Are your open rates this high?

According to Acoustic’s COVID-19 Email Benchmark Report , there was a 4.7% increase in average open rates globally from February to April alone last year. It can be tough to gauge your email marketing efforts when you don’t have any benchmark data for comparison. To help give you a starting point, we’ve gathered average open rates data for industries including real estate, insurance, business and finance, accounting, retail, and more. We’ve debunked common misconceptions about open rates and also covered ways you could improve a lower open rate. Find out how you compare.

Misconceptions that totally dampen your expectations and hamper marketing efforts or progress.

Achieving a 100% open rate is virtually impossible when you have a list made up of more than 10 contacts who really love you. If you have more than 10 contacts and some of them haven’t grown to trust you just yet, chances are, you aren’t going to get a 100% open rate and here’s why.

There is no way to guarantee that 100% of your contacts will open your communication.

The only way you could do this is if you deliver a piece of communication (letter, card, email, text, chat message, and so on) in person to your contact and ask them to open it while in their presence. Since this isn’t feasible, it means you get to give yourself a bit of a break and work toward open rates that are typical in your industry. If you can surpass those averages, then great. If you come close, that’s also great, but if you don’t, then there are ways you can try to improve your open rates.

It can be a tough reality to face that we don’t get to be in control of how others act. You can do everything right on your end and your open rates are still going to be closer to 15-20% instead of 100.

Note: If a service provider ever makes a 100% open rate guarantee, that should be a major red flag.

The point is that there are some things that are just outside of our control and it is much more realistic to approach your marketing efforts with an understanding that not 100% of your contacts are going to participate in whatever it is you are sending them. This isn’t a reason to abandon your marketing efforts altogether. We know (from personal experience) that the perfectionist in us wants that 100%, but we’ve learned time and time again that those high expectations can be a detriment and you don’t need that in your life!

You have to make it worth their while.

The goal is to have content (or an offer or resource) that is interesting and helpful for your readers so that you’re making it worth their time to click into the email that you send them. If you’re proud of what you have inside your email, then the rest is up to them to participate and engage with you.

The awesome (and beneficial) thing about being in someone’s inbox is that even if they aren’t opening your email, your name and your subject line are still popping into their email and their minds so they are “seeing” you. These touch points make an impact and that is what marketing is all about.

Next up, you’ll find an overview of email marketing open rates by industry from a couple of different sources so that you have some data to compare your efforts against.

Open rates by industry & source

Let’s quickly recap what an open rate is.

An open rate is the average percent of contacts in your database (receiving your email) that opened your email.

Pro Tip: When you’re using a marketing email provider like Active Campaign, MailChimp or Constant Contact (as opposed to a typical provider like Gmail, iCloud, Outlook, etc.), you’ll be able to check on your send statistics to see your open rate, who is opening your emails, what is getting clicked on, who is unsubscribing, and whose email addresses are no longer valid.

Okay, let’s get to some stats and where they come from.

Companies like IBM, MailChimp and ConstantContact compile Email Marketing Benchmark reports or perform studies to gather relevant email marketing data. These are snapshots and they are not universal rules that everyone should be abiding by. They are insights into how others are doing and definitely vary per industry.

Mailchimp’s Email Marketing Benchmarks provides open rate data that includes smaller businesses as well as Fortune 500 companies all with varying marketing budgets and organization sizes. (Source: Last update is from October 2019 update).

Each quarter Constant Contact reviews data from more than 200 million emails that have been sent by their customers who have recorded their business type. (Source: Last update is from January 2021)

Grain of Salt: We’ve mentioned this in previous posts, but it is worth mentioning again. There is some controversy that open rates may appear lower than they actually are because, in reality from the technology side, an email is only counted as opened if a contact receives the images in the message. Since a number of email platforms block images right out the gate, these opens may not register in your metrics, thus showing lower open rates.

Real Estate  Average open rate:

19.67% MailChimp

13.42% Constant Contact


Insurance  Average open rate:

21.36% MailChimp’s average

14.38% Constant Contact


Business and Finance  Average open rate:

21.56% MailChimp


Financial Advisor  Average open rate:

12.26% Constant Contact


Accountant  Average open rate:

17.47% Constant Contact


Other Categories:

Government Agency or Services: 25.92% Constant Contact

Retail: 18.39% MaliChimp

E-Commerce: 15.68% MailChimp

Daily Deals/E-Coupons: 15.06% MailChimp 

Retail (e.g., brick and mortar, online): 10.81% Constant Contact


What should you do if your open rates are lower than these industry averages?

Say you have great content and an up-to-date email list of contacts that know you pretty well, but you’d still like to get your open rates a bit higher, there are 4 things you can work on.

  • Subject line
  • Send date and time
  • Design
  • Remove inactive contacts

1) Subject line composition: Is it relevant, urgent or of interest to your subscribers? 

We make sure the subject line for your email newsletter subject line is attention grabbing and piques interest. If you customize and change your subject line, you may want to play around with different variations to see which style performs better with your contacts.

2) Timing: Are you sending your emails at an ideal time for your subscribers?

There are no hard and fast rules about THE best day and time to send an email out. There are some general guidelines to keep in mind, but it all comes back to your specific contacts and when they read their emails. If you notice that you tend to receive more emails and phone calls from your contacts on certain days of the week, pick one of those days to send your newsletters. Try to tap into the patterns of your contact interactions and let those help guide you in your marketing strategies.

Read more about ‘General Guidelines for Better Times to Send’ in this post: Who the heck is opening my newsletter?

3) Design: Is your email design simple or overcomplicated? 

Too many images and complex design elements (like multiple columns) and not having enough actual text within an email either doesn’t display well and/or flags spam filters and this only works against you.

Do keep your design simple.

4) Inactive Contacts: When did you last remove inactive contacts?

We tend to want to clutch on to every email address we get so that we don’t miss out on the opportunity to service that person (or their referrals) one day. 

Unresponsive contacts, however, do more than bring down your open rates. When contacts open your emails, they help to improve your inbox placement rates and vice versa. If your contacts aren’t opening your emails, this can bring down your inbox placement rates. This is because higher opens appears more trustworthy to email security filters.

You can reference your bounced report to see which email addresses are invalid so you can remove or update these contacts.

Pro Tip: A good rule of thumb for removing a contact is this = If a contact has not opened an email of yours for over 6 to 12 months, you probably want to remove them. 

Before removing them, you may want to give them a few more chances to show you they are still interested in receiving your communications with a “re-engagement” campaign.

We’ll cover “re-engagement” another time. Stay tuned!

If you have any questions about your own email newsletter campaigns, we’re just an email or phone call away. Submit a support ticket here.