eCommerce Insiders

5 Tips to Help You Improve Email Open Rates

Imagine you woke up this morning, sighed and went on to check your stats relating to that email campaign you sent out last night.

But unlike any other time, today the numbers look good. It seems that for some reason people clicked on your last message, opened it and read its contents. Some even placed orders, others might still do so. After all, not everyone buys right away.

You smile. Needless to say, today you will be busy.

I hope you’ve experience this at least once – the thrill of seeing great results from an email campaign.

Email sells. Like crazy. 

It offers a staggering 4300% return on investment too. It attracts 90% of online shoppers. And 44% of them claim to have made at least one purchase last year based on an email message they received (Exact Target).

But your message is useless if no one opens it.

Without anyone reading your emails, all these stats are completely irrelevant.

So what makes email from one store ignored while other retailers enjoy high customer engagement? And more importantly, how can you improve your email open rates?

Here are few suggestions to get you started.

Build a Brand

In today’s marketing branding is everything. The situation is no different when it comes to email. 70% of online shoppers say they always open messages from their favourite companies (Exact Target). As a result, emails from brands a person already knows and trusts can enjoy much higher open rates.

Building a brand is a complex and time consuming process. To become recognised by shoppers, start by focusing on being helpful. Post advice on your site and other websites related to your topic to build your reputation. Provide exceptional and consistent customer service everyone will want to rave about. Engage your audience on social media. And do whatever else is necessary for shoppers to start recognising your brand name.

Diversify Your Message

If the only messages you send are emails promoting products or sharing special offers and discounts, your open rates will always stay low.

To engage with your audience, you need to find out how you could be useful to them. Perhaps you could send your recipients helpful tips to make their lives easier? A recipe or advice that could help them improve or get better at something? A store selling baking equipment for instance could send recipes and even feature the most interesting ones submitted by their customers.

Segment Your List

Many online retailers send every email to their entire list, regardless of the topic, product or a promotion they run. Sometimes however it may make more sense to send emails only to selected number of your subscribers. After all, online shoppers are more likely to open emails that are related to them or on topics that interest them.

There are number of ways to segment an email list. You can do so based on their purchase activity. You could analyse your customers last couple of purchases and make predictions what product classes would interest them the most.

Or segment them based on what emails they have opened in the past. For instance if a shopper opened emails relating to office equipment but haven’t opened any focusing on computer hardware, you could quite easily predict what sort of messages they would be more inclined to view in the future.

Change Your Send Frequency

Depending on your marketing goals, you may be sending an email a day, a week or even per quarter. But your frequency might not correspond with what your customers might be accustomed to or expect. You might be sending too many (or too few emails) and your shoppers are either tired of your messages or forget about you between each campaign.

Consider testing different sending frequency and measure its effect on your open rates. In general sending more emails can negatively impact your shopper engagement but it’s not a given. Depending on your industry and topics of your emails, higher frequency might actually work to your advantage.

You could also consider letting your customers choose how often they’d like you to send them messages (and even pick topics they are the most interested in) to ensure they only receive the content they want.

Improve Your Subject Lines

Your subject line has the greatest effect on whether someone opens your email or chooses to ignore it. If your subject line isn’t catchy and interesting enough, your email might simply end up in their thrash. The same can happen though if your subscribers consider the subject line too spammy or sales pushy.

Therefore improving your subject lines will have the biggest impact on your open rates. To start, consider making these changes:

Use proper grammar. Many online marketers try to make their subject lines stand out by typing all words in capital letters for instance. Or using only lower case ones. Unfortunately, these practices may make your subject line to seem like spam. The same goes for misspelling words or using exclamation points at the end of the line.

Keep the subject line short. The best subject lines are short, descriptive and revealing the benefit someone will get by exploring the message further. Don’t worry if they may sound dull or mundane. Apparently that that’s what users tend to click on the most.

Use urgency. This is not a strategy for every email you send but occasionally you could inject some sense of urgency into your emails. This is especially relevant to timed promotions and could help with increasing open rates. This method should however be used sparingly. Too much urgency will make your subject lines sound like a pushy salesman.

Avoid spammy words. Customers often associate words like “free”, “sale”, “30% off, “winner”, or “guaranteed” with spam and other illegitimate messages. Including them in your message may condemn it to be perceived as spam as well.

Test your subject lines. Lastly, conduct A/B testing of your subject lines to establish what format works best for your store.

Pawel Grabowski

Pawel Grabowski is a copywriter and content marketer and the founder of, the content marketing agency helping SaaS companies grow the user base and generate quality leads with targeted content strategies.

Find out more about Pawel at and connect with him on Linkedin.

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