The 7 most crucial email marketing benchmarks

Email Marketing Benchmark
Email open rate benchmark
Email click-through rate benchmark
How to improve email click-through rate
Email click-to-open rate benchmark
Email unsubscribe rate benchmark
Email bounce rate benchmark
Email spam complaint benchmark
Conversion rate email marketing benchmark
Final thoughts

Understanding how effective your email marketing is and how to analyze email campaign performance can be confusing.

The best way to gauge success is to compare current results against your past numbers, rather than competing with industry standards. As long as the line is moving up and to the right, that’s all that truly matters.

Here, we’ll discuss seven key email marketing benchmarks to track, how to calculate them and tips for success and improvement in each area.

Email open rate benchmark

What is a good open rate for email marketing?

Across all industries, the benchmark for email open rates is around 30%, but the best email open rates can vary widely by industry.

For instance, consulting companies see lower open rates averaging around 22%, while nonprofit membership organizations trend on the higher end at around 35%.

Email open rates describe the percentage of recipients who open an email you’ve sent. It doesn’t tell you what they did once they opened the email, though. They might have opened it and sent it straight to the trash without reading or clicking through.

As such, email open rates shouldn’t be used as a sole measure of email effectiveness. Rather, open rates show how effective email subject lines and preheader text are in motivating recipients to see what’s inside.

How to calculate email open rate

Email open rate calculation:

(number of opened emails / number of received emails) x 100

Note that the email open rate formula looks at how many emails are actually received rather than sent. This means you need to remove bounced emails from your data before calculating.

Say that in your last email marketing newsletter, you emailed 1000 list subscribers. Of those sent, 50 emails bounced (meaning your email reached 950 recipients) and 300 people opened it.

Our calculation looks like this:

(300 / 1150) x 100 = 31.58%

In this instance, you’re doing fairly well, as 31.58% is above the email marketing average open rate.

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How to improve email open rate

As your database grows, you may find your open rates decrease because your list consists of different kinds of customers.

One way to improve your email open rate is to segment your audience based on important buying characteristics and only send relevant emails to each segment.

For example, if you run an email marketing platform, you might have several customer personas:

  • Ecommerce marketers sending promotional emails

  • SaaS (software as a service) businesses using your software to run lead nurture campaigns

  • Solopreneurs using email marketing for cold outreach

Here, an ecommerce-focused email wouldn’t be valuable to a SaaS marketer, so they may not open and engage with it.

This process improves the customer experience and can be a powerful way to increase email open rates.

Email click-through rate benchmark

The industry average click-through rate in email marketing is between 1-2%.

Your click-through rate (CTR) is the percentage of email recipients who clicked on one or more links in your email.

Naturally, CTRs are a lot lower than email open rates. Roughly 30% of recipients open an email. Even fewer of those readers will click on your call to action (CTA).

How to calculate email click-through rate

Email click-through rate calculation:

(number of recipients who clicked a link / number of received emails) x 100

If you have a group of 800 email recipients and 20 of them click on your CTA, your email CTR formula is:

(20/800) x 100 = 2.5%

How to improve email click-through rate

Email click-through rates measure the efficacy of your email copy, design, offer, messaging and call to action.

To improve email click-through rate, start by A/B testing your CTAs. A/B tests help you establish which CTAs motivate your audience to take action. For example, “Get started today” might perform better than “Sign up now”.

If you’re using HTML-formatted emails, you can experiment with:

  • Design and colors

  • Copy

  • Positioning

  • CTA frequency (one to two per email is a good rule of thumb)

Set up A/B tests for each of these variables, send, analyze and optimize.

Email click-to-open rate benchmark

Click-through and open rate email benchmarks work best when supplemented with click-to-open rates (CTOR), which is the percentage of email openers who clicked your CTA.

The average click-to-open rate in email marketing is 10.5%, though this varies significantly by region.

In most cases, click-to-open rates are a better indicator than click-through rates when it comes to email copy, design and CTA effectiveness.

That’s because CTOR includes recipients who not only opened your email, but also clicked your CTA in the email body. This makes it a stronger data point for email effectiveness, because it measures opens, actions and conversions.

How to calculate email click-to-open rate

To calculate your click-to-open rate, you need:

  • The number of recipients who opened your email (not total recipients)

  • The number of recipients who clicked on one of your links

Email click-to-open rate calculation:

(number of recipients who clicked a link / number of recipients who opened the email) x 100

If out of 1000 recipients, 200 opened your email and 5 clicked the link, then you’ll calculate:

(5/200) x 100 = 2.5%

How to improve email click-to-open rate

The tactics for driving email CTOR are the same as for improving CTR (our goal, in either case, is to maximize CTA clicks).

Test different design styles to explore email engagement with your audience.

For example, you can compare the results of a simple, black and white text-only email vs. a bright, colorful email with video:

Black and White Text only email

While here is the alternative with a video.

Full color email with video

Note how both use contrasting colors to ensure the CTA buttons pop (a powerful way to get more clicks).

Email unsubscribe rate benchmark

The average email unsubscribe rate is 0.17%. For every email you send, you should expect around 1 to 2 people in every 1,000 subscribers to unsubscribe.

This number varies by industry. Daily deals and e-coupon mailers see around 0.10% unsubscribe rates, whereas health and fitness companies see 4x as many unsubscribe responses.

Unlike the previous email marketing benchmarks, you want your unsubscribe rate to be as low as possible. Unsubscribes are an indicator that your email content is no longer valuable.

High unsubscribes can be a signal that you’re sending too often or that you could be doing a better job of segmenting your audience.

However, this isn’t always a bad sign. It’s normal to expect that, over time, subscribers will no longer feel like your communications are relevant.

In fact, inactive subscribers can damage your email health. Make sure to practice good email hygiene by cyclically removing inactive emails from your email lists.

How to calculate email unsubscribe rate

To calculate your unsubscribe rate, take the total number of unsubscribe responses and divide that by the number of delivered emails.

Email unsubscribe rate calculation:

(number of recipients who unsubscribed / number of recipients) x 100

If you have a total of 5 unsubscribes from 1000 recipients, your email unsubscribe rate is:

(5/1000) x 100 = 0.5%

How to improve email unsubscribe rate

The best way to improve email unsubscribe rates is to understand why people unsubscribe. The best way to do that is to ask via surveys, polls or direct outreach.

You can also build this question into the unsubscribe process so they remember to answer while it’s top of mind.

Email bounce rate benchmark

Try to keep your bounce rate below the average email bounce rate across all industries: 2%. That means that for every 100 emails you send, roughly two will bounce.

We can break this down a little further into hard and soft bounces. Hard bounces occur when:

  • An email address no longer exists

  • The recipient has blocked your address

  • The recipient has marked you as spam

Soft bounces occur when:

  • A recipient has set an “out of office” response in their email server

  • Their inbox is full

  • They are otherwise temporarily unavailable

How to calculate email bounce rate

To calculate your email bounce rate, you need two figures:

  1. The total number of emails you’ve sent

  2. The total number of emails that bounced

Email bounce rate calculation:

(number of addresses that bounced / number of emails sent) x 100

If from 10,000 email recipients, you received 100 bounce responses, your calculation would be:

(100 / 10,000) x 100 = 1%

How to improve email bounce rate

There’s not a lot you can do to improve soft bounces. You can, however, improve your hard bounce rate.

First, set your email marketing platform to automatically remove hard bounce recipients from your list (so you’re not continuously sending emails to the same non-existent address).

Next, implement a double opt-in procedure, which asks subscribers to confirm their email address to ensure…

  1. They actually want to join your list

  2. Their information is correct.

This differs from a single opt-in, where customers who sign up to your mailing list are subscribed without needing to take additional action.

Here’s an example of a double opt-in process when a new person subscribes to your newsletter.

Vero double opt in email

Email spam complaint benchmark

The average email spam complaint rate is between 0% and 0.01%.

If you send an email to 10,000 recipients, you should only receive an average of one spam complaint, if that.

How to calculate email spam complaint rate

Spam complaint rate calculation:

(number of spam complaints received / number of emails sent) x 100

If you receive one spam complaint from a total list of 10,000, your calculation looks like this:

(1/10,000) x 100 = 0.01%

How to improve email spam complaint rate

Emails will go to spam folders for several reasons. People may physically send your emails to spam, but specific words might also trigger automatic spam filters.

Recipients might send your email to their spam folder if there is no unsubscribe link, if the subject line doesn’t match the content, or if there’s no mailing address in the email footer (a CAN-SPAM requirement).

Recipients are also less trusting of “no-reply” emails and sometimes they simply forgot they signed up because they haven’t received an email from you in a while.

To avoid automatic spam triggers (and a negative impact on your email deliverability), avoid using these email spam words and phrases:

  • Buy

  • Clearance

  • Be your own boss

  • Extra income

  • Online degree

  • $$$

  • One hundred percent free

  • Pure profit

  • Save up to

  • You’re a winner

  • Dear friend

  • This is not a spam

Conversion rate email marketing benchmark

Determining benchmarks for email conversion rates is tricky, primarily because marketers send many different types of emails.

For instance, a promotional email marketing campaign from an ecommerce retailer might aim to convert to a purchase, while an email from a software company promoting a webinar might aim to convert sign-ups.

While across-the-board benchmarks don’t exist, it’s still important to be able to calculate and track conversion rates so you can measure your own email performance.

How to calculate email conversion rate

First, it’s important to understand the goal of the email you’re sending. Are you aiming to convert a free user into a paid user? Or perhaps you’d like your prospect to book a demo.

Email conversion rate calculation:

(number of recipients who took your desired action / number of emails sent) x 100

Say you send a webinar promotion email to a list of 400 recipients and 22 of them sign up.

To calculate your email conversion rate, then:

(22/400) x 100 = 5.5%

Final thoughts

Understanding industry email benchmark data like average open rate is important, but the most crucial factor is how you’re working to improve your own email marketing metrics in each email marketing campaign you run.

Using email templates can be a great way to get up and running quickly, but to really take your email marketing strategy to the next level, you’ll need to track, test, analyze, optimize and repeat.

Learn more about email marketing strategies in our free Email marketing 101 Pipedrive Academy course.

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