What are email open rates?

Your 'open rate' is an indicator of how many people on your email list open an email campaign that you have sent them. The open rate is presented as a percentage of the number of emails that you sent. So, if you sent 100 emails and all 100 reached an inbox, if 18 of these emails were opened, your open rate for this particular campaign would be 18%.

Why is the open rate expressed as a percentage? Because each campaign is likely to be sent to a varying number of email recipients, using a percentage to communicate your open rate enables you to compare the engagement of your customers with different email campaigns and helps you to reflect on the relative merits of the campaigns you have sent.

Is your email open rate an entirely reliable and exact measure? No, due to some of the difficulties in recording email 'opens' due to the devices that your customers are viewing emails on and whether or not they are able to download key aspects of your email, it is better to take the percentage as a guide to how many customers opened a particular campaign. However, the figure is still very useful. Use it to ask yourself the following questions over time:

  • Do your open rates increase when you send emails at a particular time of day?

  • Is sending a campaign on a particular day of the week likely to achieve higher open rates?

  • Does a particular style of subject line (questions, exclamations, calls-to-arms) get better open rates from your particular customers?

  • Are you better off sending one 'general' email to all of your contacts, or a number of more personalised emails to specific groups of customer within your mailing list? What have you learned about your customers' interests from previous emails? If you are not yet using this knowledge when designing new campaigns then maybe you should experiment a bit?

  • Are you putting your key points near the top of your email? A lot of your subscribers will see a preview of your email, so getting your most important and enticing ideas in at the start may well encourage more people to open your email.

Here is the calculation we use:

Open % = (Unique Opens / (Sent Email Count - Bounced Count)) * 100)

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