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Email marketing tips for increasing open rates

Open rates are a key metric for gauging the success of email marketing campaigns. To increase open rates marketers should pay particular attention to personalization, content, subject line and design.

4 min read

Digital Technology

Email marketing tips for increasing open rates

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Not long after the first email was sent in 1971, marketers began using this digital communication channel to engage with customers. Fast forward 50 years and email has become one of the most powerful marketing tools for building customer relationships, increasing brand awareness and driving sales.

One of the reasons for this is the ubiquity of email. A Radicati Email Statistics Report estimated that the number of worldwide email users would top 4 billion by the end of last year, representing more than half the world’s population. That number is projected to grow to over 4.4 billion by the end of 2024. The report also forecast the number of business and consumer emails sent and received per day to grow to over 361 billion by year-end 2024.

For marketers, these statistics translate to both a tremendous opportunity to reach customers and potential customers and a significant challenge for rising above the noise.

A strong email marketing strategy can help businesses effectively reach customers and stand out in a crowd, leading to the higher open rates and increased customer engagement that can drive sales.

To create successful email marketing campaigns, businesses should heed these four tips:

Personalize emails

The Amazon/Netflix effect has created consumer expectations for hyper-personalized interactions with companies. Personalizing email marketing based on customer behavior, history, interests and preferences can increase open rates and conversions.

Marketers can leverage CRM tools to help them segment customers and mine customer data to tailor messages and personalize interactions with every person on the subscriber list. CRM tools can help create personalized emails that greet customers by name and use data on their past purchases to suggest complementary products or services.

Personalization builds trust and relationships with customers and delivers on customer expectations for tailored, relevant interactions with brands. Personalizing email marketing has a positive impact on email open rates. Data from Statista revealed that open rates for personalized emails average 18.8% compared to 13.1% without personalization.

Provide value-added content

Email newsletters should include content such as product updates, news, customer success stories and promotions that brings value to the customer. Providing high quality content in email marketing campaigns is critical considering that customers are busy, their email boxes are inundated, and reader attention span has dropped to 8.2 seconds, which is shorter than the attention span of a goldfish, according to a study by Microsoft.

Content should be brief, attention grabbing and relevant to the recipient. Giving customers the news, promotions and offers they want to receive makes it more likely recipients will open the email and less likely that it will be deleted or consigned to the junk folder.

Create a compelling subject line

The subject line is a make-or-break proposition for convincing recipients to open marketing emails. Readers make split second decisions on whether or not to open an email and that decision is based on the email’s subject line. A marketing email can be visually appealing and contain great content, but if the subject line is not compelling, the email won’t be viewed or read.

Subject lines should be clear, short and attention grabbing and crafted using action words that motivate the recipient to open the email. A good rule of thumb for subject lines is to use 40 to 50 characters, keeping it between 4 and 6 words. Emojis, coupon codes, humor, creating a sense of urgency with a time sensitive offer are other tactics that marketers can use to craft subject lines that increase open rates.

Pay attention to design

Optimizing marketing emails for design so that they are clear, crisp and creative will keep readers engaged. Eye-catching images, short blocks of copy and use of white space that allows the eye to rest are all design features that can help make emails more engaging.

Marketers can also amp up email engagement by incorporating design features such as animated GIFs, interactive features and gamified experiences that provide an entertaining user experience.

According to the Data & Marketing Association, every dollar spent on email marketing has a return on investment of $42. That ROI is largely contingent on one very key success metric – open rate. Marketers can strengthen email campaigns and increase open rates by personalizing emails, providing value-added content, crafting compelling subject lines and creating eye-catching design.


Steven Clayton worked in the information systems field for 19 years, holding many roles, including CIO for a public company and ended his corporate career as a vice president for a Fortune 500 company. Since then, he has started and/or co-founded six startups, four of which are in business today, and running profitably — including NetBlaze. His companies employ more than 60 people all around the world.