The easy way to improve your email open rates

The email open rate is the holy grail of metrics for email marketing, especially in e-commerce.

It is important to focus on getting an open rate that is high, but that also - more importantly - results in more orders.

An email can have 80% open rate and a 0.5% order rate. Compare that to a 40% open rate with 1.2% order rate.

Focusing on revenue means you obviously want to send number two. And, in the best case, you want to push that 40% to 80% so you also increase your revenue.

So what can you do to improve your open rate?

In this article, we will assume that you already are actively sending emails to your target audience to drive more sales in your store.

Once you have a certain set-up tied in that works, it’s recommended to start testing how you can improve upon what you already have.

And with the open rate, that means you should start testing with new subject lines to increase that open rate while keeping a stable order ratio.

First align your current benchmarks

Start by noting down your current open rates. You can take this from your email software, drop down the subject line in a simple spreadsheet, copy the open rate and note it down. Also note down the average order value and total revenue per 1,000 recipients in that spreadsheet. Now that you have this data, it will be easier in the long run to understand your experimental improvements.

The easy way to find subject lines to test

You don’t have to be a master copywriter to get new fantastic ideas for subject lines to test - although being a master copywriter doesn’t hurt. There’s a website that collects a lot of different emails based on how they look, are written and convert:

  1. Filter on “Sales” in the search bar
  2. Go through the first 10-20 results
  3. Click each result to see the subject line
  4. Copy and paste the subject line into a spreadsheet or document
  5. Rewrite the subject line to match your own tone of voice and products

It is as easy as that.

Doing this will allow you to create at least 5-10 really good subject lines. Once you have created the list, you can match the subject lines with the lines you are already using.

How to set up proper experiments

Because you already know your benchmarks from previous campaigns, it will be much easier to understand how your new subject lines are scoring.

Let’s say you are currently hitting an average of 18.1% on your current emails’ open rates.

This statistic is taken from the overall global average for e-commerce benchmarks, although many growth-focused e-commerce stores score at least 25-30%.

When rewriting and optimizing your subject lines, you take note of the new open rates. Odds are, you will see 35-40% open rates once you really start optimizing them.

For an average e-commerce store, that’s already a 100% improvement. For growth-focused ones, it’s at least a 25-50% improvement.

But more importantly: take note of the average order value and the average conversion rate out of those emails.

Again, the point is not to get as many people to open the email. The point is to have as many people to open the email AND to place an order.

So let’s say you set up a test with a new subject line vs. the old one that hits 21.4% open rate and hits a 1.1% order rate.

Theoritically - and a hard emphasis on theoritically - improving to a 35% open rate should result in [21.4/35]*100 in sales, right?

Well, that’s not always a given. Hence the third time that this is mentioned, as it’s the most important part: focus on your bottom-line.

A high open rate is a vanity metric - a metric that does not matter - unless it directly results in the improvement of your total number of orders.

Sometimes a new subject line results in a lower order rate, so you stop testing it.

And sometimes it turns into a higher order rate, so you replace the old one with the one that works better.

Through this, you keep iterating, optimizing, analyzing and testing.

One subject line at a time, one campaign at a time.

Some work forever, some will work for a few months.

But in the end, continuous experimentation will result in improving your bottom-line.