Email Marketing ROI

Email Marketing – example KPI’s

What is an open rate?

Open rate is a measure of how many people on an email list open (or view) a particular email campaign.

The open rate is normally expressed as a percentage, and is calculated as follows:

OPEN RATE = Emails opened/(emails sent less email bounces)

OPEN RATE = Emails opened/(emails sent less email bounces)
  • a 20% open rate would mean:
  • 2 opened/(12 sent – 2 bounces) = 2/10 = 20%
  • only 2 emails were actually opened.

How do you measure an open?

When each email is sent out, a piece of code is added that requests a tiny, invisible image from the email client web server. So when a reader opens the email, the image is downloaded which is then recorded.

BUT the open rate is not a 100% accurate measure. Recording an ‘open’ can only happen:

  • if the reader’s email client is capable of displaying html with images
  • that option is turned on

So if you are sending text-only emails, there is no way to record open rates. Similarly, people reading your html email without images showing will not be recorded as opens (unless they click a link).

You may also find your open rate may be artificially enhanced as readers may have a preview pane in their email client. That preview pane might be displaying your email automatically (and therefore downloading the images) without the reader having read or clicked the email.

Do NOT take your open rate as a hard and fast number, use it as a guide, IT IS BETTER TO USE STATS LIKE THIS AS TRENDS across your email campaigns.

Email open rates depend on:

  • Subject line
  • Content
  • Images
  • How it was measured
  • When it was sent
  • Market sector
  • Quality of customer or visitor email list

Whilst there is no shortage of benchmark numbers, even benchmark figures have huge variations in reported open rates.

However there are certainly some broad trends in open rates.

  • As list size goes up, the open rate tends to fall; possibly because smaller companies are more likely to have personal relationships with their list subscribers.
  • Companies and organizations that are focusing on enthusiasts and supporters, like churches, sport teams and non profits see higher open rates
  • More specific niche topics, like some manufacturing areas, also typically have higher open rates than emails on broader topics

If your open rate is between 20% and 40%, you are probably average.

Very few lists of reasonable size are getting much above 50% open rates from normal campaigns.

However, don’t expect to get 80% open rates. People are too busy, inboxes are too full and the measurements are technically limited.

How can I increase my open rate?

There are a ton of elements you can vary to try to entice more of your subscribers to open up your emails. Here are just a few things you could try:

  • Experiment with your subject lines
  • Send on a different day – Are your subscribers too busy on Wednesdays
  • Prioritize your content – grab their attention early – make sure you fit the typical email preview pane
  • Ensure the design is not image heavy
  • Ensure the design is attractive thus “tempting” a “read”

(Thanks to for providing some thoughts)

If you have other ideas then please comment.

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