Email Open Rate Benchmarks: Data From 5 Sources and How to Improve Yours

Illustration by Camille Portales illustration of an orange being peeled

Why did you click on this post about email open rate benchmarks? Is it because you want to know whether your 21.43% open rate is good or bad?

Well, as we’ll explain in this post, the actual answer is a little bit more complicated than just comparing your open rate against the benchmark. Yes – benchmarks can be useful, and we’ll share the data, but benchmarks should still be just one data point in your analysis.

In the end, the only benchmark that really matters is your own business. Are your open rates going up or down? And how can you optimize your campaigns to boost your open rates to get the most benefit out of your email marketing efforts?

With that in mind, we’re going to do two things in this post:

  1. We’ll show you the email open rate benchmarks from five different providers that are, collectively, based on tens of billions of emails. After all, you’re probably primarily here for the data, so we want to deliver.
  2. We’ll share some tips for how you can improve your email open rates, so that you can improve your open rates versus the most important benchmark – your site’s current open rates.

Email open rate benchmark studies – what the data says

If you’re searching for email open rate benchmarks, you probably want to see what the data says, so we’re not going to keep you waiting.

The overall average email open rate across all industries and locations from five different data sources is 19.66%. 

Collectively, the total numbers come from tens of billions of emails sent within the past couple of years. We didn’t weight the numbers based on the number of emails sent – we just averaged the overall open rate from each source.

Overall Average19.66%
Campaign Monitor17.80%
Constant Contact16.06%
Overall Average19.66%

Let’s go through the data in more depth…

Mailchimp benchmarks – 21.33% average open rate

In Mailchimp’s email marketing benchmarks, the overall average email open rate is 21.33%.

However, the open rate depends heavily on the industry. Unsurprisingly, the highest open rate is for government-related emails, which enjoy an average open rate of 28.77%. The second-highest was “Hobbies” at 27.74%, which is also unsurprising (it makes sense that people are interested in emails about their hobbies).

The lowest industry average open rate was for vitamin supplements at 15.03% (with eCommerce not far behind at 15.68%).

Mailchimp maintains its own public open rate benchmarks based on billions of emails. The data was last updated in October 2019 and comes from email campaigns with over 1,000 sends.

Mailchimp also analyzed other email marketing metrics, such as click-through rates (CTR), unsubscribe rates, and more.

Campaign Monitor benchmarks – 17.8% average open rate

In Campaign Monitor’s benchmarks, the overall email campaign open rate average is 17.8% for all industries.

Just as with Mailchimp, the industry with the best average open rate was government-related emails at 30.50%. Nonprofits took second place with a 25.2% open rate.

The lowest open rates were for companies in the automotive (and aerospace!) industry with a 12.60% open rate. I’m guessing that’s mostly from car dealerships, and not that people are ignoring invitations to go to space with Virgin Galactic 😃

The food and beverage industry and retail industry were also near the bottom at 13.0% and 13.9%, respectively.

Campaign Monitor's email open rate benchmarks by industry

Campaign Monitor built its benchmarks by analyzing over 30 billion emails sent by companies in over 171 countries between January and December 2019.

GetResponse benchmarks – 22.15% average open rate

The average open rate in GetResponse’s benchmarks across all industries was 22.15%, which is the highest on this list.

One unique thing about GetResponse’s benchmarks is that they also break out the data by country, which is another big variable in open rates. Many European countries had open rates of ~35% or higher:

  • Germany – 40.67%
  • France – 36.25%
  • Netherlands – 35.35%
  • Spain – 34.95%
  • Italy – 33.24%

On the other hand, the USA and UK were near the bottom, both with identical 18.39% open rates.

GetResponse's  email open rate benchmarks by country

This adds another big wrinkle when trying to compare your business against the benchmarks, as you need to focus on location as well as industry.

GetResponse collected its data from over four billion emails sent between January to June 2019. They only looked at active senders with at least 1,000 contacts.

Constant Contact benchmarks – 16.06% average open rate

In Constant Contact’s benchmarks, the overall average was just 16.06%, which is the lowest overall average of any dataset we looked at.

It’s also the only provider that had an industry in the single-digits – automotive services enjoy just a 9.80% open rate.

The industries with the highest open rates were religion (28.04%), government (25.92%), and primary/secondary education (25.32%).

To collect its benchmarks, Constant Contact analyzed over 200 million emails. The data is current through December 2020.

HubSpot benchmarks – 20.94% average open rate

In HubSpot’s benchmarks, the overall average email open rate is 20.94%, though it varies by industry.

The lowest industry is “Electronics” at a 19% open rate and the highest industry is “Real Estate”, at a 26% open rate.

HubSpot's email open rate benchmarks by industry

HubSpot built its email open rate benchmarks by analyzing the data from 19,033 customers for batch email campaigns. In this case, “batch” campaigns are campaigns with over 1,000 sends.

The data was collected from November 2018 to November 2019.

What’s a good email open rate?

Above, we told you that the overall average open rate is 19.66% across the five different data points we looked at, though it varies quite by industry and country.

So – what does that data mean to you?

If your average open rates are above 19.66%, does that mean they’re fully optimized and you don’t need to change a thing?

If your average open rates are below 19.66%, does that mean your email campaigns are an unoptimized hot mess and you need to hire a new marketer?

The answer to both questions is most likely “no”. 

If you’re above the benchmark, that doesn’t mean you can’t get even higher open rates. 

And if you’re below the benchmark, that doesn’t automatically mean you’re doing something wrong. Sure, there’s probably room for improvement, but the same applies even if you’re above the benchmark.

What is the benchmark, anyway?

While you can see that there are some trends between different benchmark services (e.g. religious emails always have one of the highest open rates), there can be differences, too.

Let’s say you’re in the construction space and your average email open rate is 19%. You want to see how you compare to the benchmark, so you go to Mailchimp and see that the overall is 21.77% for construction businesses.

You’re low! You need to fix things, right?

But then your coworker goes to Constant Contact’s benchmarks where the average open rate for construction is 17.71%. Now you’re beating the benchmark!

You’ll never be able to find a perfect benchmark to compare yourself against, so benchmarks are only useful as a very rough guide.

If your open rates are 5% and the benchmark is 25%, then yes – the benchmark is a pretty good indicator that you need to change how you’re doing things. On the other hand, if you already have something that’s in the same area as the benchmark, the benchmark can’t really tell you whether you’re doing well or poorly because there are too many variables.

A good email open rate is better than it was the month before

We’re not trying to tell you that benchmarks are worthless and you should ignore them. Instead, we just want to remind you that the most important benchmark is your own benchmark.

All things being equal, are your open rates getting better or worse over time?

If they’re getting better, you should view that as a success. If they’re getting worse, it might be time for some course correction.

So – how can you improve your own email open rates? That’s the question we’re going to answer in the next section.

How to improve your email open rates – nine tips

What you’re doing to improve your own email open rates is far more important than how you compare to the benchmarks. So – let’s end with some actionable tips on how to improve email open rates.

If you’re already beating the benchmark, these tips will help you leave it even further in the dust. And if you’re struggling to catch up with the benchmark, these tips will give you the knowledge you need to keep improving.

1. Nail your subject lines

When you’re talking about open rates, your email subject lines are the most important content in your email. After all, they’re pretty much the only content your subscribers will see when deciding whether or not to open your email.

Here are some quick tips:

  • Keep your subject line short – under 60 characters.
  • Play around with “stand out” tactics such as humor, shock and awe, vanity, etc.
  • Lead with a discount (if applicable).
  • Use numbers and lists.
  • Personalize your subject lines (more on this later).

Additionally, make sure to avoid words that will get you flagged for spam or the Gmail Promotions tab.

You can also consider playing around with adding emojis in your subject lines. There’s some data suggesting that this can increase your open rates, though it’s not clear-cut so you’ll want to see how it works with your specific audience.

For a deeper look, check out our full guide on how to write great email subject lines. We also have some examples to inspire your subject lines and some “templates” you can use.

2. Make your preview text work for you

All email clients display your subject line, but many email clients also give you a little bonus text – the preview text.

You need to maximize all the real estate that’s available to you, so you shouldn’t forget about the preview text when optimizing your open rates. In fact, according to a survey from Litmus, 24% of respondents used the preview text to decide whether to open an email.

By default, email clients show the first sentence of your email. However, if you’re using MailPoet, you can enter a dedicated preview line that works in tandem with your subject line to boost open rates.

MailPoet lets you add a custom preview text
MailPoet lets you add your own custom preview text

3. Send your emails at the right time and day

One of the interesting things about Campaign Monitor’s open rate benchmarks is that Campaign Monitor also breaks out the data by day, not just industry.

The difference isn’t huge, but the highest day (Tuesday) has almost a 1% greater open rate than the lowest day (Sunday). There’s also even bigger variance within some industries:

Email open rate benchmark by day of the week

The time of day matters, too. Most office workers regularly check their emails at 10 AM, but they might not be as tuned-in at 7 PM when they’re trying to relax.

Of course, this depends on your industry and target market. If you’re sending emails to college students, they might not be as active at 10 AM as office workers.

The important thing is to recognize that day/time matters and experiment to find the best time for your subscribers – check out our post on the best day to send emails for more.

4. Segment your lists

Segmenting your email list is another useful strategy to improve your open rates. 

With segmentation, you can make sure that you’re sending emails that are optimized to engage with different types of subscribers on your list.

For example, let’s say you have an eCommerce store. It wouldn’t make sense to send the same email to people who make a purchase every single week as you send to people who haven’t purchased in three months, right?

By breaking them into different segmented campaigns, you can send promotional emails that are relevant to each type of customer, which can boost your open rates.

Check out our beginner’s guide to email segmentation to learn more.

5. Personalize your emails

According to some data, emails with personalized subject lines enjoy ~26% higher open rates than those without.

Logically, this makes sense – if people see a personalized subject standing out from a list of generic subject lines, they’ll be more likely to click on it.

Some ways to personalize your emails include:

  • Adding a user’s first name. You can do this easily with MailPoet.
  • Sending emails based on a user’s activity.
  • Segmenting your lists (per the previous suggestion).

For more, check out our guide on how to use personalization in emails.

6. Pay attention to the number of emails you send

The number of emails that you send plays an important role in your open rates – send too often and people might think you’re a spammer, but send too infrequently and people might forget about you. Both scenarios can lower your open rates.

In general, sending an email somewhere between once a week and once per month is a good starting point, though it obviously depends on what you promised people when they signed up. 

If someone specifically signed up to receive a daily digest, then by all means send them a daily email.

For some more thoughts here, check out these two posts:

7. Use clear and consistent “From” contact information

Using a clear “From” name and email address helps subscribers quickly tell that the email comes from a trusted source (you) rather than some random sender. If they know that they can trust the source, they’ll be more likely to open it.

Some tips:

  • Always use your business/brand name as the “From” name. If you want to personalize it, you can use “Name at/from Your Business”. For example, “Kim at MailPoet”.
  • Make sure your “From” address is your main domain name.
  • Avoid using a “no-reply@” email addresses.

Here’s an example that includes both a personal name (builds a connection) and the business name (instant recognizability):

Pay attention to your FROM name

8. Clean your lists of unengaged subscribers

One huge variable for open rates is how clean your lists are. If you’re sending a big chunk of your emails to people who haven’t interacted with your emails in months (and may not even use the email address anymore), your open rates are obviously going to be a lot lower than someone who’s exclusively sending to engaged subscribers.

This is why it’s a good best practice to keep your lists clean. You’ll save on sending costs, improve your email reputation, and get more useful data. Check out our guide on how to clean your list using Clearout.

9. Pay attention to email deliverability

Your subscribers can’t open your emails if they don’t receive them, which makes email deliverability a silent killer for your open rate.

Deliverability includes issues such as getting stuck in users’ spam folders, bounce rate (soft and hard bounces), and other issues that prevent users from even seeing your emails in their inboxes.

If you’re using MailPoet, we offer a built-in sending service that handles many of these issues for you so that you don’t have to worry about your emails ending up in spam. We also have a huge guide on improving email deliverability.

For some other tips, check out our full post on how to improve email open rates.

The best email open rate benchmark is your own – improve it today

In the end, all of the email open rate benchmark data in the world can’t answer the most important question of your email marketing efforts – are your email marketing campaigns performing as well as they could be?

Yes – you can use the benchmark data to see how you stack up. But in the end, the most important data is whether you can increase your own open rates (and other important metrics such as click-through rates).

With the actionable tips we gave you at the end of this post, you should have the knowledge that you need to start improving and iterating your campaigns to move your open rates ever upward.

And if you’re using WordPress and in search of an email marketing plugin that gives you all the tools you need to maximize your open rates, learn how MailPoet can help you make your email marketing efforts a success. Get started today – it’s free.