Practical Ecommerce

5 Ways to Boost Email Open Rates

A small increase in email open rates can significantly impact an online retailer’s sales and profit.

In its 2013 Statistical Fact Book, Direct Marketing Association estimated that email marketing could have a return on investment as high as 4,300 percent, according to HubSpot’s head of email conversion, Niti Shah. Even if the DMA estimate and Shah are off by an order of magnitude, email marketing would still be one of the most powerful promotional tools available to ecommerce marketers.

Nonetheless, even the best email message is useless if the subscriber doesn’t open it. With this in mind, there are, at least six ways ecommerce marketers can boost email open rates, including providing useful information, improving brand, writing pithy subject lines, sending messages to interested readers, and testing subject lines for performance.

1. Be Useful

For retailers, some marketing emails will be used to promote products and share special offers in an effort to increase sales, but if that is the only thing you send, you can expect email open rates to be low and remain low over time.

It is important to find ways to be useful to shoppers, providing good information, helpful tips, or whatever makes their lives easier or better in some way. If your business is useful, its email marketing will be welcomed.

2. Improve Your Reputation

Personal email messages from friends or family members generally have the highest open rates. Recipients are both familiar with and fond of the sender, so those recipients take the time to open and read the message.

Businesses certainly don’t have the same inbox clout as someone’s spouse, parent, or child, but it is possible to build a rapport with email recipients outside of the inbox that will impact email open rates.

Put another way, retailers with a strong brand value are likely to have better email open rates. Consider your favorite brands and how likely you are to open their messages as compared to emails from companies you’re less familiar with.

To improve your brand and reputation, focus on being useful or entertaining in your content marketing, consistent in your customer service, and engaged in social media and other customer interactions.

3. Write Pithy Subject Lines

Subject lines should be simple and to the point. That was the finding of MailChimp’s second email subject line study conducted last year. The study looked at the open rate for more than 200 million emails. Top performing messages had astounding open rates of near 93 percent, while low performers had “dismal” 0.5 percent open rates, according to MailChimp.

“The best email subject lines are short, descriptive and provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further. Trying to stand out in the inbox, by using splashy or cheesy phrases, will invariably result in your email being ignored. In short, the conclusion of MailChimp’s second email subject line study echoes our previous study — keep your subject lines simple and to the point,” MailChimp reported in the study’s summary.

The best email subject lines are short, descriptive and provide the reader with a reason to explore your message further.

Top performing subject lines often seem mundane, and frequently include a company name and a simple explanation of the content.

4. Segment your Email List

Many marketers are in the habit of sending every email to everyone on the list, but depending on the email’s topic or the products it promotes, it can make more sense to send targeted emails to segments of the list to improve both open rates and conversions since shoppers are more likely to open an email related to a topic that interests them.

There are a few ways to segment an email list. A retailer might ask shoppers which products or topics interest them when they complete an email subscription form. A survey could be sent to existing email registrants asking them about areas of interest.

Data about interest might be collected directly from transactions. If a shopper frequently buys children’s shoes on your site, you are probably safe including that shopper in an email segment for children’s shoes. You might also segment your list based on which emails shoppers have opened in the past. For example, if a shopper has opened three previous emails featuring gardening items, but never opened an email featuring automotive products (assuming you sold both), you could pretty easily segment that customer on future sends.

5. A/B Test

Increasing email open rates over time, requires marketers to test everything. Is the subject line effective? Is the content useful? Were the graphics communicative? These are all things that should be considered when creating and planning email marketing campaigns.

One of the best ways to determine what is really working is to test. Consider sending emails with the same content, but different subject lines to samples of your email list. If one subject line has a significantly better open rate than the other, use it for emails sent to the rest of your list.

This simple step alone can significantly boost email open rates.

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Armando Roggio
Armando Roggio
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