Nov 26

How to Get Higher Email Open Rates

With the compartmentalisation of the new Gmail inbox, marketers have seen a lower open rate than ever before.  To some, this new feature has signalled the death of email marketing.  Of course, this day has been coming for a long time, ever since Spam filters were invented to be exact.  But just as with Spam filters, savvy marketers are still able to get their emails to the intended target—you just have to know how to get a higher open rate in today’s market.

The Problem with Email Compartmentalization and Open Rates

The problem here arouse when Gmail offered a “Promotions” tab in their inbox.  This allowed users to gather all newsletters, promotional emails and general marketing info into one place without interrupting their “personal” correspondences.  This created a psychological barrier for promotional mail, making users to equate it to spam.

Further, since all the newsletters are clumped together, the proximity of them to actual unwanted emails further promotes the notion that they are all spam and intrusions.  Not only are they now segregated, they are also lumped in with the undesirables.  It’s no wonder email open rates have significantly dropped for marketers.

Five Ways to Get Higher Email Open Rates

Luckily, recent studies have shown that there are a still a few items left in the email marketer’s bag of tricks.  Here are five of them that will improve your open rate:

  1. Personalize your emails.  The first thing you need to do is personalize all of your emails.  The best way to do this is to use the person’s first and last name since it seems more official.  Logic might tell you otherwise and use the cordial first-name only, or the more official sounding last-name only, but unless your industry banks on either of those emotional triggers, first and last name generate more email opens.
  2. Know the language of free offers.  Studies have shown that the word  “freebie” generally gets more opens than emails with the term “free” in them.  Of course, in certain industries, “freebie” is not going to be appropriate (e.g. business, travel, upper-end retail, etc.), but for venues, restaurants and e-commerce sites, “freebie” works way better.
  3. Create a sense of urgency.  Emails that are time sensitive have always generated higher open rates, so it’s rather ironic that the looming down-swing of email open rates makes capitalizing on this trick all the more urgent.  Use words such as “urgent,” “important,” “alert” and “breaking” in the subject line to create a sense of urgency in the viewer, thus raising their likelihood to open the email and see what the big fuss is about.  Of course, if you don’t have anything actually urgent inside the email once they open it, it turns into a one-trick pony.  Thus, have something urgent or time sensitive in the email.
  4. Make announcements and not cancellations.  Using the word “announcement” (and then having an announcement inside the email) in the subject line garners a higher than average email open rate.  You can use deviations on the word as well such as “announcing,” “announced,” “announces” and so on.  Similarly, stay away from negative words to related to announcements such as “canceled” or “cancellation” since that might give the viewer all the information they need, causing them not to open the email.  In other words, put the actual cancellation in the body and call it an announcement in the subject line.
  5. Being charitable doesn’t help.   Finally, in what may seem like an oxymoron at first (but is understandable given that you aren’t the only charity out there), stay away from charity-related terms.  “Donate” seems to be the biggest trigger to non-opens because it immediately lets the viewer know that you want money.  Would you go up to a person and start off the conversation with, “Hey, I’m going to ask you for money at some point, but would you mind listening to me for a little while?”  Just how a person would walk away from you at that point, a viewer is less likely to open your “donate” subject line email unless they are consistent benefactors.  Even then, stay away from the language.

Fluctuations Across Industries

Of course, these types of tricks won’t work in every situation, so it’s important to take the concepts and apply them to your industry.  Here are a few takeaways that you can customize to better fit your email list goals:

  • Use the appropriate name title, but make sure you are personalizing the email
  • Make your offers appropriate to your audience
  • Intrigue with time-sensitive material
  • Be positive with your news and never negative
  • Don’t remind the consumer that they are going to spend money if they open your email—instead, offer them value to open it