing the web, checking email, and many other digital behaviors. So, when you’re thinking about things like the length of your subject line, your preview copy, etc. remember the size and general specs of the typical mobile device screen. An overly long subject line may get cut off and your preview copy is almost certainly going to be shorter. So, if you’re optimizing those items for a desktop environment, you run the risk of your mobile recipients not seeing the content you planned. Going forward, mobile is almost certainly going to become even more the standard for typical digital engagement, so if you haven’t already made the transition to thinking mobile first, now is the time.

4. Timing is Everything

As you test various campaign strategies and tactics to optimize performance, you may well have tried mailing at different times on different days of the week and measured how it impacted response. If you haven’t looked at open rates on these types of tests, you should consider looking back at past test or planning new ones to establish some baselines for open rates based on these temporal variables. You may find that recipients are more likely to open emails on certain days or at certain times of the day. Make sure you match these up with your more ROI focused optimization tests as well, as it is possible that a higher open rate may not directly contribute to higher overall performance.

You can find any number of useful guides and other material to help you optimize your campaign open rates, but starting with these four strategies will help you get off to a good start.

Tom Wozniak – Executive Director of Marketing – OPTIZMO Technologies, LLC

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