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What Is a Good Email Open Rate In 2024: Does It Still Matter?

May 24 - 2024

Email Marketing Strategy 5 min read

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When you spend time, effort and money on email marketing, ensuring that your readers open your emails is the first–and arguably biggest–hurdle. Inboxes are busier than ever, so measuring who is opening your emails is the first step on an important analytical journey to success.

If someone doesn’t open your email, they won’t see your content, which means they won’t make more valuable interactions such as clickthroughs. 

Knowing whether your emails are being opened is, therefore, a valuable piece of insight. Tracking your campaign open rate, theoretically, means seeing exactly how many users actually opened your message, as opposed to unread, flagged as spam, or simply deleted. 

Despite all of this, we’d encourage you to take open rates with a pinch of salt. Tracking open rates relies on technology that email providers may view as intrusive, which has been made clear in developments such as Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection. 

To understand whether open rates are still worth tracking in 2024 and beyond, you need to know how to track them, the different actions a recipient can take, and what value “opens” actually bring to your campaigns, if any at all…

Let’s open this topic up, shall we? 

What are open rates?

Open rate is a simple metric – it’s the number of emails opened divided by the number of emails delivered. This gives you an idea of how many of your customers opened your email, but it doesn’t provide any further context. 

To demonstrate the limitations behind open rates, we need to look at how they’re tracked. A simplified explanation of open rate tracking is that your sending platform adds a tracking pixel (a 1px x 1px transparent image) to your email code. When a user opens the message, this pixel is ‘downloaded’ with the rest of the message and the email software records this as an open. 

Open rate tracking is drawing the attention of large email providers as it is viewed as a slight intrusion on user privacy. You are essentially tracking behaviour without their consent and doing so by including a hidden pixel that they download without knowing. 

Essentially, this means that any open rate figures you’re seeing in your email client must be caveated with an understanding of the following limitations… 

The issues with open rate tracking

Inaccurate measurements

When a user opens your email, a tracker can only record it if the tracking pixel loads successfully. Lots of servers and clients block unknown images or code automatically, so a user can ‘open’ the email, but it won’t be recorded as an ‘open’ as the pixel has not triggered.  

Some users also opt to receive plain text emails, which disables any tracking pixel by default since it relies on an image-based tracking pixel.

Blocks and barriers

Enterprise customers typically work within a prescribed technology stack that is heavily protected by company firewalls and email clients. Most of these tools will prevent images from loading in emails, which means any opens won’t be tracked. 

On a more personal level, users may also have firewalls or other blockers on their phones or technology which block the tracker without them even realising it. Some of these tools can even strip the tracking code out rather than just blocking the image. 

This is complicated even further when you consider an average employee’s email activity, which often involves opening emails on different devices and at different locations (home, office, customer venues, etc). All of these have different layers of security or blocks that can impact open rates. 

User behaviour

The way a user treats emails can impact open rate tracking. If, for example, they read the email in preview mode or as a plain-text message, the tracker won’t work. Some providers allow users to load blocked images voluntarily, but even the most loyal customer will be apathetic or averse to clicking this when they can simply read the text instead. 

Apple MPP & Open Rates

The best way to illustrate how different clients and email providers can affect open rates is to look at Apple’s Mail Privacy Protection (MPP) policy, which aims to protect user privacy by obscuring activity behind their servers. As a result, tracking tools report that most emails sent to people using MPP are being opened, which means your open rates will appear higher as an artificial result of MPP’s system. 

Poor context

At heart, you want to know your ‘open rate’ because you want to see how many users are interested in your content. In theory, the gap between an ‘open’ and an engagement show whether your emails are interesting enough to view, but not compelling enough for a user to take action.

But that’s a flawed approach because ‘opens’ aren’t a fair depiction of user interest. Taking all of the technological barriers we’ve just covered into account, it’s easy to see how open rates can be falsely increased or decreased. But that’s assuming an email is being ‘opened’ at all. 

Emails may also be deleted, archived, left unread, or flagged as spam. There’s so much variability in what happens to an email after you send it that's why ‘open rates’ are a poor way to gauge a campaign's success. 

Why you can’t rely on averages

In the digital world, certain metrics allow us to make valuable, realistic comparisons with competitors and the sector we work in. Open rates are not one of those metrics—both due to the factors we’ve just covered and the fundamental flaw of drawing averages in such an uncertain measurement. 

Be wary of comparison

How do you ascertain what a ‘good’ open rate is? Your initial gut reaction might be to compare your open rate to industry benchmarks. But first, it’s important to recognise that every campaign is unique, while benchmarks can be useful, we’d recommend using this alongside your own past performance data and other industry-specific figures you may have.

Benchmarks are not all created equally. A figure covering the average open rates for all campaign campaigns would obviously be less useful to you than an industry or business size benchmark. In-house marketers may find that senior stakeholders like having a benchmark to contextualise the campaign’s success, and this is fine, as long as you seek to clearly explain the pitfalls of such metrics, and choose a benchmark that is as relevant to your activity as possible. 

For example, the average open rate for ecommerce brands in Klaviyo is 39.74%. That rate doesn’t account for specific types of ecommerce or the quality of an audience database. You couldn’t expect a small craft ecommerce site with an engaged userbase to have the same average open rate as a large retailer like Argos – but if you look at averages, your perception is immediately skewed. 

Taking this further, you can see that websites such as Smart Insights report the average open rate for email marketing in 2024 to be 39.7%. If you’re trying to measure the success of your campaigns and you use that average as a benchmark, you’ll either be underperforming or overperforming – but neither scenario gives you any real direction. To derive any actionable insight, you need to look deeper.

If you’re under that open rate, it may be because your emails are blocked by user protection policies or even failing to reach inboxes due to deliverability issues. If you’re over it, it could be that Apple MPP is overreporting opens.


How to improve email open rates

Any effort to increase open rates must be made with the caveat that they’re not a reliable metric. However, they do still serve as a general guide that can be helpful when paired with other more reliable metrics, such as clickthroughs. 

The good news is that most of the ways you can improve open rates also benefit other more important metrics like clickthroughs, so you won’t be wasting your time. The best methods to improve opens include: 

  • Try experimenting with email subject lines. In general, you need something that engages user interest and appeals to their needs, so it is often worth creating multiple subject lines for the same campaign based on different user segments. 
  • Choose a relevant sender name/address. Addresses such as “marketing@youraddress” might seem too impersonal to a user. 
  • Use A/B tests to send two versions of your campaign to different audience segments with different subject lines and preview text. This helps determine whether a certain subject is more likely to lead to opens. However you’ll likely need to send a few different A/B tests across multiple campaigns so you can get a more standardised set of results, which helps account for pixel blockers and artificial inflation through Apple MPP and similar measures. 
  • Practice good list hygiene by identifying users who don’t seem engaged. Place them in a separate list and send a re-engagement campaign to them, then remove anyone who continues ignoring your messages. Having inactive users in your database drags your open rates down – but it also harms deliverability rates as email providers will mark down your sender reputation. 

Though these tips may help drive some improvements in open rate, you shouldn’t make it the only thing you measure as it doesn’t show the full picture. 

So, when it comes to creating a comprehensive report for stakeholders, it’s important to give the whole picture without overcomplicating the piece with too many stats. Open rate is always one to measure, and it should play a role in your reporting, but not as the primary metric for success. 

By paying too much attention to open rates and not accurately measuring other metrics, you risk missing red flags such as poor delivery or lacking click-throughs. 

The better metrics: deliverability rate and clicks

At its core, measuring ‘opens’ is about trying to gauge how interested your recipient is in your content. Theoretically, the gap between opens and clicks shows how engaging your content is by answering the question: once a user opens my message, do they read it and engage any further? 

Unfortunately, because there’s no way of knowing if an open is genuine, this creates all sorts of false readings. You might think your opens are poor when in reality, the majority of your audience might simply use technology that blocks tracking pixels. 

Instead of worrying about whether an email is ‘opened’, you need to first ensure it actually hits a customer’s inbox without being flagged as spam, is blocked entirely or deleted without the user looking at it. To do that, you can set up deliverability rate tracking with a tool like Validity

Once you have a reliable way of tracking whether a campaign reaches a user’s inbox, you can then track more reliable engagement metrics such as clickthroughs. The gap between overall successful placement and engagement is a far more reliable indicator of whether users are looking at (and engaging with) your campaigns. 

Since it doesn’t rely on pixel tracking, deliverability monitoring is far more accurate and gives greater context into what might block a user from seeing your messages. To learn more about it, see our ultimate guide to email deliverability here or contact Jarrang. 


How to set up better measurements for email campaigns 

Open rates have a place in the overall reporting picture, but they’re not reliable enough to make decisions around. Considering the value of effective email marketing, you need to adopt more reliable campaign metrics that can be tracked accurately and used to strategise future growth. 

If you want to know these metrics, we’ve got the perfect overview. Click here to learn about the most impactful metrics for email marketing. 

Want to work with the experts? If you’re struggling to track or report on email marketing activity, Jarrang can help you not only reframe your metrics and measures but also improve overall performance. Get in touch with our team to learn more. 

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