Improve Your Email Open Rate With These 6 Tried-and-Trusted Tactics
← Back to Blog Emil Kristensen

Improve Your Email Open Rate With These 6 Tried-and-Trusted Tactics

Increase Email Open Rates (WordPress)

Email marketing has a ridiculous ROI. As of 2016, marketers earned an average of $44 for every dollar spent—up from $38 in 2015.

There are several KPIs that will let you know how well your campaign is doing. 

Things like delivery rate, inbox placement and unsubscribe rate can certainly provide insight. 

But your open email rates are one of the most telling metrics of all. 

You obviously want as many people as possible to open your emails because this is what leads to clicks, which is what ultimately leads to sales. 

So the higher the open rate the better. 

But what if your open rate isn’t where you’d like it to be?

Which specific steps can you take to increase email open rates?

Furthermore, what are some of the little things you can do to entice your subscribers so that they take the time out of their day to read through your email?

It turns out, there’s quite a bit you can do. 

Right now I’m going to go over what I think are some of the most effective strategies that tackle this topic from the ground up. 


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Table of Contents

1. Use a Double Opt-in

2. Segment Your Email List

3. Get Your Timing Right

4. Send Emails from an Actual Person

5. Keep the Tone Casual

6. Periodically Clean Up Your List

1. Use a Double Opt-in

Let’s start at the top. 

There’s been a long, heated debate among email marketers for years as to whether it’s better to use a single opt-in or double opt-in when signing up new subscribers.

And both sides have valid points.

Using a single opt-in will certainly grow your list quicker because people don’t have to verify that they do in fact want to subscribe. 

They simply type in their email address and click subscribe.

Voila. They’re done.

Simply Gum Optin

But you could argue that going the single opt-in route means that your email list won’t be as high-quality than if you used a double opt-in.


While it’s true that you do make new subscribers jump through an extra hoop with a double opt-in, it ensures that they really do want to receive emails from your company. 

North Wild Kitchen Email

It wasn’t the result of some type of error, someone else signing them up, etc. 

By having them confirm, you can be certain that the people who sign up are genuinely interested and want to stay in touch with your brand. 

While this results in roughly 20 percent fewer opt-ins and lowers the number of subscribers, Inbox Pros explains that it’s superior in all other stats. 

The way I see it, this is one of the most straightforward ways to increase email open rates.

You’re also far less likely to annoy people with emails they’re not really interested in, which is a win-win. 

I especially recommend this option if you already have a sizable email list and you’re not all that worried about quickly growing it. 

When your primary goal is simply to maximize the percentage of people who open your emails, this is the way to go. 

2. Segment Your Email List

Personalization is huge these days.

Marketers are seeing an overwhelming trend where customers not only want a customized experience, they expect it. 

Marketo even found that nearly 79 percent of consumers are only likely to engage with an offer if it’s been personalized to reflect prior interactions. 

Why do you think Amazon and Netflix have been so successful?

Personalization is a core element of their business model. 

They’re constantly providing recommendations based on previous interactions. 

Amazon Recommended for You

And most people absolutely love it. 

A 2017 Evergage study even found that marketers who implemented personalization saw a:

  • 57 percent increase in engagement
  • 61 percent customer experience improvement
  • 63 percent increase in conversions

And one of the best ways to utilize personalization is through email. 

Delivering fully customized content in a subscriber’s inbox that addresses their specific pain points and scratches their unique itch is a no-brainer for boosting open rates (as well as click-throughs).  

So how do you offer the type of personalization that people are craving?

It’s simple. Segment your email list

And there are a ton of ways to do this.

Here are just a few criteria you can use:

  • Website browsing behavior
  • Previous purchases (e.g. send an email promoting a product that’s similar to one they recently purchased)
  • Location
  • Special discounts to subscribers who are at a high risk for churn

Here’s a good example of Clinique offering recommended products based on browsing behavior. 

Clinique Email

Or how about when someone leaves an item in their shopping cart without completing a purchase?

You could always send them a friendly reminder along with a personalized promotion to reel them back in. 

That’s what Bonobos does here.

Bonobos Email

To sweeten the deal, they offer 20 percent off for the first order. 

The bottom line is that using segmentation, and even better, micro-segmentation, can give your open rates a big lift. 

Many people just can’t resist checking out an email that’s tailored specifically to them. 

What’s really interesting is that personalized emails can actually deliver six times higher transaction rates

So in my opinion, it’s definitely worth the extra effort to create multiple email variations that target the various segments of your audience. 

3. Get Your Timing Right

You know how many marketers are super diligent about posting social media content at the perfect time?

How finding “the sweet spot” is integral to getting their content featured in their followers’ feeds?

How there are multiple software platforms that are solely devoted to scheduling posts?

This is a concept that’s equally important for email marketing. 

If you can nail the timing aspect and send out messages when your subscribers are most likely to check their email, it should have a positive impact on your open rates. 

Just put yourself in your average subscriber’s shoes for a second. 

Are you more likely to open an email that was recently sent and located at the top of your inbox or one that’s been sitting there for hours and located at the bottom?

I would venture to say that it would be the former and not the latter. 

So this is definitely something to keep in mind. 

When it comes to timing, there is no one-size-fits-all formula that works for every single brand.

But fortunately, there is some concrete data from a MailChimp study that shows the optimal day of the week and time of day that’s based on sending emails to several billion email addresses. 

Here’s what their findings look like:

Distribution of Subscribers_ Optimal Day of Week

There’s no clear-cut winner, but you can tell that it’s better to send emails during the weekdays rather than the weekend because there’s a significant huge drop off on Saturday and Sunday. 

And this makes sense.

Most people are off of work and less likely to be glued to their email.

In terms of the ideal time of day, 10 am in the person’s own time zone appears to be optimal. 

Percent of Subscribers_ Optimal Send Time by Hour of Day

It’s still viable until 4 pm or so, but you can see that the impact tends to diminish as the day goes on.

And this makes sense as well considering that most people are punching out of work in the late afternoon and heading home. 

The bottom line here is that your best bet is to send emails on the weekdays during the late morning or early afternoon. 

This increases your chances of getting your emails opened.

However, as with perfecting any type of marketing formula, you’ll want to do some of your own experimentation to see what’s right for you. 

Often some basic A/B tests will supply you with the data you need. 

4. Send Emails from an Actual Person

Here’s the thing about advertising.

Most people hate it. 

Younger generations, in particular, have really come to loathe advertising and often see it as annoying and intrusive. 

Tech culture reporter Melissa Lang even writes in SFGate, “Young people may hate being advertised to so much that many have actually stopped using social networks where they feel like targets of ads.”

So if your emails scream promotional, then you can bet that a lot of people will dismiss them, and they’ll either end up flagged as spam or wind up in the trash. 

Neither of which are going to do you any favors. 

A simple but effective way to reduce the “promotionalness” of your emails is to include your own name along with your company name instead of strictly using your company name. 

For instance, I would use the sender name “Emil from Sleeknote” rather than just “Sleeknote.”

With so many businesses sounding overly formal/corporate these days, this gives your emails more of a personal feel. 

And I’ve found that this tends to lower people’s defenses and makes them more receptive to opening an email.

5. Keep the Tone Casual

Speaking of being overly formal. 

This can often be the kiss of death because it’s really hard to make any headway when you come across as a corporate marketing machine.

With most people’s inboxes overflowing, the last thing they want to deal with is some faceless brand desperately trying to make a sale. 

It’s just a turn off. 

So another technique that I’ve found to be potent is to keep the tone casual and treat it like you’re emailing a friend.

I’ve found that subscribers are far more likely to not only open an email this way but legitimately engage with it. 

I think that Workout Anytime did a nice job with this particular email.

Workout Anytime Email

Notice how it addresses subscribers one-on-one and isn’t cramming anything down their throat. 

Instead, it’s personal and almost like having a conversation. 

As for the email subject line, I think they did a great job with that as well.

It simply says, “Why would I do this?” in reference to their cash rewards program. 

And the subject line is super important here.

Ideally, it will have a very personal feel to it and reflect the casual tone of your email.

6. Periodically Clean Up Your List

No matter how awesome you are at email marketing, over time there will inevitably be subscribers who become inactive. 

Maybe they initially started out at as sizzling hot leads, and some might have even made a purchase.

But whatever the reason, they’ve gone cold and are no longer opening your emails. 

Every once in a while, you’ll want to clean up your list and remove any inactive subscribers. 

Besides spending time and energy on people who are unlikely to ever buy, this is important for increasing your email deliverability as well. 

And that’s a bigger deal than you may think. 

James Smart writes in Campaign Monitor, 

In email deliverability terms, low open rates are a clear signal to ISPs that your recipients are not engaged with you, your brand or your content. That lack of engagement is a factor in the delivery of future emails and can even lead to your campaigns being blocked.

This basically creates a vicious cycle where low open rates lead to poor email deliverability, which in turn leads to even lower open rates and even worse email deliverability. 

So it’s something that you want to nip in the bud and fix before it gets out of control.

While there is no exact length of inactivity that will determine when to remove a subscriber, six months tend to be a pretty good timeframe to go with. 

If they haven’t opened an email by then, it’s usually safe to cut them loose. 


Want More Email Marketing Inspiration?

We’ve put together 11 email marketing resources to help you make more from your campaigns.

Whether you’re looking for good email examples or evergreen email subject lines, we’ve got something for you.

You’ll also get immediate access to 24+ other bonus resources, categorized in Notion for your convenience.

Download Swipe File Now →


MailChimp reports that the average open rate across all industries was 20.81 percent as of March 2018. 

That’s not bad, but it’s a number that could definitely use some improvement. 

And there’s no reason why you can’t improve it. 

It’s just a matter of using the right strategies and executing them properly. 

Implementing the techniques I mentioned here should help you raise your open rates considerably. 

Even boosting them by just 3 or 4 percent can have a significant impact on your overall campaign. 

This means that more of your emails are getting to where they need to go and a larger percentage of subscribers are engaging with your content.

In turn, you’re likely to see a higher click-through rate, increased sales and all sorts of good things. 

What is your target email open rate?

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