Low Email Open Rate: 47 Reasons That You Should Know Today
More than 144.8 billion emails are delivered every day, most of which are promotional emails.
Contrary to the popular belief, open rates are not defined by the number of people opening your emails.
Let me bust the myth. To figure out the open rate, you need to calculate the ratio of the number of unique subscribers opening your emails and the total number of emails delivered in a day.
Open rates vary from company to company. You also need to keep tabs on the number of hard bounces you receive. Keeping the daily open rates above 70% is no easy feat. If you are new to email marketing, experiencing low open rates is very common.
Nothing to worry about it. What you really need to do to boost the open rate is to first understand the reasons behind this mishap.
So, here I present the top 47 reasons why your emails might have low open rates. But before we cut to the chase, let’s learn a thing or two about email open rates. This will come handy as we move on to discussing the issues behind low open rates, especially for the newbies.
What Is Email Open Rate?
In recent times, email marketing plays a very important role in generating sales for any B2B company.
Email marketing has the ability to garner the highest engagement and a considerable rate of investment for any industry. You can easily check whether your marketing efforts are working by tracking your email open rates.
Email open rate is the ratio of the unique email recipients that have viewed your email and the total number of emails sent. Measuring each and every detail related to email marketing is perhaps the most important email marketing strategy.
But, in the end, all these calculations will bear some fruit only if your emails are being viewed. The average email open rate for the latter part of the year 2016 was 22%.
How to Measure Open Rate?
There are numerous tools like MailChimp and others, using which you can easily measure your email open rates. These tools provide you with all the necessary data needed to calculate open rates.
However, you need to know that these calculated rates are never entirely accurate for a simple reason. The rate calculators place a code in your email before you have sent it. This code gets activated only when your prospective recipient opens the email.
Pay Attention to Accuracy
These codes, however, are not always activated, because of which, the rate calculators do not prove to be absolutely trustworthy.
The reason why these codes are not always activated is that an opened email will only be registered if the recipient uses HTML as their email client. So, if a person does not use HTML, their open will not be registered.
While in other cases, an email gets automatically downloaded even if the recipient has not actually opened the email. This counts as an ‘open’ and again proves the calculator to be inaccurate.
Make Manual Deductions
Therefore, even though inaccurate, an email open rate should be used as an indicator of the number of people actually reading your email. With time, by sending out more and more emails to similar customers, you will easily be able to identify a pattern.
This will help you to manually deduce an average email open rate. Once you have got the numbers, you can use it to juggle with subject and content and gradually increase your email open rate.
Top Reasons Why Your Emails Are Getting Low Open Rates
1. Lack of recipient interest
While it is a bit disheartening, it is nonetheless true that most of the emails you send get ignored due to lack of subscriber interest.
Most people, while pursuing a site, might have just needed to use your services once and then they forget about it. In that case, they keep on ignoring your emails.
Or it can be that they might have subscribed by mistake and thus doesn’t even notice your email among the other spam emails that enter their inbox every day.
It might not even mean that there has been any mistake on your end and in this case, there is nothing that you can really do to change the situation.
2. Lack of sufficient motivation
Even if your customers are informed about a new offer, most won’t jump to make their purchase right away. They would either wait because they don’t want to or can’t buy it right then.
However, if you offer them enough motivation, they could be convinced into buying your product.
You could offer it at a lower rate than usual with a limited time frame. In that case, make sure that the recipients are aware of the time frame first and foremost.
You could also offer a free gift along with the product that most can’t easily ignore. This could convince them that while they can always buy the product, later on, it wouldn’t be with the same benefits.
3. Inconsistent correspondence
Even if a customer is highly interested in your products and emails when they subscribe, if you do not provide what they expect, they are going to move on.
They might find some other site with more frequent offers.
Most people subscribe because they want to be informed of any discounts or sales regarding their preferred products. Therefore, keeping them updated will help you to maintain contact.
It will keep up your presence in their inbox so that when they do need to avail of one of your products, your site will be the first they turn to.
You can even send more than just emails regarding sales and discounts. You can ask for their reviews about a purchased product, remind them to repurchase any orders that might need to be replenished and more.
4. Too many links
While it is good to avoid a lengthy email by supplementing your information with links, take care that you do not overdo it. Too many links might make your email inaccessible on mobiles.
It might also cause your recipients to ignore most of what you are trying to put across through the links. Instead, a concise text written in a friendly tone might work more in your favor. You wouldn’t want to be bothered with opening links again and again if you want to get across an email, would you?
In fact, if the readers are using a slower network, they might get bored with the amount of time the links would take to be accessed. It is easier if they can just read through your email in one go.
5. Often some keywords lead your emails to the spam box
With the recent updates in spam filtering, it might get a little difficult to keep your email out of the spam box.
For this, you need to structure your subject line more carefully. Each kind of email, whether they be marketing related or greetings, have their own set of spam worthy keywords.
All you need to do is to tweak the articulation and change them a little.
For example, words like ‘Meet Singles’ and ‘Free’ might be some of the words that you want to avoid.
These are clearly promotional emails and you can instead change it for words like ‘Find a Date’ for the former and ‘Complimentary’ for the latter.
6. Lack of segmentation
The key to proper email marketing is appropriate segmentation. Recipients usually mark emails relating to products they are not interested in as spam.
It would be a waste of your resources anyway if you want to send emails about every promotion to all your customers.
Eventually, if they keep on receiving emails about irrelevant products, they might mark your email as spam or even unsubscribe.
You can segment your emails based on the site behavior of the customers and the contents of their carts. You can also segment based on the geography and any upcoming festivals. This way, your emails will garner more positive responses.
7. Your emails may not meet their expectations
If a subscriber has subscribed to your emails, it means that they have given explicit consent for receiving them.
However, your emails may not meet their expectations at all.
For example, if they have subscribed for receiving high content emails, they would be expecting quality information regarding industry news or products and their uses.
Instead, if all they receive are mere promotions without any concrete information, they might lose interest. As such it is important to keep supplying the recipients with exactly the sort of emails they expect from you.
A recent survey found that 45.8 percent of people unsubscribed from senders who sent too much email. People today are suffering from information overload.
8. Lack of an impactful subject-Line
A subject line is probably the most important part of your entire emails.
It depends on the subject line, whether your recipients will even click on the email or not.
Through the subject-lines, the recipient will guess the contents of the email and then decide whether they are interested or not. You can solve this by making your subject-line more interesting.
For example, you can write ‘Want to Reduce Weight within a Month?’ This would catch their attention quickly and inspire them to read the email even if they are unlikely to buy the product.
Joint research between Litmus and Fluent showed subscribers have felt cheated, tricked into opening an email by that email’s subject line.
9. The Method of Trial and Error
Even if you read through all the possible tips to increase your emails’ open-rates, you still might be lacking in some aspects.
It is hard to predict the psychology of an entire group of people. The only way you can be sure as to what would work with your products for your customers is to test out your ideas.
For some, it might work to be persistent and for others, it would create the opposite effect.
So, you can launch campaigns and if your current strategy works, stick to it. If it doesn’t, it would be better to try out something new.
A particularly successful A/B test twoodo ran was on the content of the first email a user post sign up. The simple change led to a doubling of the click-through rate. Nice one.
10. Unspecific emails
Do not make the mistake of trying to convince your customers with a long and winding story to help you along.
Most would lose their patience on the very first paragraph.
Therefore, make sure that at least your subject-line is very to-the-point.
However, it should not be too vague either.
Be accurate in as few words as possible.
For the contents of the email, stick to the same rule. Even if you are being friendly, instead of formal, keep it as brief as possible. This way, it is easier to read on multiple devices as well.
11. Triggering the Spam Filter
Not just keywords but several other factors may trigger the spam filter as well.
If your email gets deposited continuously to the spam box, it would be a waste of your efforts and resources.
If you find low open rates for your emails, firstly check if that is the case, before any of the other causes. In many cases, it is the most likely scenario.
If so, analyze your emails for any such spam triggers. You might find some of them on this list as well. Edit your emails and your subject-line very carefully and you will have more successful outcomes.
12. Too many images
While an image speaks more than a thousand words, it is also a likely spam trigger.
Images are hard to open up on a slow network or on mobiles. Avoid adding a lot of images in any of your emails. It also helps to keep the emails short as images will take up a lot of space in the emails.
However, lack of any image might not be a good idea either. One of two images per email makes it more interesting to read through than just bland text.
You can use smaller ones instead of one that takes up a lot of space in one go as well.
HubSpot did a research which just confirms that adding images (GIFs) to your emails reduced open rates by 37%
13. Lack of dates in your emails
If you keep resending older emails, again and again, your recipients will stop opening them.
This is one instance where persistence would not pay well. Supply your emails with the time and date as a proof that it is a new one.
It also provides a better structure to the email and gives it a professional air.
On that note avoid sending one email too many times as well. This would lead to your recipients avoiding even the newer emails without checking.
14. Use a Genuine “to reply” Address
One of the best ways to retain and expand your email subscriptions is by having a valid and authentic “reply to” address. There might be users who would want to reply to your emails. Be it sending a feedback, enquiring or complaining about the services, ensure that your subscribers are able to contact you whenever required.
The feedback address must be easy to recognize, remember and understand. It enhances the credibility of your website as your customers now know they have a place to contact you in case something goes wrong.
15. Different Sender Names
Even if it is the same brand sending the emails, a different sender name at the end of each email leads to a lack of credibility.
Recipients might be unlikely to trust a new person for their correspondence every time.
Most of us generally prefer to stick to one person to communicate our problems and requirements to anyway.
Therefore, do not be too frequent in changing the sender names. You can assign different persons for different groups of people instead.
16. Too Much Persistence
While you can send one email more than once, in case the customer has missed the first one or two instances, sending it too many times will make them lose their patience.
No one wants to read through the same email again and again and they would just stop opening them at all.
It is the same reason you should always date your new emails so that they know when to expect something they haven’t been through before.
You can even ask them to select the frequency of your correspondence themselves instead of guessing it for each customer.
This would help you to know how often you can contact a recipient and even what kind of emails you can send to them.
17. Too Many Buzzwords
Along with keywords in the subject line that can affect your open rates negatively, there are certain buzzwords that you have to avoid in your emails as well.
These are almost the same as those you have to avoid in the subject-line and would help to keep your email out of the spam box.
For business emails, cliché lines like ‘Outside the Box’ and ‘Guru’ and several others may be triggers as well.
Business ventures are always creative and terming your new campaign as a mark of creativity is useless.
18. Use of Capitals
While writing a sentence, we often use capitals to insert a more aggressive tone. It might not actually be the case for you could just be highlighting an important portion. Nevertheless, it would seem so at first glance.
This could even be classified as a spam trigger. Avoid using too many bolds as well. Instead, you can display the highlighted parts with an image or in a different shade as well. However, avoid using bold shades like red as well.
19. Dishonest Emails
It might appear to be a good sales strategy to trick your customers at first. But sooner or later, they would catch up and avoid your emails and your brand as a whole.
It sets a bad reputation, not just for your advertising but for the products you sell as well.
Customers would doubt the quality of your products as a result. None of us really want that, do we?
Sending emails that are marked as replies or forwards might seem like a marker for the recipients to open the emails. But they would learn better when the emails are not actually replies to their queries.
So, stick to honest email marketing, even if it leads to little less open rates at first.
20. Too Many Attachments
Like with too many links or images, attachments are not mobile-friendly either. They also trigger the spam filter. Attachments are also, similarly hard to access. Like with links, if you try to provide more details with an attachment, customers who are not specifically interested will not bother to open them.
Moreover, new and potential customers will also not open an attachment and either reject or accept your offer based on whatever information they find in your email body. It would be a waste and not just detrimental to include several attachments in your emails.
21. Use of Emails from a Purchased List
It would be futile to expect recipients to respond to emails they have not subscribed for.
In fact, it would be unethical to do so.
You can always ask each visitor to subscribe multiple times if they have not done so yet. But always wait for consent before you begin to send emails, promotional or the ones bearing more content.
This would lead them to categorize your emails as spam. It would also harm your brand to do so. Make your own list through other means instead.
22. Your Email Address might not be on their Safe List
In most cases, this is unintentional on the part of the recipients. However, to not trigger a spam filter, you also need to work around this hurdle. While they subscribe, you can request that your recipients keep your address on the safe list. This would actually benefit you both.
Your customers will not miss the emails might be interested in. It would also ensure that the graphic trackers can be easily loaded so that you can track the open rates easily.
23. Numerous Grammatical Mistakes
An unedited email appears unprofessional and juvenile. Even if you use simple language, proofread your emails to avoid any grammatical errors. Even if your customers get interested, too many errors will automatically put them off.
You will also lose your reputation as a brand if it continues. This is also one reason that your emails end up in the spam box among the many others. You can employ a professional editor or use an online one if you want as well.
24. Irrelevant content
You might form a well-structured email with just the right wording and presentation. But once again, segmentation is very important. While avoiding email segmentation will increase your click-through rates initially, it won’t work for long.
Categorize your subscribers according to their trends. Send triggered emails at appropriate times instead of all through the year. And check the location of the recipient very carefully. Someone from the tropics would not need the same products as customers from more northern areas.
A study conducted by ConstantContact too echoed the same reasons for major unsubscribes:
25. Lack of Simplicity
While you may be tempted to design your email in more attractive ways, it might not be that effective if you do so.
Complicated email layouts are a bit more difficult to get a grasp of.
You have to be prepared for the case that your recipients will not give more than a cursory glance through your email content. Hence, you have to structure your emails in a way that will allow them to do so. It will also make it easier to access on multiple devices.
Hubspot confirm that HTML emails decreased open rates. Not only were HTML emails receiving lower open rates than their plain-text counterparts, the more HTML-rich an email was, the lower its open rate.
26. Mentioning it as a ‘Test’
If you specifically mark it as a test email, right in your subject line, your email will get ignored. Most of the recipients, if any, will take the trouble to open and read through a test email. It might be a test email for a campaign you are launching but avoid claiming it as such.
You will be more successful in testing the actual response in this manner.
27. Lack of Personalization
Along with segmentation, personalization is the second most important criteria in your emails. Personal touches put your audience at ease and they are more likely to reply to your emails or even read them.
You can use a simpler tone and use informal language. You can also use the first name of the customer instead of their full name with a title. This sets a less formal tone to the entire email.
You can also supplement this by referring to the buying trends of the customer and reasoning your cause for sending them the email.
28. Lack of Credibility in Links
While forming your email, along with the grammar and other proofs of credibility, be careful of what links you end up including.
Choosing a shady link from a website with inaccurate information is more than just a spam trigger.
It can threaten the credibility of your brand. It is easier if you use links from your own blogs or sites in this case, instead of choosing a random one from the net.
29. Negative Implications
Advertise through encouragement and not disparagement.
You can form the same subject-line with more positive undertones than using the insecurities of your customers.
The latter will not work for everyone and even if it does, it won’t do so for long. Don’t insult them to increase click-through rates.
For example, you can use ‘Want to Lose Some Weight?’ instead of ‘Are you Gaining Weight?’
30. You are not making most of the Scarcity Effect
People are naturally attracted towards objects that are not readily available at their disposal otherwise. For example, the demand limited edition shoes, clothes, watches, books etc are always high.
This is known as the scarcity effect. You need to entice your target customers with offers like
- Hurry! T-shirts from your favorite brand at 40% discount.
- Just 5 pieces left.
- Offer ends at 11:59 hours
Being a seller, you need to know which buttons to push to convince your customers in taking your service without sounding too pushy. If you keep pitching casual deals, why would anyone bother to open your emails in the first place?
However, do not make false promises in order to cash in on the phenomenon. It might boost the open rates for the time being but will end up tarnishing the reputation of your brand.
31. Your emails are not optimized for mobiles
66% of emails in the US are opened from smartphones. If your emails are not compatible with smartphones and tablets, it’s high time to change that. It is not possible for anyone to sit in front of the desktop all the time.
So, before sending emails, thoroughly test them to confirm that they are compatible with most mobile devices.
32. The lack of triggered emails
Triggered emails are basically automated emails, triggered when a person responds (or doesn’t) to a specific call to action. You must have heard the saying “make hay while the sun shines”. That’s what these emails are supposed to do.
As a marketer, you need to constantly monitor the subscriber’s behavior on your website and to trigger emails accordingly.
Cart abandonment emails are the most popular type of automated emails.
At times, customers leave products in their cart without completing the transaction. Remind them of it time and again might eventually convince them to buy those products.
Similarly, trigger welcome notes when someone joins your email list or reactivation requests to inactive users.
An Epsilon study from 2014 reveals triggered email messages average 74.9% higher open rates and 161.9% higher click-through rates than traditional bulk messages. (Image Source)
33. Inability to attract new subscribers
There are several ways to grow your subscriber list.
Assuming that you are aware of most of them, you must make sure you always have a few tricks up your sleeve to attract new subscribers.
Brand promotion during special holidays and occasions, sending quality content, discount offers are some of the most popular methods of bolstering your email list.
If you are facing low email rates, one of the reasons might be that you are you have stopped trying to get new subscribers. It is a vital step in order to get unique open rates on a regular basis.
34. Your subscriber list is outdated
Extending the above-mentioned point, you cannot rely on your same old email list for too long.
Most of your old users will eventually become inactive.
It is because people’s interest in products changes with time and change of lifestyle.
The 23-year-old spendthrift who drools over stylish snickers won’t be interested in them when he is 35. Got the drift? Therefore, you need to keep updating the list.
35. Affected by Holidays
Holiday and festive seasons are the times of the year when everyone wants to relax and spend some quality time with their families as folks.
Especially, working professionals who spend the majority of their time sitting in front of their computers checking emails would take a break from this ordeal.
So, quite obviously, your email open rates would take a hit during these times.
Also, during festivals, all the companies flood our inboxes with promotional emails. It is not possible for anyone to open each and every email.
So, they get picky about it and end up deleting the emails they deem uninteresting.
36. Affected by wrong timing
Similar to wrong days for sending emails, there are wrong times to send emails as well.
On the other hand, sending emails during the midweek (Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday) has shown higher open rates and click-throughs over the years.
As for the timing, 10 AM-12 AM during midweek is the peak time for email open rates.
37. Your emails have deliverability issues
Deliverability issues occur when you share a prickly relationship with your ISP.
What I mean is that ISPs or internet service providers are always keeping an eye on whom you are sending emails to, how many emails per day and how many of them are as flagged as spam.
Your reputation to your ISP is contingent upon these data.
Low email rates due to deliverability are less likely to take place if you send emails only to your permission-based list.
Now, in order to create a permission-based list, you have to remove the unsubscribes from your list.
Taking this action will simultaneously reduce hard-bounce rates and also, the chances of getting a penalty from your ISP under the CAN-SPAM act.
Only 44% of the emails sent by you will be delivered if your emails get higher than 10% hard-bounce rates. So, be careful.
38. Poor Tracking
If you are noticing low open rates despite getting all the basics right, the problem might lie in your open rate tracking mechanism.
In order to have an email marked as open, the graphics in the email will have to be loaded properly.
Now, most emails clients block the images by default, as you might already know.
Sometimes, due to poor internet connection or to increase the loading speed, recipients opt for the plaintexts version of emails.
To get rid of this problem, you can request your subscribers to mark your ID as “safe sender” or save it in their Address Book.
39. Promotional Tab
There is a tab on Gmail that contain the filtered promotional emails. It is called “Promotions” tab.
Most people check out the emails in their “primary” tabs only, resulting in low open rates of emails under the third tab.
If a recipient checks your email from this tab, this clearly implies that the person is genuinely interested in your service or products you’re selling.
40. Your sender score is low
Sender scores are used by email providers to divide emails into different categories.
If you have a sender score below 70, it is because the email provider is applying filtering to all the emails delivered from your IP address.
One of the most full-proof methods to improve your sender score is to stay updated of the filtering criteria issued by the major email providers
41. Bounced Email Addresses are a Big NO!
When you are unable to reach or access a given email address, it can be called a bounced ID.
Most of the times, these bounced IDs are directed to a blank page or an error message.
This sends out a very negative message as users might question the authenticity of your website.
It is best that you remove all the bounced email IDs and use only one valid address via which your subscribers can contact you.
It boosts your online reputation and also reduces the risk of spamming and lower bounce rates.
- Avoid Overstuffing Your Emails
Most emails restrict to just text messages and avoid graphical content such as videos, gifs and even images unless they are absolutely necessary.
Following this standard convention reduces the risk of triggering a spam alert. Users don’t really want to see emails that have redirecting links and huge images.
Also, most devices and platforms might not support that graphics and images inserted in the email. Plain text is always visible and compatible with all platforms which is why you should stick to it. Try avoiding images, GIFs, videos as much as possible.
43. Add Domain Reference to your Email
The SPF or the sender policy framework sets the standard for email authentication and registration.
It is recommended that you get your domain name referenced to a valid email address via SPF. This not only enhances the credibility of the email address but also reduces the risk of making it to the Spam Folder.
The SPF compares a sender’s IP address with a list of the possible authorized IP addresses that are allowed to send emails from that particular domain. You have a higher chance of making it to the user’s Inbox, thus boosting your open rates by referencing domain in your promotional emails.
44. The “Unsubscribe” button should be visible
Not all users on your email list are bound to be interested in the website.
Often times, your email listings are cluttered with unwanted and uninterested subscribers who might want to opt out. Give them an option to do so.
Most website or online platform has a pretty accessible subscription button but fail to mention an unsubscribing option.
It is best you get rid of people who don’t want to view your content and might spam them.
It also complies with the CAN-SPAM policies and lends credibility to your emails.
45. Have a Valid Sender Address
As an email marketer, your email address is of utmost importance.
It is your online identity that helps the web browsers out there recognize your brand. Having a catchy, unique yet professional email address enhances your chances of getting maximum open rates.
No one likes to receive an email from dubious or seemingly shady sources.
The “from” side of the email, that is, the sender’s side should be easily recognizable.
Your emails have a higher chance of being viewed. It is always smart to include your brand or company name in the email address.
46. You are not using Double Opt-In
Having a double opt-in system ensures that you get a notification request whenever a user accepts your subscription.
There are loads of people out there who don’t want to receive your emails and might just ignore or spam it.
This not only reduces your productivity but also decreases your online credibility. Also, chances are that your email would not reach the users who might actually benefit from it.
With double opt-in, you can see whenever a user wants to confirm an email subscription from you. As an email marketer, you don’t want your subscribers to mark your email as spam now, would you?
47 You did not fulfill Unsubscribe Requests
There may be times when you might lose some subscribers. Blame it on the dwindling quality of the content or intense competition, but a website might lose its subscribers. And while no email marketer wants to lose his previous audience base, you should respect their wishes and comply with the same.
The unsubscribe button must be easily visible and accessible. Also, ensure that the request for subscription is activated within 30 days of the email being sent. It not only boosts your credibility and presents a positive image but also complies with the CAN-SPAM policy.
How to Improve Open Rates?
The very first thing that catches the eye of the viewer is the subject line. Your subject line will decide whether or not the recipient will open the email. So make sure to create an engaging subject line. But at the same time, it should be simple and appeal at a personal level. In the end, never forget to test it.
Address each person individually
People are more willing to read emails if they feel they are being directly spoken to. Make sure to always use the first name of your recipient when addressing him or her. This will increase the familiarity of the recipient with you. This will, in turn, ensure that the recipient opens your future emails too.
At the same time, send an email from a personal point of view. If you send it from a company’s perspective, it will instantly get trashed out as just another advertising email.
Content is of utmost importance when talking about emails. If your emails contain only promotions, it will take away the interest of the recipient. So make sure that your email content besides being engaging is also informative. Also, make it a point to not send too many frequent emails to a particular target. This will only reduce their chances of opening your email.
The art of perfecting your timing
Timing plays a crucial role here. Conduct numerous researches to find out which time is suitable for which kind of email. Make a point to follow the timings that you have acquired from these researches. A minute here and there might make you lose out on a prospective recipient.
We all carry smartphones all the time, wherever we go. Besides, the majority of people these days tend to open emails on their mobile phones. More than 51 % of emails are opened on mobile devices. So, see to it that your company’s emails open well on handsets too. This will not only ensure you a number of emails opens but also increase the number of opens for you.
Segment Your List
Make sure you send relevant emails to relevant recipients. You can do this by segmenting your email list by industry, time or purchase. By deducing a prospective buyer, you can easily boost your company sales.
This will only help you in increasing your number of email opens by targeting the right recipient. By focusing your email to a specific prospective group of buyers, you can easily boost the opens rates for your email marketing campaign.
The Bottom Line
This article not only addresses the issues triggering low open rates but also provides you some insight on how to control the damage. Ups and downs are a part of every business.
With motivation and sound technical skills, you can drive up the open rates and click-throughs in less than a month.
The fastest way to do that is to quickly detect where the problem lies.
That’s all for today.
Good luck for your future email campaigns.