Email marketing is just like other digital marketing tactics: even though you start each campaign with a clear goal and strategy, you have to constantly make adjustments to remain on course.

However, you can’t improve what you can’t measure. That’s why email marketers monitor the key metrics to know what to adjust and how and when to do it. 

One of the most important email metrics is the open rate, and in this article, we’ll cover everything you need to know about this key performance indicator (including what’s going to change with recent iOS privacy updates).

Email Open Rate: The Biggest Email Metric

What’s the email open rate? An email open rate is the number of unique opens divided by the number of delivered emails multiplied by a hundred. 

For example, if you send 20 emails and five of them bounce (don’t reach the subscriber inbox), it means the number of delivered emails is 15. If out of the delivered emails, ten are opened, then the open rate is: 

(10/15)*100 = 66.67%.

The open rate is one of the key email marketing metrics. High open rates mean your subject lines are compelling readers to open the email. On the other hand, if rates are low, it could be a sign that you need to segment your subscribers better or strengthen your subject lines.

What’s the Average Open Rate?  

According to our recent Email Marketing Benchmarks report, the average open rate is 19.96%. However, open rates vary across industries and regions.  

Here is a few industries with a high email open rate: 

Industry  Average Open Rate
Nonprofit / Associations / Public Service 27.86%
Schools (K-12) 22.46%
Wellness / Fitness 23.87%
Colleges / Universities / Continuing ED 20.42%
Attractions / Entertainment / Hospitality 25.70%

Note that these are just industry averages; you can achieve higher (or lower) open rates and still run successful email campaigns. However, if your campaigns are getting open rates that are much lower than your industry’s average, it may be a sign that something needs to change.

Some of the things you could do to improve open rates include:

  • Write short yet catchy and descriptive subject lines
  • Segment your audience to send more relevant content
  • Change the frequency of emails

Average Open Rate for Non-Profits/Associations/Public Service

Non-profit organizations provide essential services to communities around the world—finding innovative solutions to social, economic, and environmental issues. Non-profits are able to operate with the help of donations and volunteers to continue their mission of providing support, resources, and opportunities for the communities that they serve.

Associations provide a platform for various professionals, organizations, and individuals to come together and share their ideas, experiences, and expertise—promoting networking and professional development. They also offer educational programs and resources, as well as advocacy and representation for members. 

Public service is an essential industry that provides vital services such as emergency response, social services, libraries, and public transportation to the public. From helping people in need to improving the quality of life in our communities, public service is key to ensuring everyone has access to the resources they need to thrive.

The average email open rate across non-profits, associations, and public service entities is 27.86%.

Average Open Rate for Schools (K-12)

Schools (K-12) offer a variety of educational opportunities for students from Kindergarten through high school. Professional educators and staff create individualized learning plans to meet the needs of each student while also teaching critical thinking and problem-solving skills.

These institutions provide a safe and nurturing environment for learning and growth and help equip students with the skills, knowledge, and tools they need to be successful in their future endeavors. 

The average email open rate for schools (K-12) is 22.46%.

Average Open Rate for Wellness/Fitness

Wellness and fitness is an ever-growing industry that focuses on helping individuals achieve their health and fitness goals. From nutrition and exercise programs to lifestyle coaching, the wellness and fitness industry has something to offer everyone. With the help of experienced professionals, individuals can learn to develop healthy habits and become more active while improving overall well-being.

The average email open rate for the wellness/fitness industry is 23.87%.

Average Open Rate for Colleges/Universities/Continued ED

Colleges and universities provide an array of educational opportunities. From traditional undergraduate and graduate programs to continuing education, lifelong learning, and professional development courses, these institutions of higher learning offer an array of options to help students reach their educational and professional goals. Moreover, with the advent of virtual learning, students can now access these educational opportunities remotely, expanding the accessibility and flexibility of higher education. A recent study by StuDocu showed that virtual learning increases a learner’s retention rate by 25% to 60%.

With a range of courses, degrees, and certificates earned through structured academic courses, students gain the skills they need to succeed in their chosen career paths.

The average email open rate for Colleges/Universities/Continued ED institutions is 20.42%.

Average Open Rate for Attractions/Entertainment/Hospitality

The Attractions/Entertainment/Hospitality industries comprise an exciting and dynamic sector that provides a wide range of services and experiences to customers. From amusement parks and resorts to theater shows and concerts, these industries offer something for everyone. 

Whether it’s a family-friendly destination, a concert, or a romantic getaway—customers are treated to a host of comforts and memorable experiences.

The average email open rate across the Attractions/Entertainment/Hospitality industries is 25.70%.

Why Does Email Open Rate Matter?

Email open rates can be an indicator of whether your campaign is destined for success or failure. If a campaign posts a high email open rate, it means many subscribers are reading and engaging with your emails. It justifies the need to invest time, money, and effort into that campaign. 

Lower rates, on the other hand, give you something to ponder. It could signify anything from an email deliverability issue to a content issue, but it almost always means that if you don’t make a change, your campaign likely won’t achieve its goals.

How Has the iOS 15 Update Impacted Open Rates?

While Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) is music to the ears of privacy-conscious Apple Mail users, it seemingly spells doom for some email marketers. Here’s the gist: the Apple Mail client will now be preloading tracking pixels before recipients see their email. This will, in effect, make it seem like every email is being opened — 100% open rates for all Apple users. This feature gives users better control over who has access to their data but hinders the ability for marketers to accurately track key metrics like open rates and open times. This will artificially inflate unique and total open rates for all Apple Mail users.

In regards to how this affects email marketing, instead of looking mostly to email open rates, you now need to make sure you’re also tapping into other email metrics to determine the real success of your email marketing efforts. 

Is Open Rate The Only Metric to Measure Email Marketing Success? 

While the open rate is a vital metric, opening an email isn’t the end goal. The goal is to have as many subscribers as possible click the CTA and take the appropriate action – which could be to download a whitepaper, sign up for a service, purchase a product, or set up a demo. 

Unfortunately, open rates don’t clue you in on any of these goals. For that reason, you have to look beyond open rates and evaluate other email marketing metrics, such as:

  • Click-through rate (CTR): Tracks how many readers click on the links in your emails. A higher CTR means that your email content is resonating with your audience and can help you refine your message.
  • Click-to-open rate (CTOR): Similar to CTR, click-to-open rate (CTOR) is another metric that hints at how effective your email design and message are at motivating an action from subscribers. It is calculated by dividing the number of unique clicks on links within the email by the number of unique email opens—indicating how many people clicked on the links after opening the email. 
  • Bounce rate: This metric is used to measure the percentage of emails sent from an email campaign that have been returned to the sender as undeliverable. This enables you to prune your email list to expunge stale email addresses to improve deliverability. On average, Benchmark Email users have a 4.31% bounce rate.
  • Unsubscribe rate: The unsubscribe rate measures the percentage of people who opt out of an email list after receiving an email from a company or organization. It is a key indicator of how effective a company’s email campaigns are and can help inform marketing strategies. Benchmark Email users enjoy a 0.02% unsubscribe rate.
  • Engagement rate: Email engagement rate is the measure of how well an email marketing campaign is performing based on the number of people who open, click, and interact with emails in regard to the number of emails sent. Knowing the engagement rate helps marketers to understand how successful their campaigns are—and to make necessary changes to improve them.

Does the Email Send Time Play a Role in Open Rate?

Send time—that is, the timing of when your emails are sent out—plays an important role in the open rate of email campaigns. Knowing the right time to send emails can help you maximize your open rates and increase your ROI.

It’s important to consider the best time to send emails to ensure that your messages are seen, read, and acted upon. The problem is that there is no one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to choosing a send time. What works for one audience may not work for another.

The key is to experiment with different send times and track the performance of each. You can use A/B testing to determine which send time works best for your customers. Consider the days and times when your customers are most likely to be online and active, such as after work hours or on weekends.

It’s also important to take into account the time zone of your subscribers. Sending emails at the wrong time can lead to lower open rates, so ensure that the send time appropriately accounts for the different time zones of your subscribers.

Ultimately, the best send time for your email campaigns depends on your audience and their engagement with your brand. Experiment with different send times and track the performance of each to determine what works best for your audience. 

Email Conversion Rate and How it Correlates With Open Rates

A key metric for understanding how successful your emails are at driving leads, sales, and engagement, email conversion rate is the percentage of people who completed a desired action after receiving an email. This could be anything from signing up for a newsletter to making a purchase. 

The correlation between open rate and email conversion rate is not always clear-cut. While it is true that an email’s open rate is a key factor in its conversion rate, there are other elements that can influence it. For example, the quality of your content, the relevancy of the message to the recipient, and the timing of the message can all affect whether a recipient takes action.

One way to improve your email conversion rate is to segment your email list. Segmentation means dividing your email recipients into smaller groups based on specific criteria. This allows you to target emails to each group more effectively and increase the likelihood of your subscribers taking action.

It’s also important to have a compelling call to action in your emails. This should be clear and easy to understand so people know exactly what action you want them to take. 

Understanding your email conversion rate is important for evaluating the effectiveness of your email marketing campaigns and making adjustments as needed.

The bottom line is that email open rate is a valuable metric that measures how many of your emails are opened by subscribers. It provides insight into how effective your subject lines and email copy are. However, open rate alone is not enough to determine the success of an email campaign and may become less important over time. That is why it’s best to take a holistic view of your email marketing campaigns and study a range of metrics rather than solely focusing on open rate.